Pray for your Enemies
“You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ~Anne Lamott
Back off, Anne Lamott, I scream at the book I’m reading. You don’t know me.
How did I get here?
The word “hate” was banned in my house growing up. I was raised to be a sweet southern girl. In fact, the church I grew up in had a spot in the worship service EVERY week where we would “pray for our enemies”. It’s one of those annoying commands of Jesus that pushes against my human instincts. Each Sunday, there it was: pray for your enemies. So there I’d sit, dutifully, against the cold, hard pew, picturing the boy who called me slow on the playground; the friends who judged what I wore; the teacher who gave me a bad grade because she clearly didn’t get my innovative writing style. Praying: I know he is your child, God. I know she has needs, God. God, I know you love her. Right?
Our practices form us (as any Crossfit junkie will tell you). Praying for my enemies week after week formed me as a young person with a posture towards compassion, even and especially when it was hardest to do.
And yet, here I am, all these years later, with a delicious experience of schadenfreude every time somebody from an opposing political party gets what’s coming to them; or that condescending colleague is fired from his job. Thanks be to God! I shout and pray, assuming that God is with me.
The good news, of course, is that God IS with me. But the more difficult, annoying news (thanks for the reminder, Jesus and Anne Lamott) is that God is with every single person. Because God’s image resides in every single person. And my prayer posture can orient me towards this inconvenient truth or turn me away from it.
Now, Jesus fought like hell for those on the margins, and he calls on his followers to do the same. Faith isn’t about being sweet--there is room for righteous anger and justice. But Jesus resisted without hate in his heart. Even for the people who killed him.
My heart will never be as pure as Jesus’. But I’m going to fight like hell to make prayer for enemies a more regular part of my practice. To recapture some humility and grace in my posture. Can you join me? What would it look like for you to pray regularly for your enemies? I’d much rather create God in my image, but alas, it turns out I’m not in charge of the universe.
Thanks be to God!
By Kate Floyd