The Practice of Praying for Our Enemies
Weâ€™re shifting into a new season. After Labor Day, the rhythms of autumn take hold: vacations are over, school is back in session, church activities kick off, traffic snarls resume, and the busyness continues.
On top of it all, we continue to face an onslaught of despairing headlines, from the racial unrest in Charlottesville, to the catastrophic flooding in Texas, and now the changes to DACA. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m not the only one a bit anxious and overwhelmed as we face the cadence of fall. Itâ€™s easy to get scattered and fall away from the practices and structures that support our souls. Hereâ€™s a suggestion: donâ€™t.
Thatâ€™s an aspirational exhortation. I regularly fall off the wagon this time of year, and itâ€™s usually not until I and everyone around me is completely miserable that I finally cry out for help. I simply donâ€™t do well without regular rhythms of prayer, journaling, and scriptural meditation. As embodied creatures, we are deeply affected by the structures and activities that fill our lives. Itâ€™s a fairy tale to think otherwise.
One of the practices that sustains me is reading the lectionary. While only one of the churches I attend follows the lectionary (Iâ€™m Reformed-Anabaptist, or Anabaptist-Reformed, and I love both my churches too much to give up either!), I am regularly blessed by attending to the cycle of Christâ€™s life throughout the year.
Romans 12:9-21Â is particularly apt this week (I encourage you to read it if you havenâ€™t recently). Paul, sounding quite a bit like Jesusâ€™ Sermon on the Mount, encourages us to â€śhold fast what is good,â€ť and â€śpersevere in prayer,â€ť and, so far as we are able, â€ślive peaceably with all.â€ť Paul tops it off with a reminder that vengeance is the Lordâ€™s and our responsibility is (yes, you guessed it) enemy love. Not my favorite activity, which, Iâ€™m guessing, is why Paul reminds me of it.
Enemy love rarely makes our top ten list of desirable Christian activities, but perhaps it ought to, especially given our ridiculously polarized society. In times when our attention, energy, and emotions are spread widely and thinly, itâ€™s imperative we remember to focus on loving God and loving our neighborâ€”and, oh yeah, our enemies too.
My prayer and challenge for us this month is to integrate praying for our enemies into our new rhythms of the season. Of course, this isnâ€™t possible on our own. We need to continue to pray together that the Holy Spirit would do a new thing in us, and that Christâ€™s peace would reign for the world to see. And today, we can start with our enemies.