A few weeks ago I felt the Lords inviting me to start a weekly prayer list for my ministry partners. It seemed like a no-brainer considering these are the people who financially and prayerfully support me as an Intercessory Missionary. My Monday evening Prayer Room hours now include a time when I prayed through that list, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. So much so that I soon began thinking of other lists that I include as part of my weekly prayer room schedule.
As I pondering this opportunity to be more purposeful and strategic in my prayers I was suddenly confronted by a few noticeable omissions from my Ministry Partners prayer list. Soon I was feeling a bit bothered, and dare I say, even a bit offended by some of the names that weren’t on my list.
It didn’t take long and my mind was full of thoughts like “Why was my Partners list so short?”, “Why weren’t more people getting behind me?” and “I can’t believe THIS person didn’t respond favourably to my invitation!”. What has just happened to me? A few minutes ago I was enjoying blessing the people who were supporting me and suddenly my mind was full of disappointment and offence towards those who hadn’t. It was in that moment that I heard the Holy Spirit gently remind me of Jesus’ instruction…
“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45a)
Praying for my enemies is not a new idea to me. A number of years ago I was dealing with a difficult ministry situation in which I had felt mistreated. During that time I began listening to messages on how to pray for your those who mistreat you, and can truthfully say that I desired to walk out this difficult teaching. I began to pray that these people would “encounter the Lord” or that they would “be overcome by the Holy Spirit”. That might sound very spiritual on the surface but underneath those prayers my mindset sounded something a little more like “Lord, encounter them with your Spirit…because I know your Spirit has come to convict the world of sin, and I want them to know how they have wronged me so they’ll apologize for mistreating me.”
On the surface I’m sure those prayers sounded good, but down in my heart I was way off base. Then one day I heard a teaching from Mike Bickle that radically shifted the way I approached praying for those who mistreated me. His recommendation was this; if you want to know that you are praying out of a right spirit and truly blessing your enemies then pray for their financial well-being. He went on to say that in his experience, it was impossible to pray for someone to prosper financially unless you truly had their good in mind. If you can’t pray for their financial prosperity then more likely than not you are praying out of a wrong spirit.
I took my new found litmus test for offence and began putting it to work. On a regular basis I began to pray that God would pour out financial increase on these people. Every time I did it I could feel two things happening to me; the hardened part of my heart would cringe in pain as the Holy Spirit softened and expanded my heart of compassion for my enemies. My heart began to grow tender for them as God revealed to me their own past difficulties with mistreatment in ministry. It wasn’t that my own hurt and disappointment went completely away, but more so that I understood how God wanted to be merciful to them, just as He as being merciful to me.
Jesus commands us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. To those who show mercy, mercy will be shown, but to those who are without mercy, no mercy will be given.
For purely selfish reasons, I began pursuing a lifestyle of mercy because I want to be shown mercy. I began to pursue a lifestyle of blessing in the midst of mistreatment because I want to be treated kindly (and not how I deserved). That is still a work in progress, but it remains a work project that has not been forgotten or put aside for another day. If there was ever a day and time to learn how to grow in the art of blessing our enemies and doing good to those who persecute us it is today!
James, the brother of Jesus, encouraged us by saying Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22)
With those words in mind, I decided that I needed to start a second prayer list. Tuesday morning I now have a scheduled time of prayer for the people who mistreat me, feel ill-will towards me or whom I carry some form of offence in my heart towards. I’m proud to say that it is not an extremely long list at the moment, but it is a list non-the-less. What exactly will I be praying for regarding these people? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know this, it will always start with me asking our merciful Father to bless them with an abundance of financial blessing. Not because I am so awesome, but because He is. Not because I am so generous of heart, but because He is.
I believe it is time for the followers of Jesus to take Him at His word and begin actively praying for those who mean us harm or who spitefully use us, our time, talents and generosity for their own benefit. We are entering into an age in which many are taking up arms against Jesus and His Word. Opposition is growing, and if we are to shine like the stars in the midst of this coming darkness we will need to begin growing in this holy practice of blessing our enemies. Jesus did not say these things to merely shock His listeners, He gave them to us as a pathway into His heart. Jesus was revealing the Father when He said these words, and if we become doers of His word we will be known as children of that Father.
How do you pray for those who mistreat you? I’d love to hear your story.