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Pray for our enemy? What!

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." (Matthew 5:43-45 NLT)
We all pretty much know how insanely difficult this scriptural principle is to live out in our everyday practice. Loving our neighbor, helping a friend out when they are in need - these are things we don't really think about - we just do these things because it makes sense and our heart is moved to respond that way. To actually do something good toward an enemy - well that's another story! In fact, our most frequent thought might be that they get what they have coming! Remember, I said this might be our most frequent thought, but I didn't say it was biblical - just human!
Look at what Jesus instructs - we don't have to like them - we just need to pray for them. Why do you think Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies? I imagine it might have something to do with the fact of it being impossible for us to really pray for them AND to harbor resentment toward them. In essence, Jesus is helping us to recognize the importance of bringing that individual and their actions against us to him, because he knows when we take this action, we are less likely to hold onto them until their actions damage us with deep-seated roots of anger, jealousy, bitterness, etc.
What prayer does is "re-center" our thoughts away from what THEY did TO us. It doesn't become all about us any longer - it turns the focus toward God and their need - for his work to be done in their lives. If you think about all the things that take root because we have been wronged by someone - jealousy, anger, bitterness, ill-will, etc. - these are things that take root not in THEM, but in US, actually bringing harm to US and not them. We blame them for these roots ever getting started and then the responsibility to allow God to deal with US never happens.
In prayer, we bring those feelings to him - allowing him to show us that when we release those who have injured us, he begins to release us from those roots that hold us so "bound" to their actions against us. In turn, when we begin to pray FOR them, bringing THEIR need to God's throne of grace, we aren't asking God to do terrible things to them - it is the throne of GRACE, after all! Maybe that is why it so hard for us to actually pray FOR them - we pray AGAINST them easier than we pray FOR them. We want vengeance, but God's ultimate goal is GRACE. He might take them through a period that seems a little harsh, but it isn't to harm them, it is to humble them until they understand their need for grace.
Our heart matters to God, so he reminds us to bring our enemies to him in prayer. First, so we don't allow those feelings within us to fester until they do damage. Second, so we move from wanting harm for them to a place where we remember they need grace more than anything else. Lastly, so that we might be able to be an instrument of his grace and love that reveals the magnitude of God's love for them. It won't be easy, but nothing worth very much really is that easy. It won't be instant, but as we continue to forsake those feelings at the throne of grace, we will realize new feelings toward our enemy. God's reminder to pray is mostly so WE guard our hearts against the harm these feelings can cause when allowed to have their way in our lives - the blessing of our enemy is just a bi-product of us caring enough to be obedient to the things God asks of us! Just sayin!

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