When I asked God to fill my heart with his love I was forced to look into the hearts of my enemies. This is hard. It is hard because I have hardness in my heart.
I have enemies, and have despised them. I have done things to people that caused them to hate me. Sometimes my words and deeds have been good, from God, and yet I was crucified. God has used me to rescue people, and some of them eventually turned against me. Love is risky. You could die for it.
Sometimes I have been unloving towards others, and been hated for it.
Some people have come after me, and I have hated them. This includes Christians hating Christians which, for me, is the most painful kind of hatred. How narrow, how shallow, how short, how low is the hatred of this world.
Into this mess comes Jesus, who has the nerve to upset the apple cart. This deep thing that moves me to sing the songs of hatred is interrupted by the words love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. How shall I do this?
I am doing this by deliberately and intentionally praying for people I hate. By "hate" I include the euphemisms "am irritated by" and "dislike" and "frustrated with" and "upset with" and so on. When I think of someone I hate, I force myself to pray for them. I ask God to bless them and to fill them with his goodness. I ask God to be merciful to them and gracious to them. I ask God to help and heal them, and to prosper them. I force myself to pray this way for my enemies because this kind of love does not yet form my heart. I am weak in love, and in my weakness I pray words of love, not hate, to those who for whatever reason hate me. As I have been doing this I have experienced moments of compassion, the initial drops of a purifying rain that is heading my way.
I am disciplining myself to do this, because I am a disciple of Jesus. This feels very new to me, this praying for people who persecute me. I am certain God is pleased with what I am choosing to do, since this is his desire. I believe God's power is in this, and that he will take my weak prayers and form in me his strong heart of love.