Praying for our enemies

I’m struggling to understand what exactly the Church means by hatred. The Catechism says that it’s wrong to wish evil upon your neighbor, and Jesus prayed for his enemies and told us to do the same. But what exactly is hatred?

Here are two situations I’m struggling with:

1.) Is it okay to ask God to bring a nation (or family member, friend, etc.) to repentence by any means necessary–even harsh, drastic, and painful ones? Sometimes I wish that the country would actully collapse economically in hopes that it might bring our country to its knees and back to God. That might be faulty logic, but is it actual hatred? I always pray that God will convert our country and its people, and I hope that people listen to God without something awful happening. But I also recognize that often it is only when a nation is in serious crisis that it finds itself and finds its way back to God. So is it okay to pray for tragedies or crises if that’s what it will take to convert souls?

2.) How should we pray for enemies of the Church? For example, a group of homosexual activists recently desecrated the Blessed Sacrament in a church in Spain as a pathetic protest against Church doctrine. I know that Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of his persecutors, but then I pray the Magnificat where it exalts the fact that “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones.” And David’s impreccatory Psalms ask for extremely harsh treatment of Israel’s enemies. Again, I know that we should first pray for their conversion, but is it okay to pray, “God, turn their hearts to you. But if they refuse your grace, deal with them harshly and never let them dishonor you.” How do you balance a desire for justice a need for forgiveness in prayer?

To be sure, I’m not talking about praying or hoping for bad things to happen out of spite or vengeance. But if your desire is God’s honor or others’ repentence, is it okay to pray or wish for bad things to happen if people still refuse to listen to God? Or is that the serious sin of hatred?

Thanks for your help

We can pray for loved ones and enemies for the graces that the Lord wants them to have. God will decide how and when he will impart that grace. Just leave that part to Him, as he knows best. We don’t have to figure out for him what He should do.

That’s very good advice. But I’m wondering if what I’ve proposed was actually hatred.

JESUS gave us two very extreme examples of what our behavior need endure to avoid hate as well as pray for those who hate us.

First, in a shocking statement JESUS taught not to so much as call another person “fool” to avoid the fires of hell. Wow - from our prespective “fool” is such a benign word - don’t know what it meant in JESUS time, if it was a more severe term.

Secondly, while suffocating from the cross with HIS body sliced and torn to pieces, JESUS forgives. In all of HIS pain and torture and suffering HE forgave.

Meditate on the need to avoid the “simple” slip as much as the severe.

Do we pray that God make us more humble, more generous, more charitable, more forgiving, more obedient by any means necessary?

***“God, please do what ever it takes to make me more obedient.”

“God, please make me a less selfish person by any means necessary.”

“God, please teach me humility.”***

That last one is a bit scary.

I would challenge those who would urge God to convert someone “By any means necessary” or those who ask God to stop some perceived evil or enemy of the Church “By any means necessary” to first ask God to give them that same gift.


I appreciate the responses. Perhaps I wasn’t very clear in my first post: I agree that the ideal should be a charity that prays for and desires only the best for even our enemies. But does wishing for an economic collapse, for example, that would harm a lot of people, in order to bring the country back to God, amount to actual hatred? I ask only because the Catechism defines wishing for grave harm to come to others as a serious sin. Is what I’ve described actual hatred, and thus a serious sin?

I found this on the Catholic Encyclopedia. It seems to contradict what a lot of you are saying, so please give me your opinion on this. I’ve highlighted the most important parts:

In other words, not only may I, but I even ought to, hate what is contrary to the moral law. Furthermore one may without sin go so far in the detestation of wrongdoing as to wish that which for its perpetrator is a very well-defined evil, yet under another aspect is a much more signal good. For instance, it would be lawful to pray for the death of a perniciously active heresiarch with a view to putting a stop to his ravages among the Christian people. Of course, it is clear that this apparent zeal must not be an excuse for catering to personal spite or party rancour. Still, even when the motive of one’s aversion is not impersonal, when, namely, it arises from the damage we may have sustained at the hands of others, we are not guilty of sin unless besides feeling indignation we yield to an aversion unwarranted by the by the hurt we have suffered. This aversion may be grievously or venially sinful in proportion to its excess over that which the injury would justify.

Now I’m more confused than before, so I welcome any advice.

Any response?

It seems that there are two ways to look at this. The more perfect way, and the legalistic way.
The perfect way is expressed by Jesus on the Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not
what they do.” In one of the four gospels, Jesus taught that if we suffer because we are
guilty of doing something wrong, then we deserve what we got. If on the other hand
we did nothing wrong, as in the case of Jesus, and suffer for it, then that is deserving
of a reward from our heavenly Father.

On the other hand, being human, sometimes we want to know what we MUST do in order
to keep charity with God. One thing it excludes is revenge, or get even, for that is a
form of hatred. But we can legitimately wish for the wrong against us or others to stop and
take steps to do so in proportion to the wrong but not in greater proportion even if it
is hurtful to the other party. For example, at work, a co-worker is jepordizing your job in
a serious way. You want it to stop because you need your job. So you go the
employer about the situation and the other person loses his job. Feeling relief that you
will no longer feel the pressure is acceptable, but not gladness that he was hurt.
But supposing he was not jepordizing your job, and He lost his job from your action,
that would be in greater proportion and unjust.

Do you remember what the baker asked the Godfather(Marlon Brando) to do to those
who hurt his daughter. And what was the Godfather’s response? Not a bad response
for a thug.

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