Praying for Your Enemies Empowers the Journey for Justice
Two events are occurring in the next few months providing an opportunity for people who profess a love for God to pray for their political enemies, and therefore following the greatest Biblical command to “love God and every neighbor as we love ourselves.” One event is the National Prayer Breakfast in February. The other is the Reclaiming Jesus Elder’s call for prayer, fasting, and actions over the perilous circumstances now facing our nation, from Ash Wednesday through Lent.
The National Prayer Breakfast, held in Washington, DC for the past 60 years in early February, is a ripe environment for learning how to pray for political enemies. It began under President Eisenhower with business, political, and other leaders who influence and shape culture. Each year, the U.S. President, Vice President, congressional leaders from both political parties, as well as leaders from the U.S. Supreme Court, and all branches of the military are in attendance. This year’s breakfast will include more than 3,000 leaders from over 100 nations. As in past years, it is hosted by a Republican and a Democrat and will consist of many leaders who consider themselves political enemies. Yet, for three days, they will put aside their differences to pray, in the spirit of Jesus, for world peace and each other, despite being opponents on many issues.
For over 25 years, as a host of the National Prayer Breakfast, I have personally witnessed leaders from South Africa during apartheid; Burundi and Rwanda during the war; and Germany divided by the Berlin Wall--praying with and for each other. Many of these relationships continued beyond the prayer breakfast. Let me also admit my struggle over the years, to pray for American Presidents and other political leaders who were enemies of people of color and vulnerable citizens. However, in the end, even with President Donald Trump, I am committed to follow the mandate of Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1 to “pray for leaders and those in authority,” in obedience to God. As I attend the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast, I will pray, first, that the President accepts the saving grace of God for his very soul. I will pray that he would repent (or turn around) from the sin of bigotry and attacks on vulnerable people. I will not only pray and fast, but I will also take action to reverse the President’s policies that endanger our democracy and especially harm poor and vulnerable citizens, particularly citizens of color. With another government shutdown threatened for mid-February, and migrant children still locked in cages like animals, I will pray mightily for leaders of compassion and mercy to show up at decision-making tables at every level of government.
The second opportunity to pray for enemies will occur when a group of Christian elders soon issue a 2019 Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Action from Ash Wednesday through Lent for the perilous times in which we live; where top leaders are blatantly oppressing the poor and people of color. These elders are the same ones who commanded the declaration, Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis, to the churches and the nation at Pentecost 2018, to which five million people responded.
My new book, “I Prayed, Now What?”, was released last fall, and includes a chapter, entitled “Praying for Political Enemies.” I almost did not finish writing this book. I struggled for months over an important question: “How do I pray for and about my enemies, whether in politics or my personal life?” The word “enemy” means adversary or antagonist. And this is how I viewed many politicians who were ignoring the voices of people of color and turning their backs on the poor. But I had to make a decision to obey the words of 1 Timothy 2:1 and pray for President Donald Trump and other leaders, despite their approval of white supremacists; oblivion to police attacks on unarmed African Americans; and insults of primarily brown asylum seekers as mere criminals. Despite my role as a social justice activist, I will respond to the Biblical call to love my enemies, by praying for their salvation, repentance, and spiritual restoration, even as I join with like-minded allies to resist their policies that undermine our democracy and wreak havoc on people’s lives. In the season of Lent, traditionally known as a time of prayer, penitence, and almsgiving focused on poor and vulnerable people; I urge you to pray for leaders in both political parties. Praying for people we consider political enemies humanizes our opponents; forces us to go deeper in our faith; strengthens our faith for the long haul to stay on the battlefield, as nonviolent warriors fighting for justice and righteous rulership in our land.
To purchase a copy of I Prayed Now What, visit www.BarbaraWilliams-Skinner.com.