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Praying for Those Who Persecute Us
You might have read the post A Fourth Turning Warning. If you did, you’re probably wondering if I’ve lost mind. If you conclude I have not lost my mind, you probably wonder why I’d run from the fight. So I should probably address that.
Let’s start, as we should always, with the Word. In this case, the Book of Matthew 5:43-45:
“You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
With that commandment from Jesus, I don’t think I have a choice but to love my enemy and pray for those who persecute me. Now, that doesn’t mean I need to pray for their intentions. Their intentions are evil. Instead, I am required to pray that they open themselves to the graces God is raining down on them like dew fall, day in and day out.
The problem is, I suck at wishing good things on people I don’t like. It’s much easier to wish them ill. And, if they poke my eye, it feels so right to poke theirs.
So what’s the answer?
First, I need to fill myself with God’s mercy, love, and grace. That means I have to make room in my heart for God’s gifts. That requires God’s help. Then, and only then, am I able to love my enemy (as disdainful as that might seem now) and pray for my persecutors. Ya know, the whole Matthew 7 thing: “Why do see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Remember, we’re all the villain in somebody’s novel.
I believe that we are surrounded by God’s mercy, love, and grace, but that we are very ill-equipped to recognize them. God sends those gifts on us like sunshine and rainfall, but sometimes we’re locked away inside our own hearts.
When we catch glimpses of these gifts, we tend to use our intellects to create reasons for them that excludes God. A “logical explanation,” as they say.
But when, with God’s grace, we stop being so skeptical for a moment and, instead, just say “thank you, Father, for that gift,” we may begin to see mercy, love, and grace all around us and everywhere.
We’re all the villain in somebody’s novel.
If saying “thank you” is a bridge too far, just a little silence will do. Silence instead of questions and answers. As my friend Mary Beth would say, “sit with it. Don’t try to understand it yet. Just sit with it.”
I’d like you, now, to re-read that other post in light of this news, remembering how Matthew 5 ends: “You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Finally, a simple, short prayer for enemies and those who persecute us, inspired by the Saint Padre Pio’s “secret weapon prayer.":
O my Jesus, you have said, "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you." Open my heart to your mercy, love, and graces so that I might be able to love my enemies and pray for my persecutors. [Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be . . .] O, my Jesus, you have said, "be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." Help m, O Lord, to empty myself of myself so that my heart has room for your mercy, love, and grace. [Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be . . .] O, my Jesus, you have said, our Father in heaven sends rain and sunshine on evildoers and the holy alike. As you open my heart to your mercy, love, and grace, may these same blessings fall upon my enemies and persecutors. [Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be . . .] I ask this in your name, O Jesus, of the Father, who live and reign in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen