I was disappointed that even from religious sites I was not seeing a groundswell of praying for a sick president and his wife. Praying for our leaders is commanded, though the Catholics have done better at this, including this in their regular prayers. I have heard and read discussion over the years of what exactly we are to pray for leaders, especially if they are evil, but that is another matter. Yet even if you find Trump evil and dangerous to the country, we are told in no uncertain terms that we are to pray for our enemies. I get distressed when the obvious is missed.
But the finger of accusation works in both directions, doesn’t it? My first thought was how I might change the attitudes of such people or render them powerless. My thought was to defeat them, not pray for them. This is unfortunately common with me. I start by wanting to defeat an idea, but it bleeds over quickly into defeating the people who have that idea. The call to defeat God’s enemies is usually much more indirect, and Scripture often cautions that defeating evil is God’s problem, not ours. I don’t think we need be so extreme as the complete pacifists to recognize that “the battle belongs to the Lord” is a common Biblical theme, even in the OT when Israel was called to go out and do some serious smiting.
I never pretend to know all God’s reasons for his commands, but I can sometimes discern at least one or two of them. When we pray for our enemies, we are brought up against the uncomfortable reality that they are our enemies. They are not necessarily God’s enemies, or the enemies of the Church, or of all decent people. We have often made that leap without warrant. They might simply be mistaken, even about important matters, which a merciful God with an educative bent might regard as no more worrisome than, oh, our mistaken ideas, just as an example.
It is a good thing to come up against the wall of regarding someone as an enemy. It brings clarity. We try to reserve the word for deathly opponents, thinking we are being kind and generous thereby. We are bigger than that, we think. Yet it is the state, not the amount that defines an enemy. That “kindness” can lead to resentment, carried anger, grudges, and revenge. The rude customer you are serving is for the moment an enemy, however minor and temporary, and we have our marching orders.
So I took care today to pray for those who wished Donald and Melania Trump death and suffering. Will I remember this tomorrow or the next day? History says I will fade fast, but perhaps this time it will be different.