Sympathy for the Devil: Praying for Our Enemies

Mark Twain once asked,

“. . . who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian’s daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?”

Who prays for the most evil person in your life?

Those of us healing from childhood abuse spend our mental and spiritual energy backpedaling from our toxic mother (or father or grandparent or guardian, et al), from her aspersions and insults, from the lies she told us about ourselves, from her spells meant to conjure fear of the world and impart negative assumptions of others. We read, journal, seek counsel from professionals and priests; we practice turning away from evil and confusion and towards wholeness. We pray for healing for ourselves,

The last thing most of us want to do is pray for her who did us wrong. We may want to write letters enumerating our grievances (I advise against it here). We may campaign to turn relatives to our side. We may start a blog about healing….

But to pray for someone who abused us, who persistently sought to annihilate our self worth, feels like running naked towards a beehive. It is a step into vulnerability. But that vulnerability is between us and God, and it opens us not to more pain, but to the healing power of all that is good. And that healing leads us to be more open to others, more able to withstand the tides of relationships without recalling past pain.

A man who had many enemies once advised, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44).

For some reason, engaging our hearts, souls and minds in conversation with God for the benefit of those who hate us is God’s will for us. Perhaps because God is love, which means God loves all of us, friends and enemies on both sides of the equation.

Nurturing anger, allowing bitterness to simmer, seeking revenge, all hand power back to the abuser. Instead, hand that power to your Creator. This is how we love our enemies, often from a distance: Pray.