• johned@aibi.ph

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Eternity 8 - Prayers That Work - Praying For Those Who Persecute You

(Matthew 5:44 NASB) "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you

Jesus modelled this prayer when he prayed for the soldiers who were crucifying Him. Persecutor Saul became apostle Paul because the early church prayed for those who persecuted it. There are also countless Christian testimonies of concentration camp guards, torturers,and bandits who persecuted Christians and came to faith because of the prayers of the saints. So powerful and important is this prayer that it is the very first mention of prayer in the New Testament! The first thing that Jesus says about prayer is "pray for those who persecute you".

Now most Christians will get some degree of persecution just for being Christian. In Paul's day persecution was a universal experience:
(2 Timothy 3:12 NASB) And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
According to church/missionary statisticians such as David Barret, around the world Christians are being martyred by the hundreds of thousands each year, especially in place like Indonesia and the Sudan. Even if we are not martyred like new Tribes missionary Martin Burnham, who was kidnapped and killed by terrorists here in the Philippines, Christians are humiliated, rejected and scorned. The answer to such painful experiences is loving and believing prayer for those who persecute us.

People change when you pray for them and persecutors are often just insecure people in need of God's love to melt their tough exteriors. Now I have never been tortured or imprisoned but I once had a very superior and arrogant colleague who used to publicly humiliate me. Being a missionary I was supposed to respond graciously - but at first I didn't, until God convicted me from some verses in 1 Peter. So I turned the other cheek and prayed for those who persecuted me and the person changed completely, totally, dramatically in just three weeks. The hard shell fell off, the sarcasm and humiliation fell away, the self-pity stopped, the heart warmed up and a pleasant human being emerged. My colleague was transformed by loving prayer (through gritted teeth).

Such prayer also changes us. Praying for my colleague taught me huge lessons about my own immaturity and reactivity. I grew as I prayed, I grew up into Christ as I learned to pray blessings on a person who treated me badly. Cruelty can crush us or grow us depending on whether we bring it to God in prayer. Persecution can purify our soul or poison our soul depending on how prayerful our soul is. We can go along the fleshly path of resent-reject-revenge or along the spiritual path of prayer, patience and purity. Jesus put this prayer first of all because your soul's destiny hangs on it. If you don't pray for your persecutors you will shrivel up inside, develop deep resentments, become bitter and turn into a hellish and unspiritual being.

But if you do pray for those that persecute you, you will be able to say with Paul the apostle:
(Romans 5:3-5 NASB) And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; {4} and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; {5} and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

You will grow, even in the midst of tribulations and persecutions, and be filled with love and joy - if you pray for those who persecute you. Pray a prayer that Jesus commanded - a prayer that works!


John Edmiston


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