Think for a moment about those countries that your government has determined to be enemies of the state. Perhaps their leader is a ruthless, corrupt dictator who spews threats or has orchestrated evil acts against other people or countries. Maybe the country itself has mistreated its citizens or foreigners or has even vowed to destroy any nation that stands in its way. Write down all the names that come to mind.
Now think about people in your life who you have determined or have even shown to be your enemies. They may be people who have betrayed a trust, or violated you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may be someone who has spread malicious gossip or tried to manipulate people or circumstances to work against you. They may even be a ‘frenemy”—someone that you are socially amiable with even though there is deep disdain or rivalry under the surface. Again, write down all names that come to mind.
Now, look at both lists. If you are like me, deep emotions and angry thoughts are stirred up. In our humanness, we might even be tempted to wish they were removed from our life. Some of the writers of the Psalms shared a disdain for their enemies with God. On the surface, those Psalms can appear dark and angry, but there is a raw, human honesty that stems from these writers processing through the injustices of their times while also seeking a deeper understanding of and relationship with God.
Jesus acknowledges this while also bringing a new perspective on how to deal with our enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
Jesus was not simply asking for one more pious act from believers, but instead unveiled the spiritual conduit to unlocking the power of God into the lives and circumstances of those who oppose God and His beloved ones. The truth is that we do and will have enemies in this life and it’s okay to share this with God, as long as we don’t stop there. Jesus asks us to pray, above and beyond our human thoughts and emotions, for those who have done us wrong.
This week I saw a preview of a film based on the writings of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured for years in his native Romania. Ruthlessly and continually beaten for continuing to do one thing—praying—his body was bruised and his feet irreparably damaged. One day his guard-torturer caught Wurmbrand praying in his cell after a vicious beating and asked him why he continued to pray, even with his wife and family gone. Pastor Wurmbrand responded. “I was praying for you.” The guard, visibly stunned and moved, left the cell.
In my book, The Isaiah Encounter, I recounted a time when I witnessed the tearful reunion of a pastor, imprisoned because of his faith, with his former guard, who had since come to know Christ. They were no longer enemies but redeemed brothers in Christ, and the room was filled with worship at the sight of their embrace. The power of prayer—lifted over days, months, years, and even decades—opened the doors of heaven for these events to happen.
What if Christ-followers led the way by praying for our enemies?
Even in the early church as government officials and religious leaders enacted violent warnings and acts against Christ-followers, the church answered by praying. One result of those prayers was that a man named Saul, a chief prosecutor and persecutor of Christians, encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. His life was forever changed, and the new man—Paul—became an important instrument for bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to Rome, Western Europe.
Imagine if we, the church, dedicated one day a week to pray for those nations who are called our enemies. What if we prayed for a spiritual awakening in isolated and violent cultures? Could a violent leader have a life-changing encounter with Christ through the continued prayers flooding heaven on their behalf? I believe the answer is yes.
Envision those who have personally harmed us, newly alive in the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ, weeping and repenting over the past and seeking authentic reconciliation. Could we pray for them and also ask God to give us hearts of forgiveness and love for our enemies just like Pastor Wurmbrand?
The power of praying for our enemies not only has an impact on them but also opens our hearts to the healing and blessing of God.
Keep praying for nations and people you listed and watch what God does in their lives and yours.
God bless you!