Pray For Your Enemies? Oh Really!
by June Hunt
Have you noticed an assortment of difficult people to be in your life? If so, I understand! Many years ago, I felt deeply hurt by a family member whose tongue and tartness were consistently cruel. I simply prayed, “God, I don’t know what to do.”
A short time later, I saw a Scripture I’d never noticed before: I Samuel 12:23, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”
The truth is, I had not been praying for her—nor had that thought even crossed my mind. Yet, motivated by this verse, I began praying… and eventually healing began, both in our relationship and in my heart.
If I were to pick a “companion verse,” it would have to be the often-quoted, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). While most people feel drawn to these merciful words of Jesus, many feel resistant when challenged to actually do it. “You want me to do what? Pray for the person who hurt me? That’s asking too much!”
I understand that rationale. I once would have chafed against the very notion. It runs counter to our nature. From a human standpoint, genuinely praying for our enemies seems impossible. But we realize that the Bible says, “With God, nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37) and God often asks us to do things that go against our natural way of thinking and feeling.
Praying for your enemy is not optional—it is commanded by Christ. But what did He really mean by these words?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN… AND NOT MEAN?
If you assume praying for your enemies means “desiring good things to happen to them,” then you have misunderstood. In the phrase “Love your enemies,” the Greek word agape—translated here as love—intrinsically means “a commitment to seek the highest good of another person.” The “highest good” for those who are genuinely wrong is that their hearts become genuinely right.
The intent, you see, is not for us to pray that our offender would receive tangible blessings from God—more money, more power, more prestige, and all the rest. No, we are to pray for that person’s “highest good,” which first means salvation through Christ for an unbeliever… and, if that person is already a believer, being transformed into the character of Christ would be the “highest good.”
We should then pray not for the Lord to prosper our enemies but rather to persuade them to repent, change, grow, and mature. Obviously, there must be some unmet need in their lives—or they would not cause us so much pain. Therefore, we can pray that our enemies would see their need for the Savior… and then would let the Lord meet their unmet needs (He is willing—they need to be willing to let Him). We pray for our enemies to allow the Lord to heal what is broken.
WHAT ARE BENEFITS OF PRAYING FOR OUR ENEMIES?
For many reasons God commands us to pray for those who’ve wronged us.
Prayer Insulates Us from Bitterness
When we look at our enemy’s need instead of the fault, God begins to change our own hearts. I have experienced this firsthand―when I pray… even if my enemy doesn’t change, I change. Through prayer, our hearts and minds are aligned with God’s heart and mind.
You can’t pray for someone consistently—and the key word is consistently—without developing compassion for that person. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit softens the hardened pieces of our hearts… hatred is turned to love… bitter is turned to sweet. We even begin to see our enemies through His eyes.
Prayer Allows Us to be Controlled by the Spirit, Not by the Offender
When we refuse to pray for our enemies, we give them illegitimate power over us. When we are in the presence of our offender, we react emotionally—and even physiologically. Therefore, our enemies are still controlling us! However, we can turn control of our lives over to the Lord… We can begin to pray and then forgive… even when we don’t feel like it.
What tremendous freedom when we allow Christ, rather than other people, to control our thoughts and emotions!
WHAT, EXACTLY, DO I PRAY?
One way to pray for those who have hurt you is to consider the fruit that should be growing in our lives: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Take each aspect of the fruit and turn it into a prayer …
“Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your unconditional love—and in turn faithfully love others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your deepest joy—and in turn bring deep joy to others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your inner peace—and in turn have a peace that passes all understanding before others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your steady patience—and in turn be steadily patient with others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your constant kindness—and in turn give constant kindness to others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your moral goodness—and in turn display moral goodness before others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your loyal faithfulness—and in turn be faithful to others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your tender gentleness—and in turn will be gentle with others.”Lord, I pray that ( name ) will be filled with Your inner self-control—and in turn show self-control before others.
In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.”
Going the extra mile to pray for our enemies may seem like a tall order—and it is. But God never asks us to do anything without supplying the strength to do it. If praying for those who persecute you seems too hard, just remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Adapted from: How to Forgive… When You Don’t Feel Like It by June Hunt
Copyright © 2007 by Hope For The Heart, Inc.
Published by Harvest House Publishes, Eugene, OR
Used by permission
June Hunt is the founder, CEO, and CSO (Chief Servant Officer) of HOPE FOR THE HEART, a worldwide biblical counseling ministry headquartered in Dallas, Texas. June hosts two popular, daily Christian radio broadcasts, and has authored numerous books. Visit HOPE FOR THE HEART at www.HopeForTheHeart.org.