“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:44-45a
This is not an easy command from our Lord. But it is a command of love.
First, He calls us to love our enemies. Who are our enemies? Hopefully we do not have “enemies” in the sense of those who we have willfully chosen to hate. But we may have people in our lives who we are tempted to have anger toward and who we have a difficult time loving. Perhaps we can consider anyone we struggle with as our enemies.
To love them does not necessarily mean we must become best friends with them, but it does mean we must work toward having a true affection of care, concern, understanding and forgiveness toward them. This can be hard to have toward everyone but it must be our goal.
The second part of this command will help. Praying for those who persecute us will help us grow in the proper love and affection we need to foster. This aspect of love is quite straightforward even though it is also quite difficult.
Think about those whom you have a very difficult time loving. Those toward whom you have anger. It could be a family member, someone at work, a neighbor or someone from your past with whom you have never reconciled. It is in keeping with this Gospel passage to honestly admit that there is at least someone, or perhaps more than one person, with whom you struggle, either externally or internally. Admitting this is simply an act of honesty.
Once you identify this person or persons, think about whether you pray for them. Do you spend time regularly offering them to God in prayer? Do you pray that God pours forth His grace and mercy upon them? This may be hard to do but it is one of the healthiest acts you can do. It may be difficult to show love and affection toward them, but it is not hard to consciously choose to pray for them.
Praying for those with whom we have a hard time is key to letting God foster a true love and concern in our hearts toward them. It’s a way of letting God reform our emotions and feelings so that we will no longer have to hold on to feelings of anger or even hate.
Commit yourself this day to prayer for the person you struggle with the most. This prayer will most likely not change your love for them over night, but if you commit to this form of prayer every day, over time God will slowly change your heart and free you of the burden of anger and hurt that may keep you from the love He wants you to have toward all people.
Lord of perfect love, I pray for the person for whom You want me to pray. Help me to love all people and help me to especially love those who are hard to love. Reorder my feelings toward them and help me to be free of any anger. Jesus, I trust in You.