But I tell you: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44-45
When Jesus confronted the crowds that came to hear him, they went away saying, "Never did anyone speak as does He!" In the message we call "The Sermon on the Mount," ten times Jesus said, "You have heard it said to the people long ago…" and then challenged that conventional wisdom saying, "But I say unto you!" Talk about someone specializing in unconventional wisdom!
In one of those departures from conventional wisdom, Jesus said, "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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:43-46).
Irmgard Wood grew up believing that. In fact, she and her mother went so far as to actually pray for the safety of the enemy pilots who flew over their home in Stuttgart, Germany during World War 2. You see, they lived in a sixth-floor apartment, and on one particular occasion, they heard the wail of sirens, the burst of antiaircraft guns and the sputtering engine of a plane that was crashing.
They rushed outside to see the airplane, flames trailing behind, and about to crash. As the plane lost altitude, Irmgard prayed, "Gott, behǘte der Pilot!" (God protect the pilot.) Her sister prayed audibly, "Hilf ihm, lieber Gott." (Help him, dear God." This was the enemy for whom they prayed.
That night they listened to the local news but there was no indication that their prayers had been answered. Eventually the war ended and the mother and her daughters immigrated to the U.S. Irmgard married and became a nurse, and the years began to pass.
One day a patient detecting her accent asked where she had grown up. "Stuttgart," she replied. "I was shot down over Stuttgart," he said, "in broad daylight." Then, all of a sudden, memories of that day long before flooded her mind." "When?" she blurted out. Comparing notes, they both knew that the one in the air, fearful of being shot, now sat before a nurse who as a little girl prayed for this man whose plane was crashing. Talk about unconventional wisdom!
The American pilot unbelievably walked away from the plane, was captured, and ended up in a POW camp where he was treated humanely. "The Good Lord was with me…somehow!" he said. Yes, Irmgard’s prayer had been answered, so she discovered many years later.
Question: Do you pray for your enemies? It's unconventional wisdom, but so is most of what we do when we follow the example and teaching of God's Son.
When you pray for your enemy, you are praying for a fellow human being, a mother's son, a father's daughter, someone who missed the path and for whatever reason has taken a wrong turn in the road.
Praying for your enemy--unconventional as the world sees it--changes your hatred to pity, and eventually you see someone who is weak, just as you are.
Take time to read Matthew 5 where Jesus talked about an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," giving to the one who takes from you, and--yes--even praying for those who persecute you and abuse you.
Those who practice unconventional wisdom are wise in a way that most people never understand, but they are the ones who profit from it, the ones who eventually will hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Deciding to practice unconventional wisdom in your life and to walk in the path Jesus walked is the best thing you could ever do.
Resource reading: Proverbs 14:1-35