Praying for Our Enemies: A Lenten Sacrifice

Welcome to day 26 of our Lenten season. If your season has been going anything like mine, well, you are probably as eager as I am to be done with Lent and praying to move on to the Easter season- to hope and to joy. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to skip through the difficult times in order to get to the party that awaits us. No, we have to carry our cross as Christ did, work through our suffering, and die to ourselves before we can experience the Resurrection and the joy that comes as we rise with Christ.

As I have plodded along through Lent, I often stop to reflect to see how I am doing in my Lenten practices and sacrifices. If I am to be honest I will have to tell you that I haven’t done that good. I started out with many things I wanted to give up and to add into my daily life. Things that should have helped me become holier and draw me closer to God. Unfortunately pretty quickly into Lent I abandoned ship so to speak. I decided that the things I had chosen to do and to give up weren’t going to draw me closer to God in the manner that I felt He {and I} deserved.

And so I sat down and prayed. I asked God what He wanted of me. I asked what I could do to draw closer to Him. I should have known that what He would choose for me was going to be much more difficult than the things I chose for myself. When we put God to the challenge He will rise to it every time!

This Lent God asked me to pray for those who have hurt and are hurting my family… and He asked me to focus particularly on one person. THE PERSON. You know the one {we all have one in our lives} who lives to make our lives miserable. God wants me to pray for her. It’s been hard. No, it’s been a downright arduous task… one that without Christ’s help I would never be able to do.

Most of the time when I need to forgive someone I think of Christ’s mercy upon the cross when He says, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) I think about how difficult it must have been to look down upon those who ridiculed and tortured Him and still extend forgiveness. This time has been harder though as I know the person I am praying for not only comprehends what she is doing but she delights in it as well. Still, we are called to not only forgive but love and pray for our enemies and so, I pray.

But I don’t like it.

As Lent progresses, praying for her is getting a little easier. I don’t despise it near as much as I used to but I haven’t fully embraced it yet either. There are many days I pray for her begrudgingly. I have to stop myself from thinking ugly things and simply pray for her happiness, her well-being, and for her heart to be opened to God’s love. Talk about a sacrifice!

St. Alphonsus Liguori said, “True charity consists in doing good to those who do us evil, and in thus winning them over.” It’s hard to ever think of “winning her over” but I also know that no one is ever a lost cause. There is always hope. And so, I pray.

I know that my Lenten sacrifice is not simply for the woman’s benefit {as prayer is always beneficial even if the one we pray for doesn’t want or believe in prayers}, but is also for my benefit. God is helping me to overcome the despair, the anxiety, and the disdain I feel bubbling up inside of me when I think of all she has done and continues to do to our family. He is helping me to see that even those who hurt me, those who persecute me, or who wish me harm are still worthy of my love and my prayers.

It’s a hard lesson to learn and to accept as it is completely counter-cultural.

But Christ was counter-cultural too. He loved the unlovable, healed those whom society had tossed aside, and he dined with the sinners. He forgave the ones who persecuted Him and saw the worth in each and every person He encountered. Those around Him had no idea what to think of this radical approach to life and to love.

I know that this Lent God is calling me to that same radical love. I’m trying my hardest to answer the call. I recognize God’s desire to change my heart and my soul during this process. And it’s working. While I know I have a long way to go, I also know that Christ will be there every step of the way, loving me and loving her and helping to build the bridge between us by the wood of His cross.

Please pray for me, friends, as this is a difficult journey for me. Please also pray for this woman. She is very lost in this world and needs as many prayers as she can get.

Tell me, how is YOUR Lent going? Has it been challenging? What has Christ called you to do to draw closer to Him?

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