"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45
As a way of building on the Lenten Devotional which was based partly on the Beatitudes, I have been reading a portion of the Sermon on the Mount and journaling on it each day. I pray that God would give to me the humility to see how the words of Jesus might contradict what I believe or what needs to be corrected in my life. This is challenging work. The Sermon on the Mount is filled with sayings I do not fully understand or find difficult to do. The above text is one of those challenging words from Jesus.
The most natural thing in the world is to hate an enemy. When someone is trying to do us harm, we recoil and seek to protect ourselves with an emotional wall of hatred. When people hurt us, we often react by trying to avoid them. We do not consider the enemy as a neighbor. When we pray for enemies, the temptation is to pray against them. We want them to reap what they sow and to be condemned for their meanness. Jesus asks us to love them. How do we love an enemy when often there is a chasm between us?
Jesus says we are to pray for those who persecute us that we may be children of our Father in heaven. We need a heavenly perspective, God's viewpoint of the person. God gives good things to everyone. The sun and the rain are necessary for crops to grow. God does not give the sun only to those who deserve it. What a dark world it would be if that were so!
How should I pray for an enemy? I can pray that God's goodness would be recognized. Certainly, I can pray the Lord's Prayer for an enemy. Let's suppose my enemy is named John, the following prayer could be an act of love:
John's Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name in John. Thy kingdom come in John; thy will be done in John, on earth just as if he were with you in heaven. Give him his daily bread, all that he needs to sustain and enrich his life. Forgive John and help him to forgive others. As John follows you, let him not think he is fully obedient when he is really vulnerable to a deeper temptation he is likely to fail. John is weak like the rest of us. Help John to remain true to you, O God, in this present season of testing. And please deliver John from the Evil One. Let John's joy be in your kingdom and power and glory forever and ever. Amen.