Praying for Enemies

By Cameron Silsbee

Begin with prayer (15 minutes)

Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.

Spend a few minutes catching up on life and discussing how the last Practice went.

Read this overview

The teachings of Jesus about loving one’s enemies are some of his most provocative. Over time, familiarity with these teachings can begin to numb us to the difficulty of what he taught – loving one’s enemies softens to merely tolerating those who annoy or inconvenience you. 

Added to this softening is the reality that our culture encourages and financially profits from outrage and contempt. Those on the opposite side of political lines, ideological issues, and even church and theology are targets of clickbait headlines that entice and draw a person into contempt and ridicule of “those people.”  

For the apprentice of Jesus, the way of faithfulness looks like learning to do justice, to come to the aid of the oppressed, self-sacrificial love and service for the suffering and marginalized. It also looks like fighting the temptation to hate those who participate in and promote injustice, oppression, and suffering. Instead, the apprentice cultivates the discipline of praying for enemies, learning to love them, and resist the draw to dehumanize them through contempt and hatred.

Discuss the coming week’s Practice (5 minutes)

This week, set aside time to pray for your enemies. 

Begin your time by inviting the Spirit to speak to you, then take some time to read Luke 6v27-36. After reading the text, ask the Spirit to bring to mind the people who are your enemies. These people could be individuals you know or a group of people that you don’t personally know. Think about people who fit one or more of the following:

  • A person or people you react to quickly and easily with disgust, anger, or dismissiveness.
  • A person or people who react to you with disgust, anger, or dismissiveness. 
  • A person or people who you tend to mock (either directly to them or to others). Or a person or people who tend to mock you in demeaning and hurtful ways.
  • A person or people who anger you as they promote or participate in injustice. 
  • A person or people who have deeply hurt you with it remaining unaddressed.

Once you have thought through who fits this paradigm, ask Jesus to show you thoughts, attitudes, and actions that need confession and repentance. Ask him to change your disposition towards the person/people to one of love. 

Next, ask him to bless your enemies. If you’re not sure what specifically to pray for, practical things like praying for a blessing for their family life or their health is an excellent place to start. You can also pray on their behalf for things like increased understanding of truth and wisdom, or increased knowledge and intimacy with Jesus. If they do not profess to follow Jesus, you could pray for them to repent and accept Jesus to be King of their lives. 

Some people may experience this as difficult and painful (particularly if the person/people have personally hurt you). If you find this is the case, and you are unable to bring yourself to pray for your enemy, talk to Jesus about the pain you are experiencing. Invite him to show you what it might look like to experience healing. Talk about it with someone you trust (friend, pastor, counselor, community leader, etc.). 

End your time by reading Colossians 1v21-23. Express your gratitude and praise to Jesus for how he treated you when you were his enemy. 

Be prepared to share your experience with your Community next week. What was difficult about the Practice? What did you think God was speaking to you about?

Work through these discussion questions together as a Community (15 – 20 minutes)

  1. Do you have anyone (an individual or a group) that you consider an enemy? Think about it a moment and then share with your community who has come to mind (use discretion if sharing about a particular person and any personal details).
  2. Do you currently or have you ever had a sustained season of praying for an enemy? If so, share your experience as you’ve done so.
  3. How do you approach the tension of caring for the oppressed while also being called to love the oppressor? 

Take Communion (10 minutes)

Close in prayer (5 minutes)