Matthew 5:44, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult verses in the entire Bible. It says: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Enemies. Can I safely assume that we all have someone who comes to mind when that word is brought up? Someone who is a source of stress and strife? Possibly it is someone who has physically or verbally attacked us or our family. Maybe it is someone who has become a thorn in our side because of their continual inconsiderate ways. Perhaps it is someone who initiated a one-time event that has caused unresolved bitterness.
Do we pray for that person? Do we pray that God will touch their heart and heal the part of them that causes them to inflict pain on others? Do we pray that God will soften their heart and help them to see the hurt they have caused and feel sorrow? Or do we think prayer in this particular case is pointless because he or she is beyond the reach of God? (That last one was rhetorical.)
I have been guilty of sometimes forgetting to pray for the people I have labeled as enemies. I have also been guilty of sometimes intentionally forgetting to pray for them…but I am pretty good at remembering to complain about them. I am pretty good at remembering to tell my close friends or husband what my enemies have done. I am pretty good at referring back to the offense that makes them so hard to pray for with the hope that maybe I can get a “prayer pass.” Maybe my confidante will say, “You know, what she did WAS truly horrible. Let others pray for her…it would just be too much to expect you, the victim, to pray for God to touch her heart and to perform a change in her life.” I have not yet heard those words or anything similar. I have a feeling l will be waiting a while to hear a response that will let me off the hook in the “pray for those who persecute you” department.
Possibly part of what hinders me from praying for enemies is the realization that He might decide it is the ideal time for Him to impress upon me that I am in need of a heart change. And, you know, if He would choose to mention that while I am obediently pleading with Him to change him or her, it might be a bit irritating. 😉However, God speaks to us about our hearts when He has our attention. And sometimes the prime time for attention-getting is when we are right in the middle of telling Him why and how He should change the heart of our enemy. (And yes, I do say this from experience.)
Loving and praying for our enemies is a big commandment given to us by a big God who never leaves us on our own to tackle the hard stuff. He will help us. He promises He will be by our side. As we pray, maybe we will not see a change in our enemy. But maybe we will. And as we continue to pray, we just might start to see a positive change in ourselves – a change in our hearts, our attitude, and our response, as He helps us to become more like Him.
Heavenly Father, when we have someone in our life we are struggling with, help us to respond to them the way You want us to. The easiest reactions are to complain and to focus on the negative. But You’ve told us to pray for our enemies. Help us, Lord, to truly desire that our enemies will be touched by You and that they will feel Your love. Remove the bitterness and anger. Replace it with Your peace that transcends understanding. Reveal to us the ways in which You want to work in our hearts as well, and open our eyes to Your way. Thank You for Your love, Your forgiveness, Your mercy, and Your peace. Amen.