How To Pray for One’s Enemies

We Church Guys met this A.M. after morning prayer. After shooting the breeze for a bit, the Holy Spirit led us to talk about St. Therese of Lisieux. One guy shared the following as his favorite passage:

“A holy nun of our community annoyed me in all that she did; the devil must have had something to do with it, and he it was undoubtedly who made me see in her so many disagreeable points. I did not want to yield to my natural antipathy, for I remembered that charity ought to betray itself in deeds, and not exist merely in the feelings, so I set myself to do for this sister all I should do for the one I loved most. Every time I met her I prayed for her, and offered to God her virtues and merits. I felt that this was very pleasing to Our Lord, for there is no artist who is not gratified when his works are praised, and the Divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not stop at the exterior, but, penetrating to the inner sanctuary He has chosen, admire its beauty.”

Excerpt From: St. Therese of Lisieux. “Story of a Soul (l’Histoire d’une Ame): The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library ( iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.

Well, this provoked quite a discussion. We are called to pray for those who persecute us. But how can one do that? I mean, come on…How can I pray honestly for someone who is persecuting me? When my enemy “joe” has a problem, it is more natural to pray – “Almighty and Just God, your justice is an all-consuming fire upon all those (like Joe) who persecute your loved ones (like me). I thank you that I am not like Joe as his just rewards will be his utter destruction. I do not wish this, because (unlike Joe) I love everyone, but I quake in sorrow when I contemplate Joe’s utter, but just, end.” I don’t think the Lord would be too pleased with this kind of prayer. But what would an honest prayer look like?

We think that St. Therese shows the way.  “I felt this was very pleasing to Our Lord, for there is not an artist who is not gratifeid  when his works are praised.” The first step is to remember that we are all God’s works, even Joe. And when God looks at Joe, He sees perfection (marred by sin). Joe’s perfection may be difficult to see – veiled in the flesh so to speak,  but it’s there. So, let’s re-do our prayer: “Heavenly Father, I am having a tough time with Joe. He is making decisions and saying things behind my back that are hurting me and my family. But I know when you look at him with your eyes, you see perfection, all the good that he is and was made to to be. I can’t see that with my human eyes right now, but I know you are perfect in all you do and you made Joe.  I praise you and thank you for Joe – he is fearfully and wonderfully made. I think about that and I love all the more. Please help fix the situation I am in and come to see Joe the way you made him.”  That’s better, isn’t it?  The reason it’s better is that it’s more honest. 

But there’s a better way. The problem is that that prayer does not acknowledge that Joe has positive qualities. It admits inability to see them. The next step is to find something positive about Joe and praise that. That may be hard. That’s why I think the second prayer is OK (unless you stay there forever) so long as you seek the grace to see Joe’s positive qualities and praise them for the Lord’s sake. God made Joe and seeing Joe’s good qualities should increase our love of the Lord, lessening our selfishness so that we can deal with the situation and repair our relationship with Joe. Loving the Lord more deeply allows us to love Joe  more. It worked for St. Therese. How about you?