TEXTS AND APPLICATION: I may be wrong, but I don’t know of any “enemies” I have — that is, people adamantly opposed to me and out to harm me. Thus, it might be easy for me to assume words of Jesus like, “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:28) don’t apply to me. Or, maybe I think they might apply to me only later if/when the North American church is under threat — but certainly not now.
But then I read the narrative of Jeremiah’s letter to the Hebrew exiles in Babylon:
Jer. 29:7 Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.
The Hebrews were to pray for the prosperity of their enemies, and in so doing they would prosper as well. “Prosperity” here means something quite different from what we hear in the prosperity gospel; instead of wealth, it is peace or welfare of the city. The people of God were to pray for their enemies, and the welfare of their enemies would then result in their own increased welfare.
Here’s why this text grabs me. I may claim I have no “enemies” for whom to pray, but the reality is this: I do have people who get under my skin . . . who irritate me . . . who, to be honest, I struggle liking. Are they my enemy? I don’t think so. Are they out to harm me? I doubt it. They just bug me. It’s that simple.
But, I don’t pray for them. Jesus (and Jeremiah’s example) taught us to pray for our enemies. How can I pray for any real enemies I have today or might have in the future when I don’t even pray for people that only bug me today? Maybe today would be a bit more peaceful and a lot less frustrating if I would start praying for the occasional folks around me that I perceive not as enemies, but as knuckleheads. If I can’t at least start there, I doubt I’ll pray for any real enemies.
What about you? Do you need to pray right now for somebody who may not be an enemy, but who just affects you in a negative way? Who is that person (or people) in your life today?
PRAYER: “God, when somebody bugs me today, call me to prayer. In fact, Lord, I pray right now for ____________________. Change my heart as you draw me to my knees.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Jeremiah 30-31