Prayer for our enemies

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Note to readers: In February when this blog was brand new I posted a message about praying for our enemies. Few people knew about the website then, so I am repeating this post now. In view of our Lord’s express command that we should love and pray for our enemies, it seems disturbing that it this not being done in our worship services. As I have traveled from place to place visiting scores of congregations during the past two years, I have continued to note the pervasive absence of such prayers.

There is a very good prayer for enemies in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (page 816), yet I have never heard it used. It has the virtue of being short, simple and inclusive of both enemies and ourselves. It avoids the “we-they” dynamic that poisons so much discourse these days. Here it is:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here is one for St. Stephen’s Day, December 26, from Prayers for Every Occasion (Morehouse-Barlow, 1974) :

Merciful God, you gave your son to reconcile us, your enemies, to you: Grant, we beseech you, that we too may learn to pray for our enemies, as your servant Stephen prayed for his persecutors, and, like him, be permitted to see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And here is another, from the same source. This prayer was written in England to be used at the height of World War II. In other words, the Church of England was praying for the repentance of the Nazis even as they were being bombarded. Sixty years later, we can acknowledge a miracle; this prayer has been at least partly answered. I read recently of a Jewish writer who had established his residence in Berlin. He said that he believed the Germans had accepted their guilt. Here is the prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, before whose judgment seat we all shall stand, we pray, as thou hast taught us, for our enemies; so turn their hearts to you that they may truly repent; and grant that they and we and all the peoples of the earth, being cleansed from sin, may know and do thy will, as you were lifted up upon the cross to draw all men to yourself, our Savior, our Lord and our God.

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