You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. (Matthew 5:43-45)
How on earth do we let our enemies bring out the best in us? That seems like an impossibility. If we are to allow them to bring out the best in us, we need a change in how we view the potential we have 'against' our enemies. It isn't that we are setting ourselves up 'against' them, resisting them and entering into war. We are 'embracing' them in a way they have no clue we are even capable of doing! Respond with the 'supple moves of prayer' and see how much difference this 'stance' can make when encountering our enemy's moves. They won't expect it. They won't even know we are doing it most of the time. They will begin to sense there is something 'amiss' with our response to their attack, though. They will expect a 'counter-attack' for certain, but they won't expect us to embrace their attack in prayer!
Prayer does more than you might imagine because it 'moves us out of ourselves'. It takes our thoughts away from how we 'feel' when attacked and allows God to begin to 'counter' the attack with his 'special moves'. There are no 'moves' we can make that are quite as effective, or to the point. God knows what will move our enemy. He knows what will shut-down their attack and send them running in the opposite direction. He also knows what will cause them to notice something within us that makes them just a bit more curious about the grace of God! He can use our prayers as a means to open the door for his grace in the lives of our enemies. Most of us don't even begin to think about God's grace being extended to our enemies while under attack, but God challenges us to get out of ourselves and allow his grace to get into us! In turn, his grace will begin to impact the lives of our enemies.
I am going to be totally transparent here today - I seldom think to pray for my enemies as the 'first' maneuver. I admit to 'getting into myself' a bit too much when under attack. I want to 'counter' the attack with as much hurtfulness as my enemy has launched against me. Am I in this position of being a little bit too much 'into myself' while under attack? I don't think so, because some of you just felt a little twinge of guilt when I asked that question. I don't always understand the power of prayer because I don't always see the immediate answer to prayer. I do know it works - maybe not in the moment, but in the long-term. I do know prayer moves me into a place where I am able to remove myself from the 'feelings' associated with the attack of my enemy and into the place where God can talk clearly to me about the response I should have toward them.
Prayer may not be our first thought when under attack, but I am praying God will help our enemies bring out the best in each of us, not the worst. In order to do that, we might just find ourselves taking things to God we never have before - things like our hurt feelings, our sense of 'injustice', and our pride. Who better to deal with those things than God himself? In turn, God will begin to change our 'point of reference' - helping us see how our enemy needs our prayers. One thing I noted when I began to embrace praying for my enemy - those prayer times usually begin with getting things right in ME long before they change to asking God to get things right in THEM. Just sayin!