Who is my enemy?
Jesus almost always turned the norm upside down. He does that when he tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
For some of us, we can name our enemy without hesitation. For others, it’s a little more murky. We might not call that person our enemy, but we don’t want anything to do with them.
Regardless, the real question we might ask is: Why pray for someone who has left a mark on your heart, no matter who they are?
In my book, The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness, I share the story of Carlie.
Her ex-husband cheated on her. He eventually left the family. He piled humiliation on top of abuse in the divorce proceedings. The longer the proceedings went on, the more his private actions were revealed. Carlie often wondered if she had known him at all.
She had loved him. She was faithful. She worked hard on her marriage. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t claim to be, but somehow it felt like she was the one paying for his wrongdoing.
One day she sensed God asking her to pray for her ex-husband.
She wondered if she was losing it.
“No, absolutely not. This can’t be my loving God. This isn’t fair!”
Perhaps it would have been easier to pray for him if he said he was sorry, or if his behavior during the divorce wasn’t so harsh or relentless.
She refused God’s invitation to pray for him, but the nudge to pray didn’t go away. Several days later, Carlie knelt in a dark bedroom and surrendered.
She started praying for the man who acted like her enemy.
Our heart is changed when we pray for those who hurt it. #ComeWithMe #13thdisciple http://ctt.ec/NUvgL+
Not just one time, but throughout the entire divorce proceedings. And a year later, and now several years later.
Why would God ask her to pray for him?
That’s a logical question.
I spent a lot of time with Carlie, and after hearing her entire story, I came to this conclusion:
Despite her husband’s choices, God and His promises over Carlie’s life had not changed. He was still her strength. He was still the Lord of her present and her future. He was still her shelter.
Her husband’s actions were a perfect invitation for a host of unwanted and destructive emotions to walk into her heart and take up residence. To be honest, it made sense. Who could blame her? She could have found any number of people who would have agreed that unforgiveness (and praying for him) was not only unwarranted, but pointless.
He didn’t deserve her mercy. He didn’t deserve her prayers.
By asking Carlie to forgive (and to pray for him), God was poised to move into the demolished areas of her life. God was asking to take up residence in those wounded areas.
So, is praying for our enemy all about us? Not really . . . and yes.
When we pray for our enemies, we are living as Christ followers. We aren’t trying to fix them. We aren’t excusing their bad behavior. We aren’t enabling or pretending that wrong didn’t happen.
We are simply following our Savior’s lead as He prayed for those who did Him the greatest harm. He placed them in God’s care — no matter what that looked like.
This is where we are also affected.
The more Carlie prayed, the more the burden of resentment and anger and hurt took their proper place in her heart. Her “enemy” might not have deserved her prayers, but she offered them up anyway. He never knew she prayed for him. There was no agenda.
Sounds beautiful, but it’s so hard. Can we just be honest about that right now? Yet praying for our enemies — even when we don’t think we are ready — is freeing.
I don’t know what God will do with this beautiful step of obedience, but I do know that we are changed as we surrender to it.
Day 5 of 21 Days to Revolutionary Prayer
Praying for your enemy doesn’t have to be eloquent. Simply pray.
If you don’t have the words, go back to Day 4 and pray scripture over that person.
You aren’t looking for a feeling or emotion. You’re simply following Jesus as you pray for those who hurt your heart.
If this is a particularly hard day in this prayer adventure, wave your hand. There’s a host of strong women who can’t wait to pray with you and encourage you.
If you want to take this deeper, these blog posts might be exactly what you’re looking for: