How to pray for your enemies
When Jesus came and walked the earth His disciples were continually waiting on him to take radical action that would lead to overcoming the oppression they were facing by the romans. He did take radical action to overcome but his focus wasn’t on the roman empire. It was on the curse of sin over all of mankind and how to free anyone who would hear His message from that curse so they could share the good news, change the world forever, and spend eternity reconciled to God.
Many of Jesus’ teachings came in confusing parables and often were the exact opposite of what people at the time were expecting just as Jesus Himself was. One of His most confusing teachings comes in Matthew 5:43 where Jesus says, ""You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
To obey Jesus’ teaching we have to make praying for our enemies a habit. How do you pray for your enemies?
1. Start with your own heart
The best way to begin praying for your enemies is to start with your own heart. In some cases you might consider someone who has recently wronged you an “enemy” or it might be someone who is an enemy by acting in ways that oppose God's kingdom. No matter what definition of enemy you’re thinking of, begin by looking inward and allowing the Holy Spirit to search your heart (Psalm 139:23).
Invite the Holy Spirit to help you to see the situation through His eyes–eyes of a jealous love that is after every heart, even the hearts that might appear to be hearts of "enemies." Notice how the Holy Spirit can provide compassion toward people who have wronged you, hurt you, or who are blatantly opposing God.
2. Pray for God to Reveal Himself to them
If the person or group of people you’re praying for are believers then you might be praying specifically for God to reveal Himself to them in a certain situation. If they are acting in a way that is displeasing to God ask God in prayer to reveal that to them. James 5:20 says, "Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins."
If they are not believers ask God to reveal Himself to them and pray for them as you would pray for unbelievers. You can find a full post on how to pray for unbelievers here. Focus on praying for spiritual eyes and ears to be opened, pray to God's kindness to lead to repentance, and pray against spiritual deception.
3. Focus on the true enemy
In our culture today there is a frequent “us” vs. “them” mentality. In the days of the disciples, it was even more contentious with varying religious and political beliefs that were continually at war with each other. The disciples made the mistake of seeing certain types of people as their enemy, likely prompting this teaching from Jesus on praying for our enemies. I think we often do the same thing today. We label a certain person, group, or way of thinking as the “enemy” we are praying for (or against.)
Jesus saw it differently. His perspective was on the long term kingdom building perspective of saving souls. Ours should be the same. When you take time to pray for your enemies remember who the true enemy is. There is one enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy and we are able to take authority over that enemy in prayer because Jesus gave it to us.
Jesus said, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you" (Luke 10:19 NIV.)
Praying for your enemies isn’t just a nice thing to do. The amplified Bible in Matthew 5:45 says we pray for our enemies “so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven.” Praying for your enemies is a part of your witness as a believer. Whenever you pray for your enemies you are acting in the way the Father would and showing the world what a part of Him looks like as His kid.