We Are Not Christian Without This Prayer
There is nothing more natural than praying for those we love, especially when they are in need, when they are sick or sorrowful, when they are hurting, anxious, or lost. We turn to God, relentless in our petitions, begging God to bring them health and happiness, peace and prosperity, wisdom and strength. We pray like St. Monica prayed for her Augustine. We pray with trust that God always gives the best gifts, like the Little Flower opening her heart to God with childlike confidence.
The Scripture readings make clear that God approves of our prayer. God desires our constant petitions and our relentless supplication. Through our prayer, God draws us closer to the divine heart, perfecting our faith and preparing us for the beatific vision. We should never worry that we are asking too much. Perhaps we are not asking enough!
In the reading from Exodus, we find Moses praying for Israel in their battle with Amalek. “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” We are advised through the story to be persistent, just as Jesus taught in the Gospel “about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”
In the story of Moses, the prayer is for Israel, his own people, the Chosen People. In this way, we are a lot like Moses, aren’t we? We pray for our team. We pray for those we love. Jesus warns us about this though. He says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32).
Does this stir the waters in the deep well of your conscience? It does mine! I pray for those I love often and with ease, and find it difficult to pray even for those who are just neutral acquaintances let alone enemies. Yet Jesus makes clear his position. He tells us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?” (Matthew 5:43-46).
What would this look like, this praying for our enemies? I think it requires at least two movements. First, love requires that we “will the good of the other” as St. Thomas Aquinas taught. We cannot pray for their demise. We cannot wish them in hell or relish the thought of them being there. We must be like the Prodigal Father, who reminds us that God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather [desires] that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). We must wish the same. We pray that their hearts be converted. Second, we pray that their evil plans be thwarted. God, after all, “is your guardian… he is beside you at your right hand. The sun shall not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will guard you from all evil; he will guard your life.” We pray, then, for the good of the sinner, and the foil of the sin.
Imagine, then, if we put everything we learned in these readings together. God desires our persistent prayer for our enemies and will answer those prayers. “Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” Imagine the good we would do for the world if we persistently prayed for our enemies. Imagine if we did this together, at every Mass, in our most powerful prayer together, assembled as the Body of Christ! We would give great glory to God as we are formed more perfectly into the image of Christ His Son while also furthering the Reign of God in the world.
Have you prayed for those you love? I bet you have many times. Can you join me in a prayer for our enemies?
Father Most High, we ask you to bless members of ISIS, terrorists, dictators, and all those who trample on human rights and dignity, as well as our own personal enemies. We ask you to thwart their evil plans and to convert their hearts to love alone, that we may live in peace as brothers and sisters. Help us, O Lord, to be humble and attractive examples of merciful love. We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.