Is it Okay to Use Prayer against Our Enemies?
- Heather Riggleman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 3 Nov
We’ve been taught to pray and forgive our enemies but what about prayer against enemies? How should we handle our enemy? How should we react when forced into a fight? Should we ignore them or try to destroy them? Should we treat our enemies with the spirit of compassion, love, and forgiveness? Or should we feel happy and celebrate when we see our enemies harmed?
We all have enemies, but I doubt any of us have the kind of enemies that David had. David had been facing enemies since he fought Goliath as a young boy. King Saul repeatedly tried to kill him and later all the surrounding nations also tried to kill David. For the better part of his life, David was on the run from his enemies. Even though David is considered a man after God’s own heart, we find that he wrote several psalms about the plight of his enemies. Psalms 55 reveals he prayed for God to do the avenging.
“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger…. Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them,” (Psalm 55:1-3; 23).
Here we find David praying to God against his enemies. Instead of asking the Lord to have mercy on them in His faithfulness, the psalmist prays that God will annihilate them. Not only in this passage but in Psalms 52-57 as well. How can we justify David’s praying, in the same psalm, for the annihilation of his enemies? Admittedly these psalms are complex as it reveals the range of feelings and emotions David was going through. These words give us comfort because David expressed all the emotions we experience when someone has harmed us.
So now we can ask the question: Is the idea of using prayer against enemies Biblical? It is in fact Biblical. Let’s unpack this answer and how God wants us to pray.
What Is God's Purpose for Prayer?
There is power in prayer. In fact, we are told to pray about anything and everything. According to the book of Ephesians, God’s desire is for us to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18).
We’re told to pray because this is the best way to experience an intimate relationship with God. Jesus reminds His followers that "the Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Prayer isn’t like using a magic genie or vending machine, nor is it the transfer of information, but rather an act of humility because God knows our thoughts and needs before we utter one syllable.
According to Scripture, God is all-knowing and completely wise which means He understands everything about a situation and sees the best path through it (Psalm 147:5). We pray because it is the best way to understand God. Through prayer, we learn to talk to God, connect with Him, and understand what He wants for us. The power of prayer has the ability to move angels, heal illnesses, and attack demons. Prayer has the power to move mountains, transform others, and understand ourselves through God’s lens. The perfect example of the power of prayer is Psalms 66:16-20:
“Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”
Prayer is a perfect opportunity to explore our hearts, share our lives, thoughts, and desires with God including the things that weigh us down like dealing with our enemies.
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Is Using Prayer Against Enemies Biblical?
God wants us to bring our issues to Him—including those who have sinned against us. He wants us to use the power of prayer against our enemies, but we must first understand who our enemies truly are and it might not be what you think. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an enemy as, “One that is antagonistic to another, something harmful or deadly, or a hostile unit or force.”
To you and I, an enemy could be the gossipy co-worker who wants to ruin your reputation. It could be the woman down the street who wants to destroy your marriage. Or it could even be the sibling who snuck into your room and stole $50. While we may view these individuals as our enemies, they in fact are not. The Bible tells us that we do not wage war like the rest of the world does on flesh and blood. We wage war on God’s enemies. Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
God does want us to pray against our enemies, not the way David did but the way Paul instructed because we are to love others as ourselves. God doesn’t want any of us to perish nor does He want His sons and daughters causing strife or harm to another human being. Instead, we are to remember and follow the commands of Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
God expects us to bring our enemies to His throne room and let Him handle it. Jesus also said that when we pray for our enemies, those who persecute us, it will be painful to them. Romans 1:20 tells us our prayers will blessings to our enemies that will in effect heap burning coals on their heads.
How to Pray for Our Enemies Rather than Against Them
When we pray, we are creating a spiritual shift in the atmosphere. We are calling on God to not only be our avenger and defender—we are calling on God to move on His own behalf in the lives of our enemies.
When we do pray, we ask God to not only open their spiritual eyes, we are asking Him to save them from their sins. The power of our words can be used with such precision that we can disrupt the enemy’s attempts of division, descension, malice, evil, and hatred.
Jesus gave us a perfect example of praying for our enemies when He was being nailed to a cross. In the middle of His own agony, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus ran straight to the Father to talk to Him about those who were harming Him. He didn’t ask for God to annihilate them, nor did Jesus pray for revenge. Rather, He asked God to forgive them because Jesus knew His enemies had been deceived. Jesus knew His enemies were influenced by the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4).
- We can pray God will “open the eyes of their hearts so that they will be enlightened through the truth (Ephesians 1:18). We can pray that God will open their hearts with understanding so that they will learn from their mistakes.
- We can pray God will soften their hearts towards the Lord in order for God’s will be to done in their lives (Matthew 6:10, Ezekiel 11:19).
- We can pray for our enemy to come to true repentance. We when pray for our enemy to understand the wrongs they committed against the Lord, He alone can transform their lives (2 Peter 3:9).
When we pray for our enemies, we must follow Jesus’ example. Just because we pray for God to forgive them, it doesn’t excuse their behavior, nor does it give them a free pass. But it does free our hearts from being snared or entangled in the sin of bitterness and unforgiveness. It also frees us to move on God’s behalf as we pray for God to set our enemies free from their own sins. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Related Resource: Listen to our podcast, Teach Us to Pray with Christina Patterson. You can find all the episodes on LifeAudio.com, and be sure to listen to the first episode below:
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Heather Riggleman is a believer, wife, mom, author, social media consultant, and full-time writer. She lives in Minden, Nebraska with her kids, high school sweetheart, and three cats who are her entourage around the homestead. She is a former award-winning journalist with over 2,000 articles published. She is full of grace and grit, raw honesty, and truly believes tacos can solve just about any situation. You can find her on GodUpdates, iBelieve, Crosswalk, Hello Darling, Focus On The Family, and in Brio Magazine. Connect with her at www.HeatherRiggleman.com or on Facebook.