Praying for Your Enemies

Imagine you’re driving home from work. It was a long day. You’re tired, hot, and just focused on getting home as quickly as possible. Suddenly, a reckless driver comes flying out of nowhere and sideswipes you as they weave in and out of your lane at high speeds. You angrily pull over to assess the damage from the hit and run. What is probably going through your head?

Naturally, our first response is anger and possibly a little bit of fear from the adrenaline of getting hit. We might mutter some things under our breath and curse the person who ruined our already difficult day. That’s the natural, easy response: give in to the anger and the frustration. As natural as that may be, we’re still letting our emotions get the best of us and as Christians, we are called to love and pray for our enemies.

Josh Raymond of The Inner Life recalled a prayer from a regular guest on Relevant Radio, Father Robert Spitzer, SJ. In times of frustration at somebody for doing him wrong, Father Robert would offer a very simple prayer, imploring God to help him in his struggle to forgive.

“Lord, you are the just judge. You take care of it.”

Josh welcomed Father James Kubicki, SJ to talk about the naturally difficult process of praying for one’s enemies, learning to forgive, and letting go of the emotions that can hold us spiritually hostage.

Father Kubicki began by explaining that many times, Jesus’s instructions can be misconstrued or manipulated in different situations to take advantage. But for clarification, Jesus doesn’t say that we should like our enemies or like the people who frustrate us. He says that we must love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). And love isn’t the conjuring up of some feeling of affection or emotional sentiment for somebody. Love is an “act of will”.

Turn the other cheek. Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Forgive and forget. This doesn’t mean we should put up with abuse, but these sayings are embodiments of the type of nonviolence that people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were committed to. They championed the idea that you can defeat any type of hatred or violence with love, peace, and an offering of vulnerability. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but ultimately, their ideas proved successful.

Vengeful acts rarely have the effect that we hope for, but demonstrations of peace will often show an unjust aggressor that what they are doing is wrong. That’s the conversion we’re striving to create in someone when we respond as Jesus would have. Father Kubicki referenced a scene in the movie Gandhi where the British soldiers were assaulting the people peacefully marching. Eventually, the soldiers realized what they were doing was wrong. Nobody was fighting back. These people were not only peaceful but innocent.

And who was the original proponent of peace and nonviolence? Jesus Christ.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52)

“Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?’” (Matthew 26:67-68)

“They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’

They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:28-31)

Never was there a more innocent man subjected to a more unjust punishment than when Jesus Christ was tortured and crucified for the sins of mankind. And yet, as He hung on that cross in front of his murderers, slowly dying:

“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34)

One of the most powerful prayers that we can employ in praying for our enemies is actually the prayer that Our Lord gave to us, the Our Father. In it, we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are almost binding ourselves to a contract that says we vow to forgive our enemies because the Lord will always forgive us. In all of these prayers of forgiveness, it involves a turning away from the transgression and transgressor and a turning toward our Lord. We need to stop thinking about the way that we have been wronged and start asking for help to get past it.

Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.