In last Sunday’s sermon, I pointed out that Saint Paul gave the new church leader, Timothy, some advice. It was to pray. And first to pray for kings and all in high places. (1 Tim 2:2) Why in the world would Paul tell Timothy to pray for those responsible for persecuting the Church and who would eventually snuff out both their lives? Perhaps it is because Jesus instructs us to, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44) And in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (12:14) One day I hope to get the opportunity to ask Jesus and Paul why they told us to do this. In the meantime, I can tell you how to pray for your enemies.
There are three parts to every formal prayer in our Prayer Book. The first part names God and what God does. The second part is to ask. The third is to close the prayer in Jesus’ name.
Part one. If you wanted to ask your mother for cookies, you probably wouldn’t just yell from the living room, “Get me some cookies!” Instead, a wise child seeks her out and says, “Mother dear, who makes the best cookies in the world…” Likewise, we get God’s attention by using one of God’s many names/titles and what God does. When praying for one’s enemies, a suitable opening might be, “Almighty God, who calls on your faithful people to bless and pray, even for our enemies…”
Part three – in the name of Jesus. He told us to ask for whatever we need in his name. Thus, in your prayer for your enemy, it would end “… I’d rather key his car, but I ask that you bless him and turn him from his bad ways, in the name of Jesus my Lord.”
In all sincerity, I had been praying for the conversion of Osama Bin Laden’s heart. I wanted him to have a Paul-like conversion and for him to then tell his followers that he was following Jesus and would walk in the path of peace and contrition for the rest of his life. I recently prayed for the guy who set the bombs in New York and New Jersey – for justice, for peace, and for him to become a living example of repentance. I can also tell you in all sincerity that these prayers actually brought me peace and stillness. You see, when we turn our enemies over to Jesus, we know that vengeance is his, that he, and only he, has the power to change hearts, and that his mercy is wide, his understanding is deep, and his grace is really and truly for everyone.