Prayer for the Bad Guys
By Charla Spalluto Misse
When my son was 6 years old, seemingly out of the blue, he said to me, “We need to pray for everyone, even the bad guys.”
I am always grateful when he shares his insights and teaches me things. I listen closely and think about his ideas. When I asked where he learned that, he said that he “just knew it” and went about his play.
Well, that lesson really gave me a lot to think about for a good long while – years now. I believe, deep down, we all knew this once. As time passes, though, we witness or endure increasing levels of injustice and pain. We are widely encouraged to seek payback and entitlement.
We are taught that helping our enemy, in any way, indeed, praying that they might receive the greatest gift of all – eternity with Christ – would be ridiculous and weak. We may even feel as if their salvation further cheats us in some way.
On the contrary, though, I think we all know that we should be praying for the bad guys – not for their damnation – but for their redemption. This prayer is far from weak; it takes great strength because it requires our surrender to let God manage a just punishment.
There was a notoriously greedy cheater and tax collector. His conversion changed history and touches your life right now. This “bad guy” was the apostle and Gospel author St. Matthew.
Indeed, magnificent victories arise through turning from great evil.
Our Lord in his Infinite Wisdom has given us free will and allows each of our lives the ability to make a lasting impact. I believe peace in the world will not come through retribution, but through repentance.
May God grant us the strength to endure and offer this prayer.