“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).
Jesus’ instruction to pray for those who mistreat us can feel like an impossible task!
I knew a woman once who had a very unfortunate interpretation of the task. She said, “Oh! I’ll pray for them alright! I’ll pray that God will get ‘em! That He’ll make ‘em pay and make them regret how they treated me!”
She missed the spirit of the words a bit!
In Greek, the word used to describe how we ought to pray is proseuchomai, which is a compound word coming from two words meaning to ask/wish/pray and advantage/blessing/beside.
When we are told to “bless those who curse us,” the word for bless is eulogeō (where we get our English word eulogy) and means to speak well of.
So, Jesus tells us to do good, speak good about, and pray good things for those who have hurt us emotionally (hate), relationally (they cursed or spoke badly of us), and physically/literally (mistreat).
In Greek, the word for good is kalōs and is usually translated as good, but can also be translated as: Beautifully, commendably, correctly.
How to Pray for Your Enemy
While it is good to unpack these instructions from Jesus, sometimes we just hurt so much we can’t even find the words to pray or speak well of someone, let alone find a way to do good to them.
This is where we find a treasure already prepared for us in God’s Word, by praying His own words back to Him.
The practice of rephrasing Scripture into our own prayers, or letting it guide our hearts in prayer, is very powerful in every aspect of our lives.
Praying blessings over people can be especially hard and the Lord’s word will carry us in this task.
For example, this is the Aaronic blessing from Numbers:
The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26)
Those words of blessing can be fashioned into a prayer where we ask God to bless the person who hurt us, to keep them, to be gracious to them, and give them peace.
Scripture is full of blessings, and we can use God’s own words to shape our prayer to Him. When we can’t find the words, we can lean on His.
And when we find them hard to choke out because the pain in our hearts clogs us, we can tell Him with authenticity that we want to do His will and we want to love people as He does.
We can confess that we know He loves them in this way (the blessing in His Word) but that our heart is full of hurt and we are struggling to agree with Him over it.
We can admit that we need to grow in His sacrificial love and ask Him to carry us until our hearts reflect just Him and His perfect love, instead of our pain and shortcomings.
Jesus tells us this is a form of sacrificial love for our enemies. He goes on to say:
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:35-36).
As we follow Jesus’ words, we “will be sons of the Most High.” There is a promise that as we seek to love people unconditionally and to do good to them even when they wrong us, it is like wearing our crowns out loud!
It reveals whose kid we are — the King’s child! No wrong done to us can take that from us and the more pure and true we live out that love, the more we reflect our Father.
Paul continues to urge believers in a similar call, again with the promise that this is how we show that we are God’s children:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world… (Philippians 2:14-15).
How to be Imitators of Christ
If we are living without grumbling against one another, but seeking to be lights, it isn’t a leap of faith in what Paul refers to the kind of relationship or interactions Jesus was speaking about.
Those moments when the frustration or hurt just bubbles inside us so strong it’s hard to keep it from pouring out our mouths too! Yet it is in those very moments that we prove whether we are just like the world or whether we are like God.
Paul adds in his letter to the Ephesians:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Christ gave Himself up so that people, broken by sin, could come to God in freedom and forgiveness. We are called to this same sacrifice and purpose. Thankfully, Christ has done the work for all of us, you and the person who hurt you.
What We Are Called to Be
It is now our privilege to walk in His finished work. And one of the sweetest ways we can do that is through praying for those who have hurt us.
One of the most powerful things I have personally found about praying for those who have hurt me is that it is just between me and God.
Sometimes, a relationship is so toxic that trying to do something good for them or even interacting with them at all gets twisted beyond our ability to act “beautifully, commendably, or correctly” but we can always pray for them.
God doesn’t usually ask us to revisit physically dangerous people or situations (however there are powerful testimonies of people who have been called to that, so we don’t want to put God in any kind of box and miss out on following Him where He would call us), but there is never a time we can’t ask God’s blessing on them. It might not be easy. But it promises the great reward of showing us to be God’s children!
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