Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hostile prayers

Pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44 NIV

"If they are calling on their God against us, though they bear no arms, they still fight us by pursuing us with hostile prayers.” –Aethelfrith (d. 616 AD), referring to British Christian monks.

I’ve heard of prayer warriors, but this beats all! Would the “hostile” prayers be for curses to be rained down on the bad guys? Or for the enemy’s hard hearts to be softened and turned to the Lord, thus bringing compassion and mercy back to the pray-ers? Christ told His followers to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive them, and to sacrifice our own comfort to assist them.

Who’s the first person that comes to mind when you think of an enemy? Man or woman, let’s call that person Aethelfrith for now. That enemy destroyed something or someone you loved, or stole what was rightfully yours. Aethelfrith has, perhaps, pursued and hounded you, invaded your boundaries, or usurped leadership. Aethelfrith does not share your values, nor has he any notion of asking your forgiveness or making restitution, much less reconciliation.

So what do you do about Aethelfrith? Ignore him and hope he goes away? Take up weapons? Retaliate by invading his territory? Submit passively to his patently unchristian authority and terrorist tactics? Burn with resentment?

The answer is 1400 years old. The Celtic Christians of northwestern Britain and Wales had been burned out, raped, pillaged, terrorized, and invaded by the pagan Anglo-Saxon King Aethelfrith. By Aethelfrith’s testimony, they pursued him with “hostile” prayers, calling on the Lord of Hosts to fight for them. Aethelfrith was killed in battle shortly afterward, and his immediate successors converted to Christianity, founding York Minster, monasteries, and Christian education all over the north of England.

So what will the Lord of Hosts do when you pursue your Aethelfrith with “hostile” prayer? It will be exciting to watch, even if we never see the “movie” until heaven. Jesus has already won the war at the cross, and He is just and merciful. If you ally with Him, you share in His victory.

Jesus said, "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that." Matthew 5:44-45 MSG

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