Love Your Enemies and Pray for Those Who Persecute You

Pray until we can see our enemies as through God’s eyes.

James Tissot, “What Our Lord Saw from the Cross”, ca. 1886-1894
James Tissot, “What Our Lord Saw from the Cross”, ca. 1886-1894 (photo: Public Domain)

If you look at the news, at our politics, at the general temper of everything in our national dialogue, we are a people screaming, “Pray for us.” Jesus tells us to “pray for our enemies.” However, how many of us really pray for those we do not like other than to ask that they become someone else? There is a certain rush, a dark pleasure in rage, in feeling justified in one’s anger. It’s like a corrosive spiritual tar, which eventually prevents one from seeing someone who makes us upset or angry, as being in need of our prayers. If you’ve ever held onto a hurt before, you know how that spiritual injury can corrode your every thought.

Yet, we are the physical body of Christ now, both by our creed and by our partaking in the Eucharist. Therefore, we need to be the peacemakers. We need to be praying immediately for our enemies. We need to start with recognizing, that on some level, we have people who need us to be praying for them. We also need to know, our own salvation depends upon loving them (whoever the them is), that much.

When my father died, one of his friends revealed to us in the parking lot how my dad used to respond to requests for prayer. He’d stop right that instant whatever he was doing, grasp the hands of the person making the request, and pray. Usually, it was a Hail Mary, but his response to the petition, “Pray for me.” or “Pray for so and so,” was swift and immediate. My brother and I took solace from the story, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

So pray for the people who leave irritating memes on your Facebook feed.

Pray for your co-workers.
Pray for the neighbors you don’t know.
Pray for the kids your kids tell you are mean.
Pray for the people on the television who drive you crazy.
Pray for the people in the news who seem to do everything and get away with everything.
Pray for the people on the radio who make you angry.
Pray for the people who hold opposing political opinions.
Pray for the people who belong to the same political party as you, but don’t seem to have the courage of their convictions.
Pray for the people who seem to foment rage.
Pray for those with whom you disagree.

Pray for friends you’ve lost along the way.
Pray for people you’ve hurt.
Pray for people who hurt you.
Pray for people who despise what you believe.
Pray for people who have disappointed you in a very real way.
Pray for people who are indifferent to you.
Pray for people to whom you are indifferent.
Pray for people you wish were closer.
Pray for people you find too close.

Pray for whoever it is who hurt you, until whatever it is you’ve held onto, for whatever reason, no longer seems sufficient reason not to pray for whoever it is. That doesn’t mean you go have a pizza with the person afterwards, although it might. What it does mean, is we have to pray until we can see our enemies, all those who hurt us, all those who anger us, all those who disappoint us in so many ways, as through God’s eyes, as beloveds we want to genuinely greet and know in Heaven, as we cannot now.  Pray until we unclench, until our own emotional temperature cools way below the simmering point.

Going back to the lessons of my dad, he’d get after us when we’d get stubborn, “If you can’t pray for that person for whatever reason, pray for the ability to pray for that person.” Ask the saints to do the same. What the world needs now, is grace, and the surest way to get more of it, is to ask.  So pray. Pray. Pray.