Jesus offers specific instructions on how to pray for those who make us angry.
Posted in , Sep 12, 2019
We live in disturbing times. Sometimes it seems as if division and discord surround us, affecting our nation, our cities, even our churches. Even our minds and hearts. It’s hard to know how to respond. We can try to shout it down. We can try to shut it out.
We can respond with prayer, of course, and often we do. We can pray against chaos. We can pray against those who spread it. But notice what Jesus told His followers:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48, NIV).
Jesus said to pray for our enemies. For some of us, that might be a neighbor or colleague who always seems to criticize or undercut us. For others, it might be a public figure we don't agree with.
God didn’t say to pray for them to be silenced; He said to pray for God’s blessings on them. He said that we should be like our Father in heaven, who sends the blessings of sunshine and the blessings of rain on everyone, even the evil and the unrighteous. He said that, when we lovingly pray for those who persecute us, we act like children of our perfectly loving God.
In times like this, we might wish Jesus hadn’t said such things. But strange things begin to happen when we pray for those we think of as enemies. We might see a change in them, sure. But if we truly pray for them—for blessings to shine and rain down on them—we will see sooner and deeper changes happening in us. It’s hard to stay offended when we pray for the offender’s deepest wounds. It’s hard to respond unkindly when we’re sincerely praying for God’s kindness to be showered on others. It’s hard to repay hate with hate when we are trying to “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us].”
Whether God answers your prayers by changing the hearts of others—or only yours—your prayers will be answered.
Try it. Pray lovingly for those who offend and persecute others. And watch what God does.