How do I pray for my enemies?
The prompt for this question is Jesus’ radical statement in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (NASB).
This statement is radical for three reasons.
First, it’s radical because it goes against the natural, sinful, inclination of our hearts, which is to hate those who hate and mistreat us. Loving our enemies requires a response fundamentally opposite to how the world responds to enemies.
Second, it’s radical in its opposition to the religious leaders of the day. Based on a twisted understanding of Scripture, the Pharisees felt they had the right and duty to hate their enemies. This was another example of Jesus’ teaching opposing the Pharisees’ teaching.
Finally, it’s radical because Jesus goes to the heart issue. This isn’t simply about praying for enemies. It’s about loving them and becoming more like our Heavenly Father. This is a heart issue. To pray for God to bless and shower goodness and grace on those who have mistreated us points to the Cross and our need for a heart transformed by saving grace.
The key to loving our enemies is to consider God’s love for us. Christ died for us when we were still God’s enemies (Romans 5:10). He loved and forgave us and commanded us to do the same (Ephesians 4:32). How can we refuse to love our enemies when God loves us?
When we love and pray for our enemies we are acting like our Heavenly Father. He showers the just and the unjust alike with good things. Even those at enmity with Him are recipients of His goodness and grace. As His children we are to reflect His image in our love for others—even our enemies.
There are two groups of enemies we are to pray blessing for.
The first is enemies who are unbelievers. First and foremost, they need the blessing of salvation. We should pray for God to show mercy and for their spiritual blindness to be removed (2 Corinthians 4:4). We should also pray they will see and repent when they recognize God’s kindness toward them (Romans 2:4). There are examples of these prayers throughout the New Testament (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34; Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-4).
The second group is enemies who are Christians. In Luke 6:28 Jesus’ command to “…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” applies to Christians who hurt us too.
How do we pray for God’s blessing on them? One way is to pray the pronouncements of blessings in Scripture. It includes praying the following.
- That peace and joy from God would fill them (Romans 15:13)
- For unity of heart and mind with other believers (Romans 15:5,6)
- To be preserved from evil, kept from falling (Psalm 121:7,8; Jude 1:24,25)
- For growth in sanctification and holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 12:2)
- For protection of hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7)
- That God would meet all their needs (Philippians 4:19, 20)
- For their love to others to abound (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)
- That God’s grace would be with them (Philippians 4:23)
- That they would experience the presence of God (2 Corinthians 13:14)
- That they would experience comfort from God (2 Thessalonians 2:16,17)
- For them to abound in good work (2 Corinthians 9:8)
God uses our prayers to accomplish His purposes in the lives of others. This makes them significant and our obedience essential. God will give us a sincere love for our enemies if obeying Him is what we truly desire.
Who are your enemies? Do you love them? Do you pray for them? If you are someone’s enemy, how do you want them to pray for you?
I hope this helps.