The Hidden Benefits of Praying for your Enemies

The other day my husband and I were driving in the car together and I made this comment to him, that opened a pandoras box for me. I commented that I hoped that a certain evil person who had done much harm to the community, would die this year. I thought that this world would be better off without them. I won’t name the person I spoke this over because they are a well known public figure, but I felt very justified in pronouncing this curse.

A couple of days later I woke up to do my devotions and read my Bible in the morning, and having forgotten all about the curse I had pronounced on this public figure, I came across a passage in Psalm 106 that stopped me in my tracks.

Psalm 106 is a history of God’s goodness to Israel, a history of both their rebellions and provocations and yet also begins and ends with praising God. The verses that stopped me short are verses 29-31, where the psalmist, who many believe could have been David, says that Israel provoked God to anger with their deeds. Consequently, a plague broke out among them. What happened next is what struck me : “Then Phinehas stood up and intervened  (prayed) and the plague was stopped. And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore”. Phinehas interceded for the nation of Israel, in spite of their wickedness. He asked for mercy and God’s response was amazing. Not only did He listen to Phinehas, he actually counted the intercession as righteousness towards him. That is pretty powerful stuff, if you ask me.

So I decided to do a word search for the word intervene that is used in this passage. In most passages it is simply translated as pray but along with intervene it means to mediate, to judge, to intreat or make supplication. I came across two more stories very similar in nature. In each story, people had sinned and made God angry, and someone had interceded on their behalf, and God blessed the intercessor. In the book of Job, at the very end of the book, when Job is talking to God and things are making more sense to him, it says the following: “And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before”. (Job 42:9) There it was again, Job got blessed because he prayed for his friends, who had been telling him things that were not true.

And to make matters even more interesting,  I came across this passage in 1 Samuel 12:23 that says that I actually might be sinning by not praying for people who are in rebellion. “Moreover, as for me (Samuel) far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will teach you the good and the right way”. Wow!

So if I’m understanding this correctly, then I see three blessings that happen, when I pray for sinful rebellious people that God is angry at. First, it is accounted to me for righteousness, second it actually blesses me with restoration of whatever I might have lost, and third, it stops me from sinning against the Lord! That is quite a list.

But, I had to continue in my quest to see if I could find evidence of this in the New Testament. Immediately I remembered Jesus’ words about loving your enemies. So I looked it up and found this in Matthew 5: 43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

I  noticed two things that are associated with loving and praying for your enemies. Did you catch the word reward? It’s there. Although Jesus doesn’t say what the reward is, He very clearly says there is a reward. Mind you, it is subtle. It’s actually implied but it is there. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” The word  Jesus used is literally dues paid for work, wages, reward or pay for service. I have to wonder if some of those rewards are the ones mentioned in the Old Testament that I spoke of above?

But there’s more! Jesus goes on to suggest that if we pray for our enemies, we shall be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Now that’s a mouthful. I will be perfect like my Heavenly Father, if I pray for my enemies? That’s right. So what does perfect really mean here? The original Greek means complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. It means to be of full age. In other passages it is actually translated as mature. In Hebrews 5:14, Paul says solid food belongs to those who are of full age, perfect, or mature. Same word. John tells us in 1 John 4:18 that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. Again, the same word is used. Mature love casts out fear.

Paul tells us in Colossians 1:24-29 that he wants to present every man perfect in Jesus Christ. There is therefore a call, a warning that we should be perfect like our Heavenly Father. Paul makes it plain, that this perfection, this maturity can only be achieved in Christ Jesus yet, “to this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”

Why would such a difficult task be given to us? Why would God want us to love and pray for people who hate us, people who hurt us, people who persecute us? Because it perfects His love in us. Because it makes us become like our Heavenly Father. Because it makes us become mature in nature. Because it makes us overcome the wicked one! John tells us in 1 John 2:14 “I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.”

And this brings us full circle. What was it that caused Christ to overcome the wicked one? His love! “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) And this scripture in 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is…longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Now if God loves the sinner, the evil man so much that He would not spare His only Son, but sent Him to the cross to die for his sin, how dare I curse someone because they are my enemy? How dare I not pray for mercy in their lives? How dare I not pray that God would soften their hearts, open their eyes, unplug their ears and allow them to hear the message of the Gospel? How dare I place myself as judge and jury and condemn someone that God loved enough to die for?

Needless to say, I repented for my words that I had spoken over this person that I mentioned at the beginning. And yes, I prayed for them.

4 thoughts on “The Hidden Benefits of Praying for your Enemies

  1. Absolutely heart piercing. Beautifully written. Thank you for the research and study of the Scriptures. It speaks deeply to me. Again, thank you.

    Like

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