Prayer:Love Your Enemies
43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NRSV)
These are the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-48 but we don’t take them seriously very often. By ourselves we cannot truly love our enemies or even be nice to them that often, but Jesus tells us to love them and pray for them anyway. This is a prayer experience that relies upon trust that this love for our enemies is good for us as well as them, and that when Jesus tells us to pray for those that persecute us, God will also help us to do so if we take the first steps.
Begin by meditating on the above verses, read them at least twice and pick out key phrases and words that pop out to you. Pray for peace and for God to point out those hidden hurts and bitterness in your own life towards other people.
Praying for your Enemies
Think through your life, starting as far back as you can remember, and write down the names of those people who cause pain, anger, or fear when you think about them or about situations with them. Don’t worry about praying for them now, just keep going through your life in your mind and writing down those names most associated with strong negative emotions in your life. This might draw up some old feelings and emotions, so when you are done with your list feel free to walk away for a few hours and calm down if needed.
When done with your list begin working down it, praying for each person individually. Do not just pray for them to “recognize their sins” or “be better people” or anything like that which are passive aggressive statements about their wrongs. Pray for their health, pray for success in their lives and the love of family and friends. Pray blessings on these people. Forgive them if you need to and can. Some of them you will probably not be able to say many good things about. Pray what you can, mark that name and move on to the next one.
You probably won’t see a huge change in one pass, but keep the list. Put it on your fridge, in your journal or Bible. Anywhere you will see it often. Come back to the list at least once a week, once a day would be better, and pray through it again. Try to pray a little more about the most difficult names each time, asking God to soften your heart towards them if you just can’t seem to get anything positive out about them. Over time you will find God working on your heart and allowing you to show love and pray blessings to these people who were once your enemies.
Some people have very serious pains and hurts in their life, more so than most people. This exercise might be too far along the road of healing for some people. Don’t think you need to ignore these people’s deeds or pretend anything didn’t happen. If you are angry or in pain, talk to God about it. Cry out to God, complain to God. God is big, He can take it. Tell God what happened and what you’re feeling. Don’t try to put on a false face to God. This exercise is about stretching in our prayers and not about forcing yourself into a position where you must lie to God in order to meet some artificial goal in your prayer life.