How Should We Pray For Our Enemies?

How should we pray for our enemies? That’s the question we’re dealing with today. On the heels of my message on Sunday, if you missed that message, I highly encourage you to go back, not just because I preached it, but because there’s going to be some content I’m going to cover today briefly, that’s going to draw from some of those concepts that we talked about and concepts of impregatory psalms. What are we to make of these psalms that sound so unchristian as we pray in many cases against our foe, against our enemies, in some cases, calling down calamity or judgment on these individuals? How do we, in a New Testament paradigm context today, apply those Old Testament ideas knowing that the impregatory prayers and psalms are in both the Old and the New Testament?

You’ll see that kind of impregatory language. So what do we do with it? We’re not just going to sweep it under the rug. We’re going to wrestle with it. And so again, the question is, how do we pray for our enemies?

And we could think of, okay, well, maybe there’s an individual who might be your enemy. But I want to expand this idea a little bit to include praying for perhaps a person with whom you disagree politically, praying for a politician with whom you disagree, praying for a leader in a position of power who is abusing their power in some way. I’m talking about praying against a terrorist or an extremist or a person who is carrying out an agenda that seems completely contrary to God’s will. How do we pray for those individuals? We know that Jesus told us we’re to not only love those who love us, but we’re to love our enemies, and we’re to pray for those who persecute us or who harm us.

So how do we practically do that? I want to give you a couple of thoughts. One, we need to pray for their conversion. Pray for their conversion. Now, it’s quite possible that in some of these cases, the individual we’re praying for is already converted.

They’ve already made a decision to follow Jesus and committed their life to them. But for whatever reason, it’s not manifesting itself in your experience of your relationship with that individual. But in a lot of these cases, especially when you’re talking about a dictator or a person in a position of power, it’s quite possible that the spiritual condition of their heart is not right with God. And we need to start by praying for their salvation, for their conversion. Now, there’s a couple of reasons why we typically might not do that.

One might be because we think it’s useless. There are some hearts that seem so hard and so cold and so callous that why in the world would we waste our time and God’s time? Because we think the likelihood of a person like that coming to faith is just not going to happen. So we tend to not pray for our enemies and their conversion in that way. Another reason, though, why we often might not pray for their conversion is because they might actually become converted.

And we sometimes secretly might not want that to happen. Think about Jonah, who was told to preach against Nineveh and they repented. He wasn’t happy about it. We’re like we like the idea of our enemies getting their just desserts, mercy and forgiveness from God? No, thank you.

So a lot of times we’ll maybe shouldn’t pray for that because we want these people to get what’s coming to them. That doesn’t seem fair for them to get away with whatever they’re getting away with. Imagine praying in World War II against the Nazis and against, say, Adolf Hitler, and finding out as you’re praying that just moments before he died, what if Adolf Hitler made some sort of profound profession of faith? I would imagine there would be people going, well, hold on here, just again, being received into God’s family, his grace and all of those things. It starts to stir up all of these kinds of questions.

I want to encourage us to pray, though, for those who oppose us, for those who oppose you, to pray for their conversion. Because if we think about it, we need to not pray for anything less than what God has done for you and for me. The mercy and grace that God offers to all has been given to you and to me. And so one of the ways we can express gratitude is to bring ourselves to pray for conversion. Another thing that we can pray for our enemies is to pray that whatever evil they are doing does not continue, that it gets stopped in its tracks.

And God can use any number of ways to do that. So you’re not simply praying against the person, you’re praying against their evil acts. You’re praying against their unrighteous ways, which is a way to take this loving your enemy and praying for them, because it’s not only harming other people, what they’re doing, but it’s harming themselves and their own relationship and experience with God. So pray that the evil that they do that is taking place, that it would be stopped in its tracks. Pray for protection of the innocent and those who are vulnerable and who are receiving perhaps the evil that this person is doing, whether consciously or not, pray that that would stop and that this person would be held to account.

And that leads to the third thing that you can pray for your enemy. And this is sort of the last resort, but that is to pray for God’s will to be done in terms of justice and judgment. Now, when I say that that’s not a gloating kind of a prayer, that’s not a, okay, stick it to him, God. It’s a recognition that some people’s hearts are so hardened and so cold that they need to experience a bit of god’s discipline and judgment in a way that where he removes his restraint, perhaps, and he does whatever he needs to, to communicate to somebody. And that can be something like confusion among other leaders that are counseling with this person.

Or it might even be God removing a person from power in whatever way that might look like. Again, we are entrusting all of this to God as we’re praying for our enemies. But those are three practical things that we can do as we think about. Not just this nameless, faceless person. But I would imagine, as I mentioned, enemy.

An image comes to your mind, maybe multiple images. And we want to put feet to our recognition of praying for our enemies and loving those who persecute us. So again, I encourage you to go back and listen to the sermon if you happen to miss it. I know that I need to remind myself of these things in the days to come, but thanks so much for joining us today.