Praying for Our Persecutors

Acts 9:31
Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Saul of Tarsus was a name that brought fear to the hearts of early Christians.  He pursued and persecuted, imprisoned and killed people for their faith.  Saul’s name was known throughout the region as someone to be avoided, and he was an enemy of the church until he was transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.

Would the early Christians have prayed for him to be saved?  Did those whose homes were invaded and whose families were captured pray for him or witness to him?  Surely they would have prayed to God for help, to deliver them from this man.  Whether they prayed for him or not, Saul’s life was touched by Jesus Himself, and Saul was no longer the same—no longer an enemy of the church, but a staunch and faithful advocate for the cause of Christ.

The churches had rest when their main opponent came over to their side.  How many times do we face persecution in our lives?  It may not be as severe as what the early church faced.  But in our lives, people will oppose us for our faith in Christ.  How do we respond?  Do we ask God to judge them and give them the punishment we think they deserve?  Do we hope for vengeance and look forward to the day when they will suffer for what they’ve done?  Or do we pray for their salvation instead, knowing how completely God can change a life?  If our “enemies” become Christians, they would no longer oppose our faith in Christ, but perhaps instead be thankful our prayers helped lead them to the Lord.

Perhaps the early church was obedient to Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:44, where He tells us to pray for those who persecute us, and their prayers for Saul helped lead to his conversion.  Let’s seek to follow this example in our own lives.  No matter who attacks us, let’s live out a testimony of unwavering faith in God and complete confidence in Christ before a watching world.  Let’s pray for the salvation of our enemies so that we may find rest and so may they.

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