The recent anniversary of 9-11 and the threats of one man to burn the Qur’an caused me to reflect on Christ’s words in Matthew 5 “pray for your enemies”. Our prayers are not supposed to supplant justice but rather cause us to stop and make sure that we are truly being just and acting out of righteous motives. Prayers for our enemies are prayers for the wellbeing and ultimately for the salvation of those who oppose and hurt us. They don’t excuse sin nor reduce the need to call attention to injustices of all kinds. However praying for our enemies does align us with God’s kingdom building work.
Often we hear that people are converted not by great discourses but because someone loved them. The Christian’s life of radical love compels the non-Christian to desire what fuels us, the Holy Spirit; a right relationship with God and a love of our enemies. How do we learn such ways? As Christians we learn through the modeling of others; parents, family members, church leaders, teachers, and friends. But we also learn how to pray for our enemies from the language used in worship and the prayers spoken. So I ask: does your congregation regularly spend time in prayer for its enemies, not a passing reference but prayers from the heart? Do we pray for victory in Iraq or do we also pray for the citizens of Iraq, both Christians and Muslims? Do we pray for the safety of all engaged in battle regardless of which side? Do we pray for those who mourn regardless of who they are or what they believe? Do we pray that we may show others just a little of the exorbitant love that Christ has shown to us, while we were yet sinners? Do we pray these prayers for people in foreign countries and for those enemies in our midst? Yes, one day justice will roll down like an ever-flowing stream but until the day that it can be achieved how ought we to pray?