Scroll down for the exercise
Enemies and prayer
Jesus taught his disciples about how his Kingdom works in the Sermon on the Mount (1). In it he gave specific instructions about actions towards enemies. His instructions don’t make any sense unless he’s really my king.
The world teaches me to overpower others. I should be allowed to coerce people to make them do “good” things. Most cultures in the world teach me that I can use force against others if it’s for a good intention. But, this isn’t what Jesus taught or demonstrated in his life, the cross or his resurrection.
In a world where naked power and violence often gain the upper hand, Jesus refused to be trapped by false assumptions that separate and divide people. He offered an alternative way of feeling, thinking and living – a gift more valuable than anything the world could offer.(2)
When I became a Christian I decided to look at Jesus actions and ask him to open my eyes to his way of life. I asked him to help me act the way he acts in every situation. It is only in him that I become someone who can constantly be transformative in this world. His way is love and his Gospel is peace as the christmas song “O’ Holy night” declares.
Menno Simons, a Christian teacher from the 15th century wrote a lot about Jesus kingdom being a kingdom of peace. He wrote,
The Prince of Peace is Christ Jesus; His kingdom is the kingdom of peace, which is His Church. His messengers are the messengers of peace; His Word is the word of peace; His body is the body of peace; His children are the seed of peace; His inheritance and reward are the inheritance and reward of peace. In short, with this King, and in His kingdom and reign, is nothing but peace. Everything that is seen, heard and done is peace. (3)
Now clearly this is not my experience everyday. In the church I feel division and pain. Everyone who submits himself to Jesus daily, and hourly still falls to temptation and anger than leads us to sin. But, Christ is faithful to heal us. I am being transformed into his image. Hourly and daily I am becoming more like him in his suffering and in his joy. His kingdom of peace is here with his presence and it is embodied when the church prays and responds to his spirit with action. Remember, as Jesus said,
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom”(4).
Jesus kingdom of peace is here now. It was 2000 years ago, and it is still here in part now. We can experience it personally, supernaturally and in our christian community through collective prayer and action. Rest in this confidence as you walk through the guided prayer exercise below.
Guided prayer exercise: Prayer for Peace
This exercise is taken directly from the book Praying with the Anabaptists. Chapter 13.
This is a first practical step that Jesus teaches us to take towards our enemies.
Matt 5:43-48 The Law of love
43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
Our first action like Christ towards our enemy or anyone who is harassing us is to chose to love and pray for them. If you’re in this situation and have no words to pray then this guided prayer exercise is a way to find God’s presence.
One way to join in God’s work of making peace in the world is to pray with love for our enemies and for those who suffer. If you want to participate in prayer as peacemaking follow these suggested steps.
- Listen to the Hymn “O’ Day of Peace”
- Wait in silence until your spirit is resting. Reflect on the gift of peace that you have received from Christ. Give thanks for “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” Philippians 4:7.
- Ask God to fill your heart with his compassion. Then imagine the members of your family – Grandparents, parents, sisters or brothers, children, grandchildren. As each one passes by your imagination, pray a blessing of peace on them. If you become aware of anger or fear or unresolved conflicts, place your burden in God’s hands. Let the love of Christ flow through you to your family.
- Then let your imagination extend to your town, your region or your country. Ask the spirit to show you where the gift of peace is needed. As you become aware of specific situations or people, pray a blessing of peace upon them. Imagine the love of Christ transforming fearful or violent people into people of peace.
- Open your heart still further to the whole world. Imagine a globe turning before your mind’s eye. As nations and continents pass before you, wait for the Spirit to bring to your attention certain places of situations of violence, poverty, or oppression. Let your heart be touched with the pain of those who suffer. Pray for the love of Christ to be shared in each place. Ask God to bless the world with peace.
- If you become aware of enemies during this prayer, pray for forgiveness. Ask to see your enemies as God sees them. Open your heart to love all whom God loves.
- As you end your prayer, listen for any direction from the Spirit about ways, actions, you can make peace in your world. Give thanks for all who work for peace and ask God to keep them strong and full of hope and love.
- Close by Singing “O’ Day of Peace”
Some days, weeks, months or even whole seasons of our lives we are overwhelmed with the challenges of sin in our lives and the broken world around us. We don’t even know or remember how to sit with our creator and listen to His voice of hope and unending love. We can’t see the everlasting love of Christ on the cross. In times like that remember this prayer rhythm and practice it often.
In the darkness of my life guided prayers like this have reminded me how to come back to God, rest in his love and listen for guidance towards action again. Don’t just do this alone. Do this with your other friends and family. Connection and re-connection to others is what the peace of God is all about.
Now, walk in peace.
- The Gospel of Matthew 5-7
- Praying with the Anabaptist, Marlene Kropf. p.134
- The Martyrs Mirror, Wenger. p 554
- Matthew 16:28