Six Reasons to Pray for Our Enemies
In the Enemy's Stranglehold
If we think of life as a game, our enemies are those people who intentionally try to prevent us from winning. Some of their vicious deeds include fighting us, pushing us face down, robbing us, misleading us and misrepresenting us—all done with an obvious animosity. Praying for them is not our instinctive response, especially when we feel their stranglehold.
What a surprise then to hear Jesus, in His illustrious Sermon on the Mount, tell the crowd to “pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6: 28)*. Various versions describe these people as those who hurt, mistreat, abuse, insult, revile, accuse falsely and calumniate—meaning, injure our reputation.
Before we rush off assuming that we would rather not deal with the troublemakers, be assured that there is a place for enemies in everyone’s life. See why praying for them can enhance our character growth even in their presence.
(1) It's the Benevolent Thing to Do
We can respond to the misdeeds of our enemies with our own evil deeds; we would only enlarge the hostility field around us. On the other hand, we can continue to strive for excellence in character despite their attacks on us. Praying for them seems like the most benevolent act on our part which would benefit us and them.
- And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same (Luke 6:33).
Instead of nurturing bitterness in our minds toward them, we can speak blessings on them in our prayers. We can pray that God’s goodness in their lives become their focus, and their reason to share goodness instead of hate. Our benevolence enables our strength to survive and disables their ability to distract us.
(2) It Improves Our Attitude
When tackling any kind of problem involving another person, it is wise to pray for ourselves first. In this situation, we can pray for a divine perspective to replace the human judgments we have already made about our enemies.
- Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).
One of my former friends turned into an enemy without my awareness. For about ten days, there was no response to my text messages or phone calls. When a mutual friend told me that my former friend called me an enemy and said negative things about me, I accepted the reality that we were enemies.
After a few weeks, she sent me a text message which I read with an enemy’s attitude, but I prayed that God would influence my response. The next day, with a new attitude, I read the same message and understood it quite differently; it appeared that she also had a change of attitude. We soon benefited from a cordial conversation.
Had we not experienced changes in our attitudes, we would continue to burden ourselves with negative thoughts about each other. We do not have as close a friendship as we did before, but we are hostility-free.
(3) It Cancels Resentment
Resentment towards an enemy is understandable; but considering how it can enslave our spirit and sabotage our health--spiritual, mental and emotional health, it pays to pray that damaging feeling away. Prayer can make the following counsel become practical in our dealings with our enemies:
- Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31,32).
It may seem difficult to forgive our enemies, but our prayers for spiritual strength to offer genuine forgiveness will enable us to live comfortably and without ill-feeling toward them.
(4) It Helps Transform Our Enemies
Without judging the enemy, we can conclude that anyone who intentionally wants to hurt another person needs some soul transformation. Lecturing, punishing, playing tit-for-tat may never produce the kind of transformation that the Apostle Paul prayed for:
- We have not stopped praying for you . . . so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1: 9, 10).
The enemy’s bad conduct may be the symptom of misplaced aggression, guilt feelings, mental disorder or any other reason which qualifies him for help. There are many reports of changed lives as a result of intercession (praying for others). Intercession also develops caring and compassion in the pray-ers and may lead us to become agents for practical and professional help on behalf of individuals seeking transformation.
(5) It Removes Desire for Personal Revenge
Some evil deeds of our enemies deserve to be punished, and we readily think we know the appropriate punishment. However, the text of Romans 12:19 counsels:
- Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
We can visualize the enemy's target finding refuge in God’s bosom. He rocks and comforts the individual saying, “Don’t worry, darling. You don’t even have to think of punishing your enemy; I can do that more effectively than you.”
Since God knows best and always has a purpose for what He does, we can pray for the enemy that he seeks divine strength to endure the discipline, and that he learns from it. We can even pray for the opportunity to help him hold up while he is hurting. Wise people benefit from discipline, and one benefit for the enemy might be that he learns to treat others with the kindness he wants for himself.
One benefit for us might be that we learn from his experience.
How have you usually responded to attacks from your enemies?
(6) It Produces Inner Peace
Nothing we do for our enemies might bring the results we anticipate. We cannot control their responses to our prayers or to God’s blessings on them. However, because we nurture thoughts of peace and harmony toward them, their actions will not cause anxieties or restlessness within us.
- Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble (Psalm 119:165).
If we continue to listen and obey our God-given instruction on repaying evil with good, we will continue to pray for our enemies and enjoy a clear conscience. We can rest in the assurance Jesus offers: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
*All Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
© 2016 Dora Isaac Weithers