Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies, those who hate us, and those who persecute us. This can be an impossible task in the flesh. But with God, all things are possible.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28 NAS
"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matt 5:44 NAS
Since it is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance, our compassion to our enemies is an example of God working through us to draw the lost to Him. However, I believe there is a more significant reason God wants us to pray for our enemies, and it is for our great benefit. Think about how an enemy or a persecutor would make your flesh react. Feelings like anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, and more are all displays of the flesh, the old creation wanting to take control of a situation. But in Christ, our Spirit has been made a new creation. We have a choice to walk by faith in our new nature and have victory or in the old and continue to struggle. For our benefit, God wants us to stay in the Spirit, the new creation, by faith and not to be drawn into the flesh, the old creation. To do this, we must resist the temptation to walk in the flesh and guard our hearts against the enemies' attempts to plant roots of bitterness in our hearts.
Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life. Pro 4:23 BSB
In the Spirit we walk by faith in the peace and the power of God. In the flesh, we walk by sight and take things into our own hands.
We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor 5:7 NAS
Walking by faith in the Spirit is where we have victory and peace. It is also where God can reach through us to do living works in this dying world, even loving our enemies. I have learned that praying for the best for those who hurt me is essential. Prayer is what slams shut any door of opportunity for my flesh and the enemy.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Gal 5:13-15 NAS
Symptoms of the Flesh
Have you ever had someone you considered an enemy, hated, or strongly disliked a person, or had someone persecute you? Think about it for a moment. How did you feel? I have, and I can tell you that thinking about them at that time could quickly generate anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, impatience, resentment, judgment towards them, offense, and other negative emotions. Just seeing them could do the same. In a few cases, the same negative emotions could be generated years later, if I let my thoughts stray. None of the feelings I have listed are fruits of the Spirit. These are all works, or symptoms of the flesh as I like to call them. Whenever we are feeling any of these emotions, it is a sign we are walking by sight in the flesh, the old creation. This is precisely what Satan wants and tempts us to do regularly. Tempting us to walk in the flesh, the old nature, is Satan's most frequent temptation, and most Christians are totally unaware of it. He will use people, places, situations, and circumstances to draw us into the flesh. When we are in the flesh, we are the most susceptible to committing outward acts of sin that hurt ourselves and others.
Anger and the others I have mentioned, are symptoms of the flesh. If dwelled on, they give the enemy opportunity in our life. All of these negative symptoms of the old creation are precursors for more acts of sin, even physical. Satan roams the earth looking for believers who are walking in the flesh to devour.
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Eph 4:26-27 NAS
Be of sober Spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 NAS
God wants us to walk in the Spirit, where the fruits of the Spirit are produced, and Satan absolutely cannot get to us. To do so, God wants us to submit to Him, pay attention, guard our hearts, and pursue peace, thus resisting the enemy's temptation to walk in the flesh.
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7 NAS
This is precisely why God wants us to pray for our enemies and to pursue peace with all people. If heeded, love your enemies and those who persecute, and countless other verses, are designed for our benefit. They keep us out of the flesh, walking by faith in His power and peace in the Spirit.
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. Heb 12:14 NAS
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Eph 4:32 NAS
Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Cor 13:11 NAS
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Rom 13:8 NAS
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Lev 19:18 NAS
"Treat others the same way you want them to treat you." Luke 6:31 NAS
Small Fox Spoils the Vine
While the above study refers to the temptation to be drawn into the flesh by those who hate us or persecute us, Satan will use a multitude of the smallest things to try a plant a root of bitterness and draw us into the flesh. A wrong look from someone, a feeling of offense towards a person, a comment, family, or friends not treating us the way we think they should, a thought or the smallest of infractions. We know when we are in the flesh by our symptoms: impatience, doubt, fear, worry, resentment, judgment, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, offense, and others. If it is not listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is most likely a symptom of the flesh.
Have you ever been having a great day, and then someone does something that arouses your flesh? Let's say abruptly cuts you off in traffic. Now, all of a sudden, you are tempted by the enemy to jump into the flesh and tempted to take things into your own hands, expressing anger and bitterness that can lead to physical acts of sin. At that very moment, when we first sense we are being tempted to walk in the flesh, is the best time to change course.
