Did He really say that? – Praying for enemies

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 ESV

Many of us (myself included) have been earnestly praying for the people of Ukraine during this last 6-8 months as we have seen the terrible suffering of her people. But the current media reports over the victories that Ukraine has been winning lately, also brings us face to face with a heart issue that Jesus addressed about our attitude towards our enemies. When I read of soldiers being wiped out or large numbers of casualties on the Russian side, it is too easy to fall into a celebratory mood, saying under our breath, “serves them right!” But we cannot call ourselves Christians forgetting the fact that our Lord Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for them.

You see, the people of Israel faced some very real, very evil enemies, like Pontius Pilate, who slaughtered a number of people from Galilee while they were going to the temple to worship. Then there was Herod, who had John the Baptist decapitated and Pharisees who were plotting some way to have Jesus killed. None of these guys would have been anywhere on my prayer list, and that is a shameful disobedience to Christ’s command. So, as the sunsets tonight and we start our prayers, we need to add some people to the list. There are poor young teenagers from Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and farmers from little villages in the Caucuses. They have chosen a different side in this war than we would have liked, but their lives are also precious to Jesus. He also chose to die on the cross for them, as He did for us, and for all of us, He cried out, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they are doing!”

Prayers for Restoration

Often we do not know how to pray though we feel a desperate need to do so. Here are a few scriptural encouragements that cry out to the only one who holds the answers

In the sermon on the mount Jesus gave us a pattern for prayer. While some question whether its closing verse is part of the original, Solomon prayed with almost the same words more than one thousand years earlier. May it continue to be our own petition till heaven’s kingdom and will indeed are done on earth.

Morning Prayer

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15: 11 ESV

Many of the Amish who were praying this were on their way to farm work, cooking or carpentry asking for godly joyfulness in the middle of their everyday lives. For us, giving mercy might be just helping a neighbor mow his lawn, planting an extra row of tomatoes in our garden to give away or making up a plate of food for a friend. Jesus didn’t say we had to do miracles, in order to love others. In fact, just before He gives this command, had been washing their feet. The key to being joyful begins not by amazing them with miracles, but by serving them, just as Jesus did. So, as you begin your day, ask God to make you His tool of mercy by joyfully practicing the calling that He has given you. You will discover that there is no better way to love others than the smallest act of service done with the joy of Jesus Christ!

"Make us tools for your mercy and let us joyfully go forth and practice our calling. Amen

Considering that many of the Amish who were praying this were on their way to farm work, cooking or carpentry we get the picture of experiencing godly joyfulness in the middle of our most everyday things of life. They ask to be God’s tool of mercy as they begin to simply do ordinary acts of service. For us to give mercy might be no more complicated than helping a neighbor mow his lawn, planting an extra row of tomatoes in our garden to give away or making up a plate of food for a friend. Jesus didn’t mean we had to do miracles, in order to love others. After all, just before Jesus gives this command, He showed them His love, not by some amazing miracle but by washing their feet. The key to our being joyful begins as we love others, not by amazing them with miracles, but by serving them, just as Jesus did. So, as you begin your day, ask God to make you His tool of mercy by joyfully practicing the calling that He has given you. You will discover that there is no better way to love others than the smallest act of service done with the joy of Jesus Christ!