Praying for our Enemies?

The context in which we find ourselves – heart-wrenching scenes from Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, West Africa, Ferguson, MO, etc. – has led me, once again, to ponder how our communal praying and our lived lives in this world intersect.  One of the “liturgical lacunae” I have worried about for a while now is that we seldom, if ever, take seriously Jesus’s command to pray for our enemies (Mt 5:44).

A prayer text I was sent during the last Triduum brought this home for me forcefully.  The prayer was a solemn intercession that a priest, who is both friend and colleague, had felt compelled to insert into the Good Friday intercessions, in obedience to Jesus’ command. The prayer intention was for “enemies of all that is good” and went something like this: Let us also pray for all those who refuse to love and be reconciled, those who inflict violence and sow enmity, those who destroy peace and profit from war, those who shed blood and disregard human rights. The prayer itself then essentially asked for the grace of conversion for these enemies, for the strength to turn away from evil and toward the good.

I wish we would add such a prayer to our Sunday intercessions.  I know one of the persons I would hold in prayer: the young hooded British man who beheaded the photojournalist James Foley.


  1. I agree, Teresa. I have been praying for James Foley and his family, but it suddenly occurred to me last weekend during Mass that I also needed to pray (just as ardently) for the man who killed him. Only by making that last leap are we truly following the way of Jesus. This needs to happen not only on an individual level but also a communal level. The prayer you cited is an excellent example of how to begin.

  2. This petition is in our intercessions every Sunday of the year and has been for over a decade. (The line regarding religious liberty was more recently added.)
    “For God’s people everywhere:
    – for the work of justice and a harvest of peace,
    – for wisdom and compassion in the work of those who govern us;
    – for the defense and protection of religious liberty for all;
    – for those who serve and protect us;
    – for those in harm’s way, for an end to war,
    and for our enemies,
    let us pray to the Lord…”

  3. We had an ecumenical vigil when the first Gulf War erupted and, among others, we prayed for Saddam Hussein.

  4. From a Litany in A Late Evening Office inspired by Taizé:

    ‘Let us pray for those who hate us as we pray for those who love us.
    Lord, have mercy.’

    I like the parity in prayer this implies

  5. “Is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?”

    “Of course. May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us.”

  6. We had some prayers for our ennemies for two of the last four Sundays. One specifically included a prayer to St Paul and a reminder that before his conversion he used to persecute the first Christians.

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