WDTPRS: Prayer for enemies

I have motive these days to pray for enemies.


What can be our attitude about enemies?

Can we enjoy the death or defeat of an enemy?

Must we pray for them?

Can we pray against them?

There are beautiful orations “Pro inimicis… For enemies” in the section called Orationes diversae in the traditional Missale Romanum.  These prayers can be added to the other orations for Mass… a flexible dimension of the traditional form.


Deus, pacis caritatisque amator et custos: da omnibus inimicis nostris pacem, caritatemque veram; et cunctorum eis remissionem tribue peccatorum, nosque ab eorum insidiis potenter eripe.

O God, lover of and guardian of peace and charity: to all our enemies grant peace and true charity; and give to them the remission of all their sins, and mightily snatch us away from their plots.

I found this prayer in Corpus orationum.  It does not seem to be all that ancient, at least 10th c. (Fulda).  There are some variants in the manuscripts, some including vera with pax, some invoking Mary and St. Michael.  An 11th c. book, Leofric in the Bodleian adds nostris visibilibus and ab eorum invisibilibus, suggesting that the prayer is surely directed at corporeal enemies, human, rather than demonic.

The repetition of “peace” and “charity” is significant, especially with the inclusion of vera in the second instance.  In a sense, there is no true charity in this world, nor is their true justice.  Those will be only in heaven.  Meanwhile, we strive for the best and most perfect peace and charity we can in this world.

In the second phase of the prayer, we pray that God will forgive the sins of our enemies.  These could be the sins they have committed against us or against anyone else for that matter.   A true Christian desires the best for others, even enemies.   What that “best” is can be hard to determine.  However, it absolutely excludes a positive desire that they go to Hell.

Finally, we ask God to save us from the traps and plots that our enemies lay for us.   It is hard to think like the enemy and to lay plots to harm others.  God knows their machinations and He is powerful to thwart all their schemes.  So we ask God to use His might to save us.

About those questions at the top.

We get some help from St. Augustine (who had enemies).

In his De sermone Domini in monte 76 (On the Lord’s sermon on the mount), Augustine makes the point that we cannot hate enemies.

Augustine contrasts Old Testament passages about malevolence toward enemies with New Testament passage about compassion and not judging them unjustly.  In discussing 1 John 5:16 Augustine holds that one need not pray for those who commit sins that lead to death.   He also reflects on the Judas’s sin and Peter’s denial of Christ.  Moreover, he thinks one should not pray for sinners who sin against the Holy Spirit.

For Augustine the moral obligation we have to love our enemies implies praying for them.  We should pray for sinners and even sinful enemies, even enemies of the Church, in order that they convert and become friends.  Christ, after all, while on the Cross prayed for those who crucified Him.  Augustine thought that prayers of Christians led, for example, to the conversion of Saul.  Stephen prayed for his enemies while he was being killed.

Augustine points out, however, that prayer for enemies does not exclude the hope that enemies be punished by God, just as God punished the devil (qu. eu. 2.45.2)!

Punishment in this life is in view of conversion.   If it is what they need, truly, to get their attention and result in a conversion of heart, then suffering and punishment is the best thing for them.

Merely to let them drift along without any need to take stock of their situation would be not in their best interest, their true good.

Augustine does not foresee the eventual conversion of the devil, of course.

Here is the text in its raw form. The last part is especially good.  This is from Quaestionum Evangeliorum libri duo… Questions on the Gospels.

2,45,2 hic ergo iniquus iudex non ex similitudine sed ex dissimilitudine
adhibitus est, ut ostenderet dominus quanto certiores esse
debeant qui deum perseueranter rogant, fontem iustitiae atque
misericordiae uel si quid excellentius dici aut audiri potest, cum
apud iniquissimum iudicem usque ad effectum implendi desiderii
ualuerit perseuerantia deprecantis. ipsa uero uidua potest habere
similitudinem ecclesiae, quod desolata uidetur donec ueniat
dominus, qui tamen in secreto etiam nunc curam eius gerit. si
autem mouet, cur electi dei se uindicari deprecentur, quod
etiam in Apocalypsi Iohannis de martyribus dicitur, cum apertissime
moneamur ut pro nostris inimicis et persecutoribus oremus,
intellegendum est eam uindictam esse iustorum ut omnes mali
pereant. pereunt autem duobus modis: aut conuersione ad iustitiam
aut amissa per supplicium potestate qua nunc aduersus
bonos, quamdiu hoc ipsum bonis expedit, uel temporaliter aliquid
ualent. itaque etiamsi omnes homines conuerterentur ad deum,
inter quos sunt etiam inimici pro quibus iubemur orare, diabolus
tamen, qui operatur in filiis diffidentiae, remaneret in saeculi fine
damnandus. quem finem iusti cum uenire desiderant, quamuis pro
inimicis suis orent, tamen non absurde uindictam desiderare

Part 2: HERE

Part 3: HERE

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  1. Gaby Carmel says:

    The devotion of the chaplet of the Holy Face, done as reparation for the sins committed directly against God (such as blasphemy, non-observance of Sundays, radical atheistic communism, etc), is a very satisfying and short prayer which concludes with the words:
    1) “May God arise and let His enemies be scattered and let those who hate Him flee before His Face!
    2) May the thrice Holy Name of God overthrow all their plans!
    3) May the Holy Name of the Living God split them up by disagreements!
    4) May the terrible Name of the God of Eternity stamp out all their godlessness!
    5) Lord, I do not desire the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
    6) The “Golden Arrow” prayer (“May the most holy, the most sacred, the most adorable, the most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God always be praised, blessed, loved, adored ad glorified by all the creatures of God in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and by the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.”)

    This is a good way to pray FOR and AGAINST enemies!

    Furthermore, when one hears somebody taking the Name of the Lord in vain, one can pray:”Sit Nomen Domini benedictum” (‘May the Name of the Lord be blessed’)

    [The chaplet of Reparation to the Holy Face was ‘revealed’ to a Carmelite nun in Tours, in France, in the 1840’s. At that time, France was still reeling from the disasters of the French revolution, as seen in a population that was a prey to more revolutions and to radical anti-establishment movements, which ultimately led to the foundation of communism in 1847. Blasphemy was apparently rife at that time, and of course the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette in 1846 alerted the negligent Catholic population to the sin of the neglect of Sundays…]

  2. rhhenry says:

    I thought the traditional prayer for one’s enemies was:

    May those who love us, love us;
    And for those who don’t love us,
    May God turn their hearts;
    And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
    May He turn their ankles,
    So we will know them by their limping.


  3. Pingback: WDTPRS: Prayer for enemies – Part II | Fr. Z's Blog

  4. Pingback: WDTPRS: Prayer for enemies – Part III | Fr. Z's Blog

  5. Pingback: Various prayers or “Orationes diversae” in the traditional Missale Romanum | Fr. Z's Blog

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