How to Pray for Your Enemies (Psalm 4)

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Psalm 4

We often hear that we are to love and pray for our enemies. But how does one do that? Psalm 4 gives us an example.

We are not told the precise nature of David’s affliction in Psalm 4. However, we can paint a picture from what we are told. Though the NIV translates, “How long will you people turn my glory into shame (4:2)?” the Hebrew phrase translated “people” is literally “Sons of Men.” This phrase is used throughout Scripture to refer to a certain class of people, namely prominent and powerful citizens in ancient Israelite society. Though David was the rightful king of the nation, it seems they used their influence to uproot David’s rule, thus David’s glory has been turned into shame.

How David responds serves as an example for all of us. First, he calls them out on their wickedness, “How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” (4:2) There are times when loving our enemy means calling them out on their offense or praying that they would become aware of the error of their ways.

Second, David tells them to, “Know that the LORD has set apart his faithful servant for himself… (4:3).” David was the rightfully appointed king. He is the faithful servant who has been set apart. While we are not kings – and should not tell our enemies to bow down to us – we should urge them and pray for them to submit to the divine reign of the Lord.

Third, David commends his enemies to “tremble” and “not sin.” He hopes and prays they show holy reverence to God and quit their sinful actions. We can hope and pray for the same for our enemies.

Lastly, David extols them to, “…trust in the LORD (4:5).” He is praying for their salvation and restoration, that the “light of [the LORD’s] face shine [ even on them] (4:6).”

When Rachel Denhollander was given opportunity to address her abuser, Larry Nassar, in court, she said: “The Bible you speak carries a final judgement where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.” May we all, like David and Denhollander, be able to love and pray for our enemies in this way.

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