My co-worker’s words were unkind and untrue. How could Beth say such a thing about me? She’s a Christian. She should know better. All day her words simmered in my soul. Each time my mind hit the replay button, my eyes narrowed and my jaw tightened.
That night as I lay in bed, I thought about what I’d do the next time I saw Beth. Avoid her? Confront her? Pretend nothing had happened?
At some point during my mental rant, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44: “Pray for those who spitefully use you…” (NKJV). Humph. I’d rather tell Beth exactly what I think and complain about her to other people. I’d rather harbor a grudge and avoid her. But the Holy Spirit kept poking me: If you want to do what pleases and glorifies Jesus, pray for those who hurt you.
“Lord,” I said, “please show me how to pray for Beth with a sincere heart.”
Be Honest with God
The next morning I settled into my favorite chair to have my devotions, but my heart was restless. First, I wrote Beth’s name on my daily prayer list. Then I admitted my feelings to God. “Lord, I don’t like Beth or what she did to me. She’s difficult to get along with anyway, and now she’s spreading gossip about me.” God knew what had happened. I didn’t need to airbrush what she’d done or camouflage how I felt about it.
Next I confessed my unwillingness to change my attitude. “Lord, I can’t get over this. I’m too angry, too hurt. I don’t want to pray for Beth, but I want to obey you.” I reminded myself that Jesus’ blood had washed away her sin as it had washed away mine. God loves her as much as he loves me. I said, “Lord, help me see what you see when you look at Beth.”
Use God’s Words
After I prayed, I opened my Bible to Matthew 5. I read Jesus’ words in verses 43-46:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”
“Okay, Lord,” I prayed, “work in my heart and in Beth’s. Show us that we’re on the same team—your team. Heal this wound in my heart. Heal the wounds in her heart. Help us both to be the daughters you’ve designed and redeemed us to be.”
Next I turned to Colossians 1. I often pray verses 9-11 for my children, so why not use Paul’s prayer as a guide for this situation with Beth?
“Lord, Give us wise minds and spirits attuned to your will. Help us to move toward a thorough understanding of how you work and how you want us to work together. Enable us to make you proud of the way we honor you in our workplace. Give us the strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy” (MSG paraphrased).
In the days that followed, I continued to incorporate God’s Word into my prayers for Beth. When I read Psalm 37, I asked God to give her the desires of her heart (v. 4). When the day’s reading was James 1, I asked God to give her wisdom (v. 5) and to help her be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (v. 19). I prayed the same things for myself.
Wait for Him to Work
As I prayed for Beth, my anger and resentment decreased. At work, when we passed each other or sat in a meeting together, I greeted her with less animosity churning in my stomach. I asked about her kids and her husband. Yes, the conversation between us was awkward at first, but gradually we both relaxed.
Several weeks passed. One day Beth and I were both working in the copier room. She seemed agitated when I said hello, so I asked, “How’s your day going?” As she revealed details about an ongoing trial, I realized why she might have misjudged me, why she’d misinterpreted some of my actions and words. I recognized that I’d misjudged her too. The Holy Spirit nudged my heart. See? Aren’t you glad you’ve been praying for her?
When Beth finished her story, I could honestly say to her, “I’ve been praying for you, and I’ll keep praying for you.” She smiled.
Pursue Peace through Prayer
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8,10)
Though we were opposed to him and all his ways, Jesus died for us, removed the barrier of our sin, and brought us into relationship with God. Because his reconciling love now resides within us by his Spirit, we can extend that love to others. God no longer counts our sins against us, so we no longer hold other people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
Our attitudes toward those who offend us won’t change overnight. Sometimes the adjustment takes months, years, or maybe even decades. But God will be faithful to change our perspective as we come to him in prayer. Praying for those who have hurt us is not only obedience to God’s Word, but also opportunity for him to work in our hearts and within other people. He will help us move beyond our sinful attitudes about others and toward his love for them.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote,
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister….Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:13, 19, NIV)
Because I was honest with God, prayed his Word for Beth and myself, and waited for him to change my attitude, God healed my hurt and softened my heart toward her. He helped me avoid putting obstacles in her path and seek the attitudes and actions that led toward peace. He freed me to extend the love of Christ to her, as he first gave this same peaceable, forgiving love to me.
People are bound to hurt us. But if we take those hurts to God, he can help us pursue the path that will glorify him and edify others.
Do you need to add someone to your prayer list?
Not her real name
Do you know of anyone who dislikes you? Are you being persecuted even though you have done nothing wrong? Are there people in your life who are just trying to do anything in their power to make sure that you don’t succeed? What are you doing about it?
Is it right to pray for the damnation of our (human) enemy? Should we pray AGAINST them or should we pray FOR them? What does Jesus say?
Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.‘ But I say to you, LOVE your enemies, BLESS those who curse you, DO GOOD to those who hate you, and PRAY for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, THAT YOU MAY BE SONS OF YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? THEREFORE YOU SHALL BE PERFECT, JUST AS YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT.
Jesus clearly says we should LOVE, BLESS, DO GOOD and PRAY for our enemies or persecutors.
But why would Jesus command such a thing? It’s not an easy thing to love and do good to those who persecute us. But remember that the Lord knows everything and that He is wise.
WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
- Jesus wants you as a Christian to be different from the world. The world teaches that you must “love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. GOD teaches that you must not only love your neighbor – but you must ALSO love your enemy – because to do so shows that you are “sons of your Father in Heaven”
- Jesus Christ the begotten Son of God came to earth to save and die for the sins of ALL people INCLUDING those people who shouted “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” just before He was nailed to the cross (Luke 23:20-22). Jesus was being persecuted yet He was innocent. Out of LOVE, Jesus died for US ALL WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS (Romans 5:8 NKJV). Therefore, though we deserved damnation to hell, God by His love, mercy and grace sent His Son to die for us so that we may have eternal life. Shouldn’t we show the same love to those who are lost?
- While Jesus was hanging on the cross for our sins; experiencing the most excruciating pain known to man He cried “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…” Luke 23:34 NKJV. Jesus was the perfect example of a man who whilst experiencing great pain and persecution which had been caused by others, could still PRAY to the Father and ask the Father to forgive the very people who were crucifying Him on the cross.
- When you LOVE, BLESS, DO GOOD and PRAY for your enemies it shows that you have FORGIVENESS in your heart. It means that you are not ruled by a spirit of bitterness and hatred. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV
- As a Christian you are supposed to BE LIKE Jesus. You must be a VESSEL TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE LOST – EVEN YOUR ENEMIES. In Luke 9:53-56 we learn that the Samaritans at a village would not receive Jesus and so James & John asked Jesus if they should “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did”. Jesus had to rebuke them for wanting such a thing to happen to other people and so Jesus responded by saying “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”
JESUS DOES NOT DESIRE THAT YOU PRAY THAT MEN’S LIVES BE DESTROYED. JESUS DESIRES THAT YOU PRAY THAT MEN’S LIVES BE SAVED – INCLUDING YOUR ENEMIES.
• There was a man named Saul in the book of Acts 9:1-19. He used to persecute and kill Christians. One day as Saul came near Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul and said “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul had no idea that when he persecuted Christians, he was also persecuting Jesus. Nevertheless Jesus didn’t want to destroy Saul even though Saul had persecuted so many Christians. Jesus wanted to save Saul and to use Saul for God’s glory. So Saul was blinded when Jesus appeared to him and he couldn’t see for several days. Jesus appeared to a man called Ananias to go and find Saul so that he may pray for Saul. Now Saul of course was already well known for his persecutions against Christians and Ananias didn’t understand why the Lord Jesus was asking him to go and pray for Saul, an enemy of Christians. The Lord then told Ananias the plans that He had for Saul and of course Ananias obeyed and Saul got his sight back.
Saul later got his name changed to Paul. This is the same Paul (Saul) who wrote most of the New Testament in the Bible through the inspiration of God.
What’s my point? Like Ananias we need to obey the Lord Jesus and pray for our enemies, for Jesus may have a plan for them. We are NOT called to pray for the DESTRUCTION of people, but we are called to PRAY FOR their SALVATION. It is an act of LOVE.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Jesus praying to the Father: “Forgive them…” whilst hanging on the cross wasn’t easy. I’m not saying be naïve and let people take advantage of you. I’m simply saying obey Jesus, be more like Jesus and let the Spirit of God teach you to love and do good in every situation.
Romans 12:14-21 NKJV
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”* says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”* Do not be overcome by evil, but OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD.
Do you have any enemies?
Many days it feels like I don’t have any enemies. I hope that is the case for you as well. Hopefully you celebrated Thanksgiving with people who want the best for you and show it to you well. (I did – so don’t start wondering who hurt my feelings last week and caused me to write this post- wink)
The Truth is – people can hurt us. Some mean to and others do without intending to.
Our pastor reminded us this week in a sermon titled “Hated” that the world will hate us, and it hated Jesus first (John 15:8).
“When They Hate Us – We Pray for Them”
Because God was certain we would have enemies, He found several places in His Word to tell us how to handle it.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”- Matthew 5:44
“…bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:28
It is one of the instructions God gives us that seems completely absurd at first. It is not a natural request. It was not natural for Jesus to hang on the cross and cry out “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). It was not natural for Jesus to call Judas His friend knowing Judas would betray Him (Matt 26:50). What about when Jesus healed Malchus’ ear after Peter sliced it off to defend His Lord (Luke 22:51).
Are you Brave enough to pray for your enemies?
Ok, so Jesus did it. But can we? Can you and I push past our feelings and do this crazy thing? Can we really ask God to bless the people who HATE us? are rude to us? ignore us? slander us? steal from us? hurt our kids?
Have you? Have you prayed for an enemy? I would love to hear about your experience (be as general or as specific as you are led) in the comment section below.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12
King James Version
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
A Conservative Version
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,
But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Anderson New Testament
But I say to you, Love your enemies: bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who insult you and persecute you:
Bible in Basic English
But I say to you, Have love for those who are against you, and make prayer for those who are cruel to you;
Daniel Mace New Testament
but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who traduce you, and persecute you:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who insult you and persecute you,
Godbey New Testament
But I say unto you, Love your enemies with a divine love, bless those who curse you and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you:
John Wesley New Testament
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you:
Jubilee 2000 Bible
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who speak evil about you, and persecute you;
Julia Smith Translation
But I say to you, Love your enemies, praise them cursing you, do well to them hating you, and pray for them threatening you, and driving you out.
King James 2000
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Modern King James verseion
But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you,
Modern Spelling Tyndale-Coverdale
But I say unto you, Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. Pray for them which do you wrong and persecute you;
But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,
The Emphasized Bible
But, I, say unto you, Be loving your enemies, and praying for them who are persecuting you:
Thomas Haweis New Testament
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who treat you insolently, and persecute you;
But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you;
World English Bible
But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,
Worsley New Testament
but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that abuse you and persecute you;
Youngs Literal Translation
but I — I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you,
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