Prayers for My Enemy
27“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Jesus doesn’t waste any time getting into the most difficult practice of all; loving your enemy. I’ll confess right up front, I struggle with this only because I have taken on an attitude of “I don’t care” about my enemy. I’m afraid that in the eyes of God, this might be the same as hatred. Nuts. This radical command is a call to action, not just emotion, for to love one’s enemies requires an unnatural act of the will.
As I was examining some of the Greek in this passage, the “bless” in verse 28 stood out, because it brings a little clarity to the reading. The word used in this verse is εὐλογέω (eulogeō), root of our word for eulogy. When I speak a eulogy, I speak well of the deceased and praise their positive qualities. This is what Jesus calls us to do about our enemy –speak well of them and praise their positive qualities. That means I might actually have to pay enough attention to my enemy to notice what those qualities might be and then be willing to speak them aloud. To add insult to injury, I am then also to pray for my enemy. That means I need to care enough spend the time that prayer takes on them. Again – I find this difficult. So, I lean on the Scriptures to help with this. I generally pull a prayer from the Epistles of Paul and insert their names in the text and pray God’s blessings on them that way. (Try Colossians 1:9-14 – It’s a fantastic prayer for anyone and in praying it for your enemy you will be changed.)
The Church has long made a practice of praying for the enemy.
Liturgies probably from the fourth and fifth centuries (likely preserving earlier practice) included prayers of blessing and petitions offered for heretics, schismatics, Jews, pagans, and for all in tribulation and for the needs of the whole world. Such prayers show how the church loves all, even her enemies, as she stands in the presence of God and petitions the Father.
Just, A. A., Jr. (1996). Luke 1:1–9:50 (p. 292). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would indeed pray for His enemies and we do indeed see Jesus doing just that from the cross.
The hearer cannot help but think of Jesus’ passion, when he himself willingly was beaten and stripped in fulfillment of such prophecies as Is 50:4–11. Jesus himself had no possessions or property except the robe he wore, and even that he gave up without demanding it back. Again, the Sermon on the Plain is Christological, and everything Jesus asks of his disciples, he himself has first done on their behalf.
Just, A. A., Jr. (1996). Luke 1:1–9:50 (p. 293). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.
4The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.
6I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
7But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
8He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.
9Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
10Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
11Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
It is only through the power and strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can ever hope to love our enemies. Doing it under my own steam is going to fail. But this isn’t a suggestion Jesus is making here. It is a command. Love your enemy. The only way to do that is with actions. You can say you love your enemy and you’re just filling the air with empty words. Action is required here and that can most easily be started on your knees with your enemy in mind. Go ahead – give it a try.