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; -Matthew 5:44 (KJV)
In January of 1991 what was known as “Operation Desert Storm” began. This was the offensive, lead by the United States, to liberate the nation of Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion. I was a seminary student in Louisville, Kentucky at the time and the day after the war started I attended a chapel service at the seminary. I recall one of the professors, Dr. Glenn Hinson, leading in prayer. He prayed for a swift end to the conflict, protection for our solders, and then he did something which startled me. He prayed, “Oh Lord, we remember today the people of Iraq. What about them, Lord? We pray today for the people of Iraq.”
At that moment I experienced the most wonderful epiphany. I realized in a powerful moment of clarity that when the Lord Jesus told us to pray for our enemies He meant for us to literally do so. Dr. Hinson was putting into practice exactly what the Lord has commanded us to do, which is to pray for those we might consider to be our enemies. I was so caught up in praying for our own soldiers, their protection, and for their families back home that I forgot this important Christian principle. Obviously, there have always been people in Iraq who are innocent and want war no more than we do. There are also those who do in fact hate the United States and see us as an evil threat. In either case it had not entered my mind to remember these people in prayer.
We can also apply this principle to those who don’t like us and for whatever reason consider themselves to be our enemies. We probably all have such persons in our lives. The question is, have we put into practice the commandment of our Lord and prayed for them? I will say from personal experience that it’s very difficult to feel ill will toward someone for whom you are fervently praying.
The more we pray for others the more we love them, and the more we love the more we reach out in Jesus’ name. The love of Jesus Christ drives hatred from our hearts, and this is a wonderfully liberating experience. Let Christ fill our hearts with love, for in His love we find true peace and joy as we walk forward in faith.