Do I Have to Pray for My Enemy?

 

The lawsuit against Dave’s father had made front page headlines in the small-town newspaper. A man of integrity and exceptional work, he was going to be taken to court by a disgruntled former client. Dave and I didn’t mind that the news hit the papers because all court information was public. What hurt was that some people actually believed the article and charged him as guilty before it ever went to court. They assumed the paper had its facts correct even though Pop was never contacted by the paper itself.

There were others, however, who chose not to believe what they read simply because they knew the man and they knew the work he did. It seems that the person bringing the charges had already developed a reputation in the area and his accusations meant nothing to those who knew Pop well.

Yet there are those who are more concerned about gossip than about truth. Interestingly, several individuals visited our church the following Sunday, apparently to see what was going to happen to the pastor who was being sued. It’s always nice to have visitors, but their reason for attendance was anything but a cause for celebration.

During a time of sharing preceded by special prayer, our pastor (Pop Slabach) asked the congregation to pray for those bringing this lawsuit against him. He asked that we be careful in our response and attitude and that we pray for healing for all parties involved.

A visitor said to me later, “I could not believe when I heard him ask people to pray for the other people – and you all actually prayed for them!”

Yes, we did. Not just that Sunday morning, but for weeks after that.

How sad that even among professing Christians, people are surprised to hear someone pray for their enemies. This should be the norm and not the exception.

Didn’t Jesus tell us to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us? Then why should we not? Praying for those who mistreat us is not an option. It’s a command. While it is not easy, there is really nothing better we can do for our enemies than pray for them.

While praying for an enemy, even blessing him, does not guarantee a change of his heart, it does guarantee a change in ours. When we sincerely and consistently pray for those who mistreat us, they become valuable to us. When we invest time and energy in someone, they will become important to us.

I do this, not because it is easy, and certainly not because it is fun. I do this because I know it is the right thing to do. I pray for my enemies because Jesus said I must. (Jesus also said that I don’t really love Him if I don’t follow His commandments.)

I also pray for my enemies because of what I have learned from my experiences in the past. Praying for my enemies shifts my focus. Praying softens my heart and makes me see them as hurting, vulnerable people. Praying melts the ice-cold tentacles of my heart and gives me concern for them.

I’ve discovered that Jesus has a reason for telling us to pray for our enemies. Perhaps His desire is not so much to help my enemy as it is to help me.

My prayers might not change my enemy, but they will change me.

How about it, my friend? Who are your enemies? Have you prayed for them today?

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