Praying for Our Enemies

Praying for Our Enemies September 17, 2018

If we are to love our enemies, as Jesus emphatically taught, we ought to keep them in our prayers. It’s the last thing many of us want to do these days.

Your prayer may not seem clearly connected to change outside of yourself, but to pray is to change yourself.Who is my enemy?

People who strive to be good don’t like to think we have enemies. Your enemy is someone who is working against you; someone who does not have your best interest at heart; perhaps someone who hurt you and shows no remorse. Part of being human is admitting that, yes, we are holding some grudges against certain people for how they treat us. Even if we don’t like the term “enemy,” we probably do have one or two! It’s easier to ignore those who we might label enemy than to hold them in the presence of God as we pray or meditate.

Do you pray for your enemies?

Have you done any deep spiritual work around loving and praying for enemies? If not, the first step might be to simply ask God to assist you in compassion for them. Jesus loved to pray, so if you are a Jesus follower, why not ask him to pray in you or teach you to pray for those who hurt or rebuke you?

I’m one of those who likes to pretend I have no enemies, therefore, I don’t need to pray for them! And then I look at the news and get so angry at politicians who try to take away affordable health care or I fume about men who sexually harass women. So, yes, I need to pray more for my enemies.

A Prayer Practice to Experiment With

When Donald Trump first became president, I struggled with how to love and pray for political leaders who I feel do not have my best interest at heart. I wrestled with how to create a prayer practice that holds our political leaders — even those I would vote against or work to unseat (maybe especially those) — in the light of God’s presence. At the time I was reading a classic book on Christian healing, “The Healing Light” by Agnes Sanford and she suggested that when we feel overwhelmed by evil or tragedy in the world, pick one person or one situation and pray for that rather than trying to pray for everything that’s going on.

And so I did. I chose one powerful national political leader that I find distasteful (a member of the House of Representatives) and began to pray for him. I chose one who speaks frequently of his Christian faith so I thought maybe, hopefully, he will be open to the transformation that we all need to lower the temperature on this nation’s polarization.

I’ve seen no great transformation in him since I began this prayer, but I do see a change in me. I now see this politician as a person — a troubled person — and one that is in a difficult position. Like my Buddhist friends, I pray “May he be happy, healthy and at peace.”

Another Practice to Try

When you want to believe “a change is gonna come” but are having trouble visualizing it on a national or global level, try asking the Divine — and trusting the Divine — to bring “all good things and all good people to work together” for the good of all. Process theology teaches us that God is constantly weaving our gifts and passions together for God’s purposes, and the more we open ourselves to what God is calling us to do or be, the more we become a part of the process of change.

It can be overwhelming to look around at enemies and consider what they are saying and doing. Finding ways to pray for them may feel futile at first, but it’s transformative work. It’s a way of maintaining hope in the face of chaos.

How do you pray for your enemies?

Spiritual direction is the practice of noticing where God is alive in your life and work. A spiritual director can help you learn new ways to pray. If you want to learn more about spiritual direction, I have a new book Spiritual Direction 101: The Basics of Spiritual Guidance by Apocryphile Press that addresses many aspects of this practice. It’s available on Amazon.

Also, I enjoy sharing emails with people who have questions about spiritual direction. I may be reached at or via my website I do have openings for spiritual direction clients if you are interested.

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