In Matthew 5:44, Jesus tells His disciples that they should "pray for those who persecute you." This is timely instruction for our nation especially during these turbulent times, but, have you ever wondered what praying for your enemies does? After all they don't see or hear the prayer so how can it affect them?
The wonderful thing about prayer is that you don't have to witness it or even believe in it for it to affect you. This should be encouraging for us when we have to deal with an "enemy" and help us pray for them because:
1. You're Not Defeated Just Because Your Foe is an Unbeliever.
Of course, this assumes that your enemy is an unbeliever. In my experience, I have found it easier to forgive and pray for those who don't believe because I'm not expecting them to act like believers in the first place.
Those whose lives are not consciously led by the Lord shouldn't be expected to act like Christians because they don't believe. This is why I find it easier to offer them forgiveness. Most times they don't know what they are doing, who they are doing it to and the consequences they face from an avenging God. I get why Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
The offense that really hurts is the one committed by a believer in Christ. Many times your worst enemy is in the church, singing alongside you or serving you the communion. It's easy to pray for someone who is lost, doesn't know, refuses spiritual things. You can feel sorry for this person and more easily forgive them because they are offending in ignorance. But how to forgive a brother who shares the faith and worships alongside you?
Even for this brother in this situation, prayer is the answer and the power required to heal because the One who answers prayer is the Lord of both you and your enemy, believer or non-believer.
2. The Prayer of a Righteous Person can Avail Much.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
- James 5:16
Only a believer can effectively offer a prayer to God. I am often saddened at the thought of how much energy is expended throughout the world every day and night by sincere people who are praying to entities, ancestors and beings that are not God and have no power to hear, let alone answer prayer.
This knowledge alone should spur us on to pray fervently not only for our enemies but also that God send out workers to proclaim the good news of the only true God, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As far as our personal enemies are concerned, we need to pray for them because no one else may be praying for them.
3. All Things do Work for Good and God's Purpose.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
- Romans 8:28
Even those who consciously work against God are ultimately in His service and our prayers put them there. The only difference is that they will serve unknowingly and will receive no reward for their effort.
There's no reason to feel helpless when confronted with our various enemies in this life because God has clearly instructed us in what to do in order to defeat them. Love them so that their attack becomes unwarranted and worthy of judgment; pray for them so that God will work directly in their lives either to limit their attack or win them over to faith and fellowship. Either way prayer is the key to victory.
- Define the act of forgiveness in twelve words or less. Find the closest match for your definition in a passage or story from Scripture.
- What part of asking for forgiveness is the most difficult for you? Why?
- In the parable of the Prodigal Son who do you identify with the most? Why?
- List three ways that your prayer on behalf of Islamic Terrorists could impact them. Could impact you.
- To the degree that you are able, share a situation where you are the enemy and have a discussion partner pray for you.