“Pray for those who torment you and persecute you” Matt. 5:44
Jim looked forward to Saturday evenings at his Bible study group. It was prayer night. He loved praying for so many friends and loved ones; his and those of his fellow Christians. But this night would be a milestone for Jim—a point of no return. It would be a reshaping of his prayer life.
Phil was leading the group and he asked everyone to make a list during the coming week. The list was to be of those people considered their enemies. Included should be politicians, rude clerks, greedy corporations, worldly church leaders and so on. To kick start the project they would begin with prayers for enemies..
Jim almost bolted and ran. He had been deceived and stolen from by two friends. They had taken his business, good credit and left him with a pile of debt. In addition to the business debt, Jim was forced to hire an attorney which cost him thousands of dollars and did little to help. Later he discovered the attorney was noted as one of the least competent in town.
As Phil asked everyone to pray, Jim began with a simmering anger, clenching his fists, silently asking God why He allowed all of those terrible things to happen to him. And now, when he thought it was all behind him, how could God ask him to pray for those who used and maligned him? His heart was breaking and his blood pressure was rising. Tears began to flow.
“I know that some of you will ask why we’re praying for our enemies,” Phil said. “Why not just try and forget them and hopefully never talk to them again. After all, we are admonished by Jesus to love as proof of our Christianity. You may even feel that as long as you don’t still nurture the hate and anger toward them, you’ve done well. As always, let’s see what the Bible says about this issue.”
Matthew 5:43-44 ~”You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you”
Acts 7:59-60 ~”As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.”
Romans 12:12-14 ~”Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come, endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them. And as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don’t curse, bless.”
Romans 12:20-21 ~”If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”*
1 Cor. 4:11-13 ~”Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”
1 Cor. 13:4-8 ~”Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!”
1 Peter 2:20-21 ,23 ~”Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”
By now, cleansing tears were flowing throughout the room. Calling out to God in prayer opened their hearts for change, for a touch of the Master’s hand, for purification and redemption. And what of us, do we harbor ill feelings, grudges, anger toward someone who has actually wronged us? Someone who took advantage of us? Someone who has not paid the price, as far as we know? And that is the point; as Stephen asked God to forgive those who killed him, we must allow God to help us forgive those who have wronged us. We must pray for them.