Everybody has enemies. And when I use the term “enemies”, I’m really referring to two types of people. There are the people who are your enemies– they hate you. They are scheming to hurt or destroy you; people who defame or slander you; people who betray you; people who cheat and lie to and steal from and abuse you or those closest to you. Then there are the people for whom you are an enemy– you don’t like them, you don’t trust them, you don’t respect them; you probably defame or gossip about them, and you hurt them, even if it is unintentional. Some enemies fall into both categories, but not all.
I would love to say that I have no enemies–of either type. But, alas, they exist– both types. God calls on us to love our enemies, to pray for them, to show them kindness, and to bless them! In our own power, we can’t do this. We can make the attempt to forgive the unforgivable, to love the unlovable, and reconcile the impossible, but we fall short in our attempts: the betrayal is too deep; the hurt is too overwhelming; the damage is irreversible, and the impossible is just…well…impossible.
Loving our enemies is one of the proofs of God’s existence, his goodness, his power, his own boundless love at work through our imperfect words and efforts. Praying for our enemies, showing kindness and grace in the face of hatred and betrayal–these are miracles that defy explanation. That is one good reason to keep praying for the enemies in our lives– God can work through us to effect reconciliation, healing, and peace.
Another good reason is that prayer changes US. Praying for our enemies is difficult. It is humbling. It breaks our pride and forces us to let go of the bitterness and recognize God’s rightful place as judge, avenger, and healer. It reminds us that God’s love, being boundless and eternal, stretches to those people who don’t deserve it, whether that is the hurtful person you don’t want to forgive, or the hurtful YOU who needs to be forgiven.
But praying for our enemies isn’t just about bringing peace and harmony or transforming us into better versions of ourselves. No amount of willpower, or good intention, or logic, or internal fortitude, or peaceful meditation, or persuasive rhetoric, or even powerful prayer are enough to eliminate our enemies or make us perfect in love.
We pray for our enemies, but not all of our enemies. There are two enemies we need to pray AGAINST– Sin and Satan. They are the true enemies, trying to destroy both sinner and sinned-against. They are not just our enemies, but enemies of God. Both are defeated. Their power is illusory, and their damage, while intensely painful, is temporary. And when we refuse to pray for our human “enemies” we serve their destructive purposes.