Why You Ought to Pray for Your Enemies

November 10, 2002

WHY YOU OUGHT TO PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES by Ray Pritchard I suppose one of the hardest commands in the Bible to obey is the command of Jesus that we should pray for our enemies. It is hard because prayer is the last thing we want to do for our enemies. Mostly, there a lot of things we would like to do to our enemies–like getting even or making them suffer like we have suffered. While reading through Jeremiah recently, I was struck by some verses that speak to this very issue. Here’s the background: King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had attacked Jerusalem and sent many of the people into exile. It was a humiliating experience for the people of God. It was also a punishment from the Lord because of their rebellion and disobedience. In a true sense, they got what was coming to them–70 long years in captivity in a foreign land, ruled by pagans who did not worship God. Not all of the Jews were taken to Babylon. Jeremiah was one of those who were left behind. Chapter 29 records a letter he sent from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon in order to encourage them. His advice is fascinating: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (v. 7). God’s word is very simple: I put you in Babylon for a purpose. Although I know you are humiliated, discouraged and angry, do not despair. And pray for the prosperity of Babylon. Read that last phrase of verse 7 very carefully: “If it prospers, you too will prosper.” Here is a message from God for all of us. Many who read these words find themselves caught in a bad situation at work, or at school, or at home. Someone has hurt you deeply and it’s all you can do not to strike back. With all your energy, you barely hold back the bitterness. And some of it sloshes over the top now and then. You couldn’t pray for your enemies if your life depended on it. But God says, do it anyway. That’s the whole point of Jeremiah 29:7. Every time we are faced with people who mistreat us, we have three options: 1) We can hate them with total hatred. That accomplishes nothing. 2) We can struggle to hold back our anger. That will emotionally exhaust us. 3) We can pray for God to bless them. That opens the door for God to bless us as well. Don’t get even with your enemies; ask God to bless them instead. If you can let go of your anger long enough to pray like this, you will discover a wonderful benefit. When you pray for grace for others, you put yourself in a position to receive it yourself. So here’s a new reason to pray for your enemies: Your blessing depends on their prosperity.

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