Praying for Our Enemies

by Jordan An

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

Of all the commandments we find in the Bible, this one given by Jesus may be the hardest. Living in a world that prioritizes fairness and “getting what you deserve,” we may find that praying for our enemies is a struggle for many of us. Jesus knew what it was like to have enemies: “he was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). And yet, when it came to those trying to kill him, Jesus offered this prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). While praying for our enemies might be countercultural to the world, it’s a Kingdom practice modeled by Jesus himself.

Why should we pray for our enemies?

There is one clear reason Christians should commit to loving and praying for their enemies: Jesus commands us to do so (Matthew 5:43-44). We serve a Savior who is full of grace and love; the Kingdom he brought to the world was not one of grudges and retribution, but one of forgiveness and restoration. When we pray for our enemies, we become more like Jesus, and in praying for those we might not like or agree with, we begin to see them more clearly as beloved children of God.

It’s important to remember that praying for our enemies does not absolve them of their sins or wrongdoing against us. Justice is ultimately between the individual and God. It does, however, begin to relieve us of the burdens of hate, anger, and malice we carry. When our hearts tell us that they don’t deserve our forgiveness and prayers, it’s humbling to remember that we are also fallen people in need of grace, and that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

How should we pray for our enemies?

Every situation is unique, so pray how you feel led. You may notice that before you can pray for your enemy, you need to pray for yourself first: to ask God for forgiveness, to rid you of any hate and malice you hold, and for your eyes to see everyone as his child. Once you feel ready, here are some examples of how you can pray for your enemies:

  • Pray that they would grow to be more like Christ

  • Pray that they would cultivate the Fruits of the Spirit

  • Pray that they would know the love and forgiveness of God

  • Pray that God would bring a loving Christian community around them

If the wounds of your hurt are fresh or deep, you may not feel ready to forgive or to pray. In those moments, we can be assured that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26-27). As you seek to find healing and restoration, rest in the love of God and know that “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).