Undoubtedly the most difficult people to pray for are those that persecute us. Praying for the lovely people is just much easier. Even so, we are called to pray for everyone.
When you read through the Book of Psalms you see that David continually prayed for those who persecuted him. In some cases he asked that their hearts would be softened and in others he asked that the Lord pronounce judgment upon them (e.g. Psalms 109). What does the Bible teach about persecution ? What should our attitude be? How should we pray for the persecutors?
Jesus Spoke of Persecution and the Persecuted
During the Earthly ministry of Jesus, He often spoke of what was to come when He left to be with the Father. He warned the Apostles and His many disciples that life would no longer be easy for them that chose to follow Him. He said that people would hate them because of Him. During His famous Sermon on the Mount He even reminded them that the prophets before them were persecuted for righteousness sake.
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Later in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus went into a little more detail regarding the reality of the persecution to come and He told them how they should respond. You can read about that in Matthew 5:35-48.
Continuing on in the book of Matthew Jesus tells the Apostles once again that He is sending them out into a world which will hate them. He warns them that leaders will judge them. Then He encourages them with the promise that the Spirit  of the Father will be with them and will speak for them.
Matthew 10:19-20 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
Take up your cross
Constant reminders to His disciples are recorded throughout the gospel accounts as well as the Book of Acts. For example, Jesus uses the metaphor that whoever follows Him will need to “take up his cross”. He even goes a little deeper to say that “whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35) I like how Luke puts it a little differently:
Luke 14: 25-33 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
So the disciples of Jesus’ day were forewarned of the cost to be a disciple. As Christians today we are privileged to have something that they did not have – the completed Word of God. As we study daily in the Word we should be learning the things that Jesus taught as well as all of the other men in the Bible as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Many of these holy men of God endured great persecution on a daily basis. These things have been written for our learning.
How to Respond to Persecution
Sometimes we can relate to those who have gone before us as a testimony of faith and endurance. We can also learn from their teaching and admonishment as to how we should respond to persecution. Not long ago my husband preached on this exact subject. You can listen to his message here: Persecution . Regarding persecution, the Bible says we should:
Put our trust in the LORD and be not ashamed (Psalms 31:1)
Follow His lead (Psalms 31:3)
Commit our spirit into His hand (Psalms 31:5)
Be glad and rejoice (Psalms 31:7)
Be of good courage (Psalms 31:24)
Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)
Go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41)
Love your enemies, bless them, do good to them and pray for them (Matthew 5:44)
Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16)
Suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Romans 8:17)
Love without dissimulation (Romans 12:9)
Abhor evil (Romans 12:10)
Cleave to good (Romans 12:10)
Bless them which persecute you – don’t curse them (Romans 12:14)
Take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of (2 Timothy 3:14)
Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15)
Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13)
Examples of Prayers for the Persecutors
Jesus prayed for his persecutors. Perhaps one of His most famous prayers was uttered when he faced certain death, even the death on the cross:
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, was no stranger to persecution, mostly because before his conversion he was the lead persecutor (see Acts 7:55-60 for the account of Stephen’s stoning – Saul was the “young man” at whom the witnesses threw their clothes; a sign of respect for the leader). After conversion and throughout Paul’s missionary travels he asked that the Churches pray for him, that he might overcome his own persecutors and those whom try to quash his message. Two such requests are documented in Romans and 1 Thessalonians:
Romans 15:30-32 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; 32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
As we travel through life as a Christian we will be faced with persecution for our love and devotion to Jesus. We can learn from those who have gone before us as to what we should expect and how to keep the right attitude when responding to persecution. Our greatest teacher is our Savior Jesus. Even after He was beaten beyond recognition, He raised a prayer to the Father in Heaven to forgive those who persecuted Him. Jesus prayed for His persecutors in His last hours. He was not thinking of Himself. He did not grumble nor complain. He prayed for them! And then He endured the cruel death  on the cross – he was obedient even unto death (Philippians 2:8) . Do you know Jesus? Will you come to Him today ? The persecution that we are dealt as a follower of Jesus cannot compare at all with what He did for us. He took the nails for me. He took the nails for you. The least we can do is endure the persecution for Christ’s sake! Oh what a beautiful Savior! And what a beautiful promise we have because of Him: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The Holy Bible, King James Version
YouTube video “Beautiful Savior” by Casting Crowns