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Faith Alive! | Commandments of Christ 8

8. Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you

From issue 86 (February 2007)

THROUGHOUT our lives we all come across people who make things hard for us. Fortunately, for most of us, it is rare that someone actually puts us through the sort of persecutions which were common for followers of Christ during the first century, but we can still experience times when we feel people around us are determined to make our lives as difficult as possible.

Naturally, at such times we pray to God for help. We may pray about those people who are causing our suffering, perhaps asking God to stop them acting as they are towards us. But Christ commands us to do more than this: “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44,45). We are not just to pray about these people but for them.

Once you let negative thoughts develop towards someone, you often find that these feelings begin to take over your life. If you actually pray for someone then you will notice how much it helps to put things into perspective. As a follower of Christ, you have a special relationship with God, which others do not have, and so they need you to pray for them.

Stephen, when he was being stoned for his beliefs, prayed, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). He prayed for those throwing the stones because he recognised that they were acting according to their beliefs and understanding of God’s Law. Paul, who was present and giving his support to those throwing the stones, must have bitterly regretted his involvement when he was finally converted.

Think of the suffering that Jesus must have been going through at the hands of the Roman soldiers in the hours leading up to and during his crucifixion, yet he still managed to pray for them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). He recognised that they were just following orders. Maybe the centurion at the foot of the cross, who finally recognised that Jesus surely was the Son of God, became a follower of Christ – just a thought.

Next time our lives are being made unpleasant and difficult by people around us, we should remember the sufferings of Stephen and Jesus. They didn’t dwell on negative thoughts. They prayed not only for help to get through the situation, but also for those who were causing their suffering. If they could do this as they were dying in such awful circumstances, surely we, as followers of Christ, can do the same despite our own suffering.

Debbie booth

Quotations from the NKJV

 

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