Praying for our enemies

This week I received an email asking how we ought to pray for our enemies when in actual fact we'd celebrate at their funeral? Here is what I said: In response to your question about praying for our enemies... First, we have to really believe it is imperative that we do love our enemies, acknowledging that it is not something we can do in human strength, but is something that God can develop in us. My second thought may be the most helpful. Both Jesus, and a disciple of Jesus, Stephen, offered prayers for those who were killing them as they died, and I think their prayers give us some direction and insight into the overarching command to love our enemies: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." - Jesus "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." - Stephen, Acts 7:60 Their prayers show that they have genuine compassion for these people, who are doing evil out of their own brokenness and lostness. They were able to forgive because they saw the blindness and brokenness of their enemies. Really, I think praying for our enemies is a method for developing hearts of compassion and love for them, which is the real goal of spiritual growth: LOVE. As we pray for them, we think on their own experiences of brokenness, their broken relationships, their hardships, their struggles. As we pray for them, we walk a mile in their shoes before God. It sounds like your question is a practical one, that there is someone you are finding it hard to forgive and love. It sure is easy, when praying for enemies to just pray that God would shut them up, punish them and vindicate us, though Jesus' prayer sets a strikingly different example. I commend you for wrestling with this teaching of Jesus and being honest with yourself, and with me, that your emotions aren't there yet. Let me encourage you, though, that if your will is there, and you do decide to make a practice of praying for the wellbeing, healing and forgiveness of your enemy, God can and will work on your heart until on day forgiveness, love and compassion for your enemy naturally flow from your transformed heart and no longer require the efforts of the will.

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