The best thing you can pray for your enemies

How do you pray for your enemies? Don’t worry, as much as you never thought you’d read a post about this, I never thought I’d write one. Considering that you might have an enemy is like considering that you might go bald. Not a fun thought. Something you’d pay money to avoid if you could. I went through most of my adult life never considering the concept of an enemy. Sure, I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but you know what, everyone is not my cup of tea either and I am cool with both of those things. I don’t subscribe to the idea that everyone should like me and I try not to spend too much mental energy worrying about it.

But nowhere in this equation is a concept even remotely as harsh as “enemy”. It’s totally the kind of word you want to put in air brackets, the kind of word you want to whisper, the kind of word you wish you never had to say. The concept feels harsh, even the word does. By virtue of it’s composition it’s said through straight unsmiling lips, mean lips, like a hard line drawn. Despite my snarky personality I am a fairly peace-loving sort, always a tiny bit judgy of people whose lives attract a lot of drama (you know those people) and secretly relieved that there has been very little drama in my life. Until there was drama in my life. Have you ever had the kind of drama that produces an enemy? 

I think for the most part most people don’t go out determined to make an enemy, and when there is conflict you do your best to resolve it peaceably (Rom 12 v 18) and to forgive quickly (Col 3 v 13). But even if you do all of those right things you can come out on the other side knowing that that particular person or people have set their hearts against you and will continue to view you as an enemy, regardless of what you do or don’t do, say or don’t say and most of all regardless of how you view them. With even just a kernel of discernment you would be able to tell, even feel, the emotional or even spiritual opposition that hides behind even the most eloquent manners and socially appropriate noises.  

And let’s be perfectly honest with each other, even when you’ve forgiven someone who has sinned against you, your heart and healing don’t just happen overnight. Far from it. What’s more, forgiveness is a decision of the will, primarily a decision to be obedient, not by any stretch a decision that follows a feeling. In fact the feeling of wanting to forgive might never catch up with your decision to do it anyway. That is because forgiveness is always costly. 

“…God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver…. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God could not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator…. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.” 
― Timothy Keller

And so, as you process the hurt, as you bare what has occurred, as your flesh learns to walk in the spiritual act of forgiveness, you may find yourself in dark and dangerous moments where you are still sore and angry, where the person who hurt you or hurt those you love looks like ,no feels like, nothing but an enemy. We’ve all been there. And because I have been there, I can tell you, at those vulnerable moments, prayer is our biggest and most powerful weapon.  Prayer is our path towards the light. A path we have to choose again and again if we want to be truly free. 

So here is my take on it: I have one rule when it comes to buying birthday presents for my friends. I think it’s a rule most of us follow whether we are aware of it or not. We most often buy things for other people that we ourselves love or would love to have. And it’s this same logic that I have applied as I have learned to move forward in the deliberate act of obedience in praying for those who have hurt me, waiting for my heart to catch up. I pray a prayer for my enemies for the things I most desire, the things I pray most for myself, the prayer I hope those who love me would pray for me, a prayer for the things I believe we all need the most.

I keep that prayer short and simple. I keep it at the ready. Because those feelings that come up when you think about what happened or are reminded of your hurt, they are like the few extra kilos that look like they came out of nowhere after your Christmas break. It’s just there all of a sudden. Consider it a mantra, if you will, to ward off those bitter thoughts and feelings that creep up on us like the extra weight of festive season indulgences. Here is the prayer I immediately offer:

The best thing you can pray for your enemiesThat’s it. Because what better gift is there than the gift of peace?

And what more could we ask out of life than to be guided through and helped by God’s Spirit?

And what bigger present could one receive than the ability to hear God speak? 

One of the biggest things we can do for those we love is to pray for them. An unseen and unknown act of love and sacrifice that reaps fruit no one will ever give you credit for. And I think when scripture says in Mathew that we “love our enemies” (Matt 5 v 43 – 45) this is an active way of doing that.

Maybe there are other things you pray for yourself and for those you love. I am assuming if you have an “enemy” you have done the work (and let’s face it, it’s work) of forgiveness. But as you walk out of the pit of hurt, why not pray for your enemy the things you pray for yourself, for those you love most. It’s a way of truly taking your thoughts, you know the ones, of revenge, retribution, of rehashing the hurt (thoughts you have no business thinking) captive and guiding your feelings to line up with your spirit and God’s truth. 

That is the Kingdom economy in action, that is the “on it’s head” logic of grace that Jesus taught and lived, that we are called to. That is how we turn the other cheek, extend grace, and fully and properly mess with the Devils persistent plan to let our feelings lead us off track. This prayer can get you back on track, towards healing, towards peace, not just for you but also for whomever you are praying for. 

And soon, maybe not as soon as you hoped, but soon, you will experience the turning of your heart. I pray that happens for you.

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

Max Lucado
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