QUESTION: Should we pray for our enemies?
ANSWER: This is an important question. Let’s study the
Scriptures together and see what the Bible says:
Not only should we pray, but we MUST pray for our enemies. Jesus – the ultimate authority (Mat. 28:18; Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9; Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22) said, “Love your
enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44).
But notice that Jesus said we’re to do MORE than just pray for our enemies. He taught us to LOVE our enemies, BLESS our enemies, and DO GOOD to our enemies. If they’re hungry, we’re to feed them; if they’re thirsty, we’re to give them a drink (cf. Rom. 12:14-21; Luke 10:25-37).
The Lord did not say that we are obligated to LIKE our enemies. He taught through Paul (John 16:13), “IF IT IS POSSIBLE, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). The noted theologian, Tom T. Hall,
wrote back in 1973:
I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks
Slow-movin’ trains and rain
I love little country streams, sleep without dreams
Sunday school in May – and hay
And I love you, too
I love leaves in the wind, pictures of my friends
Birds of the world and squirrels
I love coffee in a cup, little fuzzy pups
Old TV shows – and snow
And I love you, too
I love honest, open smiles, kisses from a child
Tomatoes on the vine and onions
I love winners when they cry, losers when they try
Music when it’s good – and life
And I love you, too.
Much of our frustration with Jesus’ command about praying for our enemies may be a result of confusing “loving” and “liking.” It’s been my observation that people tend to, like Tom T., use the word “love” in a very broad and expansive way. They use it to describe their feelings for things like ducks, trucks and tomatoes, but when Jesus said, “love your enemies,” He wasn’t saying that we must have warm and affectionate emotions towards those who hurt and mistreat us. Rather, He was telling us to act in a certain way towards our enemies, regardless of how they behave (Mat. 5:45-48; 1 Cor. 13:4-7).
If we ONLY pray for our enemies, and then hypocritically treat them with unkindness and disdain, our prayers won’t get through the ceiling (Prov. 15:8; 29:9).
Jesus, by example, prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34).
Jesus did not retaliate against His enemies. He could have summoned more than twelve legions of angels to prevent Calvary (Mat. 26:53), but He didn’t. He could have returned pain for pain against His enemies at the cross (1 Pet. 2:20-23; cf. Mat. 26:67-68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63-65), but He didn’t.