I have listed offense a few times in this study because it has been an issue in my life, being offended by others. It can start as a tiny flame, like a brief thought that we are being treated poorly by family or friends. Just one little thought like that can engage our flesh and Satan who feed the fire and make a mountain out of a molehill. Offense is a sin in itself, and I believe Satan's temptation to be offended is a great weapon he uses on the body of Christ. Satan tempts us to do it, and God instructs us to love to overcome this temptation.
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Pro 17:9 ESV
The Greek word for offense is the word skandalon. Interestingly, the same Greek word is used to describe the part of a trap where the bait is hung to catch the hunted. Offense is a trap set by the enemy to drag us into the flesh.
How Specific Prayer Helps Me Stay in the Spirit
I do not always walk in the Spirit, but I am getting better at it. If I am in the moment and paying attention, I can stop the enemy cold. Prayer is what has worked for me as my first line of defense. If I sense any negative feeling toward a person, I pray for them immediately, for their very best, their salvation, and God's abundant blessing in their life. This applies even if I strongly disagree with what they are doing. This does not mean I must force myself to hang around them or to condone what they are doing. My prayer may include a request to God to help them be free from their bondage. Prayer applies if it is a small issue or someone who is persecuting me. It applies in every situation where I sense the enemy is trying to plant a root of bitterness in my heart. I can feel when he is trying to do this, and I bet you can too if you pay attention. It starts with a negative thought that leads to a negative feeling about someone we are interacting with at the moment. At the instant we sense the negative emotion, we also sense we have a choice, go with it, or reject the offense, the anger or whatever, in the name of Jesus. The quicker I reject the negative feeling and pray for the persons best, the less chance I have of slipping into the flesh. I pray for them until I sense any root of bitterness that Satan was trying to be plant in my heart is removed. If I catch it right away, this happens very quickly. If I wait and foolishly meditate on the negative about a person, it will take more prayer to remove it from my heart. The type of prayer I am talking about can be done anywhere, silently, and on the spur of the moment. It is not formal or on my knees. It's simple and direct towards the specific person in question for their best and the purpose of removing any root of bitterness the enemy is trying to plant in my heart. The truth is, while we may not agree, Christ in me always wants the best for every person, even those who would hate or persecute me.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; Heb 12:15 NAS
For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." Acts 8:23 NAS
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Eph 4:30-31 NAS
This type of prayer also works for old ingrained roots of bitterness, unforgiveness, or resentment. Those may very well be on my knees and will take days of prayer for their best. But it does work.
So, it is in my best interest, and yours, to pray right away when we first sense a negative about a person, even if they are our enemy, and we totally disagree with them. When Jesus said to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, He knew we would strongly disagree with these people. So, if you have a hard time praying for a person, instead of thinking that you are doing it for them, do it because you love Jesus, and He asked us to. Do it because it is essential for your freedom. Do it because the roots of bitterness can kill you. Do it because any roots of bitterness in your heart will negatively affect your relationships with others you love that are closest to you.
None of the following sounds good to our flesh, but I believe they are all given to us for the same reasons. To let the perfect love of Christ flow through us that leads to repentance, to keep us out fo the flesh and in the Spirit, and to build treasure in heaven that will be there when we arrive.
"You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:38-48 NAS
Now you have a different reason, hopefully, a strong motivation to pray for those who hurt you. You are praying for your own freedom, and so you can stay in the Spirit by faith, where the flesh is defeated.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Gal 5:16 NAS
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Gal 5:22-26 NAS
The Spirit is where the peace and power of God reside. The Spirit is where the fruits of the Spirit are supernaturally produced in our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Gal 5:22-24 NAS
Many more New Covenant Bible Studies HERE. Jesus poured out His blood for the New Covenant of grace and truth, replacing the Old Covenant law of Moses. Believers are exclusively under the New Covenant, the last will and testament of Jesus that began after the cross.
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:20