Christian Devotionals

"The Toughest Prayers of All"

43 You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (New Living Translation)

Jesus is saying a great deal in this passage from the Beatitudes. For most people – Christian and non-Christian alike – this is one of the hardest biblical commands to obey. After all, in this “don’t get mad, get even” world that we live in, turning the other cheek is seen as a sign of weakness … being a pushover. But as we walk closer and closer with Jesus, we can no longer respond to people and situations as the world would have us respond. In other words, we can’t go out and get even. We need to respond as Jesus would respond. And be advised, Jesus was anything but a wimp. He stood up and told it like it was when He witnessed injustice and hypocrisy. Jesus took on the religious elite when they were out of line and out of God’s will (which was pretty much all the time). Why do you think they hated Him so much and plotted Christ’s death? Still, as followers of Jesus, we’ll be doing things much differently than the culture around us, especially when it comes to how we respond to our enemies.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t really have any enemies.” Oh is that right? Surely there must be one or more people in your world who has wronged you or continues to do you some form of harm. These are the people that you should be praying for. Jesus said, “In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” He goes on to say that it’s easy to pray for the people who are good to you, even the sinners and pagans do that. Try praying for the people who persecute or harm you. It’s through Christ-like acts such as these that we become “perfect,” “even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” You’re probably saying, “Nobody is perfect, how can I be expected to be perfect?” I have two responses to that question:

  1. We can only be perfect in God’s power (through the Holy Spirit acting through us).
  2. The word “perfect” used here in Matthew 5:48 is translated from the Greek word “telios,” meaning to make complete or to fulfill. Other translations include “fulfilling the purpose for which it was made.” In this passage, this means becoming more like God (like Father, like child).

The less we act like the world and the more we act like God, the more “perfect” we’ll be. It’s not an instantaneous change, this takes years and perhaps a lifetime. Sadly enough, few make it this far. That’s why we see so few non-believers being won over to Christ through our behavior. Let’s do something about that! My wife Karen is in a position at work where she has been praying for her enemies. She works in a salon as a hair stylist. There’s no salary involved, she gets a percentage of the overall cost of her haircut, perm, foil or whatever. If she doesn’t service a client, she doesn’t get paid, period. The early years were tough because she had to build up her client base. God has been ever so faithful by blessing Karen with styling skills, people skills and clients. This is important because right now she is the major breadwinner in our family. Last year Karen injured herself and was out of work for several months. This is when her “enemies” started to come around and swoop in to take her clients. I’ll spare you the details, but trust me their tactics were unethical. Karen returned to work and has since regained most of her clients and her normal income. Unfortunately, the cancer in my body has really started to immobilize me and I’m suffering from many painful symptoms. We decided that Karen needs to be home more to care for me and be here for our family. Once again, the vultures are swooping in to grab her clients. While it’s understandable that clients will need to see another stylist if they can’t fit into Karen’s new schedule, it’s inexcusable that a “fellow-stylist” would aggressively try to convince people to leave Karen and go with them. One “enemy” even tries to sow seeds of doubt about who is the better stylist. It gets uglier, but you get the point. Because Karen is a Christian and trying to walk as Jesus walked, she is not lashing back and seeking revenge or justice. She’s trusting in the Lord to protect her livelihood and she’s doing as Jesus instructed. She’s praying for her enemies.

Take some time right now to see if there are any “enemies” in your life who need prayer. I’m sure there are a few out there, we all have them. Now ask your heavenly Father to help you to let these injustices go. Nothing would please Him more. And here’s a potential bonus. As you pray for your enemies, watch as God works to either change your circumstances or change your enemy’s heart.

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