I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness over the last several weeks. Of all the topics related to forgiveness, the one that irks me the most is this whole idea of praying for your enemies. I struggled with this because to begin with I don’t think I have enemies. I mean, I am such a nice guy, right? Who could ever wish to hurt me? I also struggled with the ambush of the painful memories related to being hurt and betrayed. How can I ever get past those feelings of shattered relationships and broken fellowships? And what should I do if the other person is not interested in reconciliation?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but what I have learned is that most people will have plenty of opportunities in their lives to make enemies. If you are being successful, if you seek to do things right, if you encourage people to consider a different way, if you speak against the status quo, if you challenge complacency and promote full devotion to God, sadly, you will become a target for someone.

Not surprisingly, I have experienced a lot of that in my life and I have many reasons why in my flesh I should not feel I need to pray for those who have tried to hurt me. But I have come to the conclusion that I should do it even if it’s only for the reason that it is the right thing to do and it is what God expects me to do. And that is how I am approaching this subject. I choose to do it and let God supply the feeling, in His time. And amazingly, God is doing it. And it is so freeing!

For those who desire to go a little deeper, I offer this nice summary of the stages of forgiveness, which I found in R. T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness, a book I highly recommend for those who are dealing with the difficulties forgiving wrongs, forgiving self and letting go of the desire to exact revenge.

The Five Stages in Praying for Our Enemies*

DUTY. The first level is strictly based on obedience; you are doing it because you ought to do it.

DEBT. You are become so conscious of what you have been forgiven of that you cannot help but pray for your enemy. You think, “What if God were to ‘spill the beans’ on me?” As you think about the implications of that question, you pray that your enemy will be spared too.

DESIRE. You begin to pray for your enemy because strangely you’ve started feeling like you really want to do it.

DELIGHT. Could it be? You are beginning to love doing it! The joy is in the praying. The thought of your enemies being blessed really starts to excite you.

DURABILITY. What you originally took as a lifelong commitment has now become a lifestyle. The thought of going back to your old ways or praying a different way is out of the question. It now has become a habit and it no longer takes an extraordinary step to do that. As Jackie Pullinger said, “To the spiritual person the supernatural seems natural.” What began as a duty and once seemed insurmountable is now almost second nature.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

*Adapted from Total Forgiveness, by R. T. Kendall