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Bless My Enemies, O Lord

How do you respond when a family member speaks harshly to you? When you’re publicly criticized or slandered? When you’re vandalized or abused? Often it’s people we love or those we serve who mistreat us. We all suffer in these ways, especially pastors and others who serve the Lord in ministry.

How are we to deal with being criticized or wrongly treated? The way of our world and our own fallen human nature is to react to anger with anger or to be defensive, to ruminate in our heads, or become discouraged.

Jesus teaches us a better way.

Bishop Nikolai

You’ve probably never heard of Nikolai Velimirovi?. I hadn’t either until I came across a prayer of his in Dallas Willard’s Doctor of Ministry class on “Spirituality and Ministry.” What a wonderful treasure this prayer is!

Bishop Nikolai lived from 1881 to 1956 and served as a bishop in the Serbian Orthodox Church. He offers us an exceptional example and articulation of Jesus’ teaching: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Why do that? Jesus answers, “Because your Father in the heavens is merciful to you” (Luke 6:36, par.)

Bishop Nikolai’s story is that he was arrested for speaking out against the Nazi’s in World War II and they kept him in the Dachau concentration camp, where he became very sick and frail and was near death when the U.S. forces finally overcame the Nazi’s and liberated Dachau in 1945. While he was being tortured he prayed, “Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.”

Bless My Enemies, O Lord (Bishop Nikolai’s Prayer)

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth
and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms
and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.
Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does,
so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary,
having hidden myself beneath Your tabernacle,
where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world…
They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself…

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them…
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand…
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life,
they have demolished it and driven me out.
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world
and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them…
So that my fleeing to You may have no return;
So that all my hope in people may be scattered like cobwebs;
So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;
Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me
in the dreadful web of illusory life.
Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows,
that we have no enemies in the world except ourselves…

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good
and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.
Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.
Slaves curse their enemies, for they do not understand.
But sons and daughters bless them, for they understand.
For they know that their enemies cannot touch their life.
Therefore they freely step among their enemies, and pray to God for them.

(I’ve slightly edited Bishop Nikolai’s prayer, mostly to use gender inclusive language.)

Watch and Pray with Jesus

Probably we all have people in our lives that we feel unsafe around or mistreated by. Of course, we do what we can to protect ourselves, set boundaries, and speak the truth in love. But often we can’t stop bad things from happening to us. In any case, these trials and injustices present opportunities for us to shine the light and love of Christ to others. Let’s watch and pray with Jesus so that we’re ready! (Trying hard to do what Jesus says will not work! Instead, we need to “train ourselves to be godly,” 1 Tim. 4:7.)

Recall a situation in which you felt mistreated…

In prayer bring yourself in this circumstance into God’s kingdom, making the Lord your refuge and fortress (e.g., Psalm 91). No lasting harm can come to you there! Your soul is safe in God’s care and he is ready to redeem any injustice you experience. Rest in God…

Then from this position of strength and hope, pray with Bishop Nikolai, “Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them…”

This exercise has prepared me for a variety of situations of injustice, including the time that someone vandalized my car. (See “Lord, Bless the Man Who Keyed My Car.”)

Look How Jesus Loves Blesses His Enemies

Jesus’ lifetime of spiritual training and trust in God his Father is what enabled him to bleed out his love for us and for all people, even his enemies. The ancient Stations of the Cross use Gospel passages to bring us the passion of the Christ, the forgiveness of our sins and new life in his name.

I invite you to join me in this blessed crosswalk. It’ll shape you to be more peaceful, loving, and powerful like Jesus himself. It’ll show you how you can live your daily life with Jesus in the Kingdom of God.

It’s here in my 68-page booklet, Unforsaken: With Jesus on the Stations of the Cross.

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