THROUGHOUT THE GOSPELS, Jesus talked about prayer and gave us principles that tell us how we can have an effective prayer life. It's interesting to note that the first statement He made in the Gospels relative to prayer was about praying for our enemies.
Praying for our enemies has a lot to do with walking in the God-kind of love. It also has much to do with whether our prayers are heard and answered.
MATTHEW 5:43–46, 48
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
This is the first recorded statement we have from the lips of Jesus concerning prayer. And the first thing He told us to pray for was our enemies! To get a better idea of what Jesus was really saying in this passage of scripture, we have to understand that He was talking to the Jews.
We need to know the background of the Jews to better understand how powerful these verses really are. From reading the first five books of the Bible, we see that the Jews were well versed in the Law. But did you ever notice that the Old Testament Law didn't teach the Israelites about love, grace, or forgiveness for their enemies?
No one had heard of the love of God until Jesus began to teach people about it. The first time the Jews ever heard about the God-kind of love was when Jesus said, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies" (v. 44). It takes divine love to love your enemies. You won't truly be able to love them unless you are born again and the nature in your heart is changed.
Jesus went on to say, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (v. 48). The word "perfect" here means mature.
Jesus knew none of us could be perfect as God is perfect. He was saying that we are to grow up and mature in the God-kind of love. And to mature in God's love, we are going to have to love our enemies.
Jesus defined our enemies and told us exactly who they are in verse 44. "Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
It takes divine love to love your enemies. You won't truly be able to love them unless you are born again and the nature in your heart is changed.Kenneth E. Hagin
Show God's Love to Your Enemies
Does God love His enemies? Yes, He does. Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God is telling us to do the same thing He did. We are to love our enemies. One way to do this is to bless them when they curse us.
Jesus said something else about the God-kind of love. "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?" (Matt. 5:46). If we're good only to those who love us, we are not doing any more than unsaved people do.
It's easy to love friends. They are lovely, and they treat us right. Enemies don't act lovely or treat us right! But these are the exact people Jesus told us to love! The natural man can't do this in the energy of the flesh. But the love of God in our hearts makes it possible.
Pray for Your Enemies
If we have a mature prayer life, we will pray for our enemies and not criticize or talk about them. We are to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us. You might say, "But you just don't understand what people have done to me." Jesus is our example, and look what people did to Him!
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, bleeding, hurting and dying, He didn't rail against His enemies and accuse them. He prayed for them and asked God to forgive them (Luke 23:34). The same love that was in Jesus' heart has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Jesus wouldn't ask us to do something that was impossible for us to do.
As a young Baptist preacher before I even had the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I began to practice this principle. When anyone mistreated me, I prayed for them. I wanted good things to happen to people, not bad things. When people criticized me, I didn't pray that something bad would happen to them. I prayed that they would be blessed.
The Love of God in Action
When people demonstrate the God-kind of love and self-sacrificing attitude that prays for others, they are going to become people of real prayer. Those are the people whose voices will be heard on High because they are doers of the Word. Praying for those who have wronged us enables us to release hurts, grudges, and unforgiveness we have in our hearts against them.
Jesus gave us four actions we must take if we are going to mature in prayer and in His love. These four actions bring God's blessings and rewards in our lives. We are to love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them.
This is how we are to treat our enemies so we can mature and be perfected in the God-kind of love. If we will do these things, the love of God will be perfected in our lives. We will reflect the same kind of love that God is, for God is love.
Doing Good to Your Enemies
If you know someone who hates you or has wronged you, find something good that you can do for them. Buy that person a gift. Pray for them. This is how mature believers walking in the God-kind of love should act, regardless of what we feel they deserve. Returning kindness for evil always works because that's what Jesus taught us to do.
Kenneth E. Hagin
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