Among all of Jesus’ teachings, the most difficult is the one where he asks us to love and pray for our enemies:
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
How are we supposed to love our enemies and why on earth would we pray for them? The how is not so simple, but the why is:
As long as we are harboring anger, resentment, hatred, thoughts of retribution, wishes of ill-will toward those we perceive to have harmed us (or those we perceive to be a threat to us), we lock ourselves in a karmic loop of everything bad we are wishing for them. This karmic loop is based on a universal truth and a law of nature:
Everything we send forth into the world returns to us one-hundredfold.
Because the universe is inherently neutral, this is as true of negative feelings, emotions and perceptions as it is of positive.
In other words, it is CRITICAL to our own well-being that we pray for our enemies – specifically, that we pray for their positive well-being. The gift in praying for them in this way is that as we unlock ourselves from this karmic loop of badness, we are unlocking them, because as we have imprisoned ourselves by our hatred, we have created a prison for them as well.
Now for the love part: It dawns on me that perhaps we have been misinterpreting the “love” in this reading as being a heart-felt emotion of loving care and concern, like the love we have for our children or like the love God has for us. Initially, when praying for our enemies, I don’t believe this is the love that was intended by this reading. Instead, I believe Jesus was talking about “love” as an energy and as a verb. In other words, when we are praying for our enemies, it is love that carries that prayer – or rather, the prayer itself is love. In praying, we are intending, sending love to our enemies. Maybe not our love (initially), but the love of God that moves through us in our prayer. The actual heart-felt, loving care and concern kind of love, I believe comes later. This love comes about through our prayerful effort and by the Grace of God. As we pray for our enemies, the hatred, animosity, perceived harm, hurts, betrayals, fear, etc. is slowly (and sometimes quickly) healed. As the layers of pain our released, that pain is replaced by love. The more we pray, the more we are able to see our enemy in a different light – no longer separate and no longer a threat – but as another living, breathing, hurting, fearful human being in need of God’s love and healing. Here is where love is revealed and how this commandment finds its fulfillment in and through us.
In the end, praying for our enemies is critical to our own wellbeing and as we pray for them, both of us are healed and released – freed to be the people God made us to be: loving, generous, compassionate, peaceful and kind.
If this is too difficult to believe, start praying for your enemies, after all, what have you got to lose? Pray for your enemies and see what happens!