“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
– Matthew 5:44
The story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is a familiar one. After the death of Joseph the Israelites were made slaves in Egypt. Their long years of suffering culminated with Pharaoh’s command to slaughter every infant son. Eighty years later God sent Moses to Egypt to lead Israel out of bondage. Pharaoh refused even to let Israel go into the nearby wilderness to offer sacrifices to God. As a result God distressed Egypt with ten plagues that culminated in the death of the eldest of every house in Egypt.
God’s plagues were not just punitive, they were declarative. When God sent Moses to Egypt He told him that Pharaoh would not release Israel. God told of His plan to use Pharaoh’s rebellion to show Israel, Egypt, Pharaoh and all the world that He alone is God. The plagues declared God’s power and greatness to the world. In the midst of intense suffering Pharaoh acknowledged the existence and power of God, but stubbornly refused to repent.
The second plague to trouble Egypt was an infestation of frogs that overran every home in the land. Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to God for the frogs to be taken away. Moses agreed to do so. He “cried out” unto the Lord. Moses made no half-hearted request. His prayer for Pharaoh was made with great fervency. He prayed in this fashion so Pharaoh would see and know, “that there is none like the Lord our God.” (Exodus 8:9)
Pharaoh refused to allow the Israelites to leave despite his promises, Moses’ prayer and God’s power. God sent further judgments upon Egypt. Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for the land to be delivered from the plague of flies. Moses prayed for Pharaoh though he had good reason to doubt Pharaoh’s sincerity. Moses prayed for the people that had held the Israelites in bondage to be eased of their suffering. He prayed for the king who oppressed, persecuted and deceived Israel to be relieved from his affliction.
Pharaoh continued his rebellion against God and his refusal to release Israel. During the plague of fiery hail Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to God to stop the horrible precipitation battering the country. Moses prayed for Pharaoh. Moses knew Pharaoh would not fear God but he prayed any way, “that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s.” (Exodus 9:29)
The plague of hail was followed by a plague of locusts which threatened to destroy the little that was left from the depredations of the first seven plagues. Pharaoh hurried to call Moses and Aaron to him. He again asked Moses to pray for Egypt’s deliverance from the plague. Moses said nothing to Pharaoh but he went out and once prayed for Pharaoh.
Four times during the ten plagues Pharaoh asked Moses to pray. Four times Moses prayed. Moses had no reason to be kind to Pharaoh and every to reason to believe Pharaoh would continue to afflict Israel. Moses’ faithfulness in praying for his enemy is a compelling example of how the Christian ought to pray for others. Moses shows how a Christian can pray for those who persecute and revile believers. Moses illustrates how a Christian can pray for the enemies of God.
Christians can genuinely pray for the benefit of their tormentors so the unsaved will know the power of God. Christian can earnestly pray for the well being of their enemies that those who do not seek after God may know Him. When Christian’s pray for their enemies God works to show the world His power.