September 20 I Thursday
2 Corinthians 12
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” —Matthew 5:44
Some time after Pentecost, Peter and John saw a man who had been unable to walk since birth begging at one of the temple gates. When the man asked them for money, Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). The man was instantly healed, and the crowd’s amazement prompted Peter to preach the Gospel. The priests and temple guards were disturbed by his message, so they had the two apostles imprisoned overnight. The next morning, the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin, who demanded they stop preaching in Jesus’s name, and were then released.
When Peter and John returned to the church to report what had happened, the church’s first response was to bring this threat before God. “Sovereign Lord,” they prayed, “You made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24). They reminded themselves that God, the Creator of all, has all power and authority.
Next, the church recalled that the events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion did not catch God off guard. Jesus’s death and resurrection were part of God’s foreordained salvation plan. He sent His Son to sinful humanity who raged against God by having Christ nailed to a cross, but Jesus showed love to those crucifying Him when He prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The church prayed from this same spirit of love for their enemies, saying, “Consider [the Sanhedrin’s] threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29). Often when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we pray that either we or the threat be removed, but the early church prayed no such prayer. They asked God for the enabling to go on proclaiming Jesus to the very people who were behind His crucifixion and were now threatening them.
It seems totally backwards to love and pray for those who are persecuting us, but this inconceivable love is the heart of a transformed believer. This is the love the enables a mother to forgive her son’s murderer and a persecuted missionary to pray for the salvation of a national leader committed to exterminating Christianity. The Spirit changes our perspective from vengeance and self-preservation to a Christlike desire that none should perish. Like the early church, may our prayer also be for boldness and perseverance in the face of persecution so that we love our enemies in a way that captures their attention and draws them to Christ.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, it is an inconceivable love You place within me that enables me to pray for my enemies. Grant me boldness to proclaim and live out Your love in all circumstances. Thank You, Lord.