During preparations for the war with Iraq, Christians across the United States were asked to pray for the removal or exile of Saddam Hussein in order to spare the world the wrenching eventuality. There weren’t many leaders— outside of the Pope, perhaps—who called us to pray blessing upon the Iraqi tyrant.
The rulers of the apostle Paul’s day were not much better than Hussein. Nevertheless, Paul commanded Christians to pray for kings and rulers (1 Tim. 2:1-2). That puts us in the uncomfortable position of having a biblical mandate to pray for the likes of Hussein, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, among others.
Contrary to every natural instinct, blessing one’s enemies, whether real or contrived, is at the heart of the surpassing righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. But no one said this would be easy. So let me suggest some things that may be helpful to keep in mind:
- Pray without fail. To not pray for menacing people in authority is dangerous. The lives of others are at stake, as is the glory of Christ and the well-being of His church. Ask God to help you persist.
- Pray humbly. You were once an enemy of God. You were saved by grace alone and are now a child of God by adoption. Therefore, pray boldly but humbly. Leave judgment and vengeance to God. Proud prayers are not heeded. Ask God to test your motives.
- Pray fully aware of evil spiritual powers. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). As you pray for a Kim Jong-Il, for example, remember that behind him and his nuclear capabilities, lurking in the shadows of the empirical, are our real opponents: “the powers of this dark world and . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ask God to defeat these powers behind the enemy.
- Pray fully aware of human propensities. Osama bin Laden was not driven only by narrow interpretations of the Koran, but also by pride, fear, jealousy, anger, lust, and greed. Ask God to choke off the deadly impulses of the enemy’s flesh. Be aware of news reports, and pray against situations where an enemy might be tempted to react in a harmful way.
- Pray to exploit the weaknesses of evil. The end result of evil is chaos: moral, political, economic, military (see Acts 19:32ff ). The Soviet Union collapsed from within. Hussein was a mobster in a country run by mobsters. Evil people are ultimately inefficient. They make bad decisions, leading to the erosion of their sup- port. Ask God to leverage the weaknesses of evil, so that greater evil may be thwart- ed by disorganization, internal rebellion, poor information, and erroneous counsel.
- Pray with confidence in the miraculous might of God. God laughs at the conspiracies of human powers (Ps.2:4). “He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth” (Ps.76:12). God can break through anything. He gave dreams to Pilate’s wife as a warning to Pilate (Mt. 27:19), and He is report- ed to give dreams and visions among Muslims even today. He spoke through a medium to Saul (1 Sam. 28). Persian astrologers foresaw the Messiah by signs in
the heavens. God even wrote a message on a wall for Belshazzar (Dan. 5:5). Ask God to communicate His purposes clearly to the hearts of evil leaders.
- Pray for the salvation of enemies. God loves them. His grace is as sufficient for the worst of them as it is for any one of us.
—By Robert Bakke, an executive director of the Evangelical Free Church of America, and producer of The Nationally Broadcast Concert of Prayer.
This was an excerpt from Pray! Magazine.