“Pray for Your Enemies”


“In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. Our Church leaders today have often counseled us to do the same when we hold onto bad feelings about someone.”

This brief statement has been with me for many years. When I was 15 years old, I found it in the first issue of the Liahona to ever come into my hands. The name of the article was “Please Bless Kathy” (see Tambuli, September 1990, 44). I still remember that article well because of the role it played in my conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When I was in high school, three of my friends and I were expelled from school for a week. At that time I had a friend named Isabel, whom I had long considered one of my best friends. But now she had become my worst enemy and the person I held responsible for all the problems Mukuy, Janet, Juana, and I were having. It all started when Isabel spread some rumors behind our backs. She criticized us and made comments about me and my friends.

Because of her betrayal and our response to it, we were always arguing and fighting. The teachers in our school in Lerdo de Tejada, México, had to call us to order repeatedly. Things got so bad we were eventually punished with a five-day expulsion.

During those five days, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Isabel had treated us and how she had brought this upon us. As I thought about how much she had hurt me, I felt great anger and resentment against her.

One afternoon I decided to go to my friend Rosi’s house. Rosi had recently been baptized into a church I knew as the Mormon Church. For some time now, she had been inviting me over to talk about the things she believed in. She had even read to me out of a book she called the Book of Mormon.

This time Rosi invited me to attend church with her, and I felt a genuine interest in learning more. She gave me a copy of the Liahona (Spanish), and I promised her I would take time to read it.

But I didn’t read the magazine until some days later. My mind was too occupied with my resentment toward Isabel. When at last I began, I thumbed through the pages and found an article that caught my attention. The article was about a girl my own age who had gone through something similar to what I was going through with Isabel. She had experienced the same feelings of hatred and bitterness. The only difference between that girl and me was that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do what she did. I believed I would never be able to stop feeling the way I felt toward Isabel. I believed I would never be able to forgive her. And there was no way I would ever be able to pray for my enemy as the author of that article had.

I kept thinking about the article in the Liahona. Finding a story about something so similar to my own experience seemed strange to me. It never entered my mind to put into practice the idea of praying for my enemy. It might have worked for that girl, but I was sure it wouldn’t work for me. My feelings wouldn’t change.

The next Sunday I went to church with Rosi. I had almost succeeded in not thinking about the article anymore. But as I listened to the sacrament meeting talks, I started to think about it more intensely. For the rest of the day I found it impossible to stop thinking about it. Pray for your enemies, echoed in my mind.

That Sunday night, without even thinking about it, I started to pray. I prayed just as the girl in the article had—just as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. I prayed for Isabel, and with each word I uttered, I felt my heart beat louder and I couldn’t stop the tears.

When I finished my prayer, I was surprised at what I had done. But I also felt sure that when I saw Isabel the next day, I would still hate her and wouldn’t be able to remember what I had prayed for that night. My feelings wouldn’t have changed.

When I went back to school on Monday, my friends were waiting for me at the front door so we could plan our revenge. We had to do something to hurt Isabel and make her feel as bad as she had made us feel. She had to be taught a lesson.

But when I saw Isabel that morning, I no longer saw an enemy. I no longer saw a person I hated. Instead I saw my old friend. And I saw myself praying the night before. With tears in my eyes I wondered, How can I think about hurting her when last night I was asking God to bless her? And then I realized I was the one who had been taught a lesson. I had learned for myself the wisdom of the counsel to pray for our enemies.

Isabel and I became friends again as we had been before. My Heavenly Father answered my prayer and helped me change the bitterness and hatred in my heart. He helped me transform those feelings into feelings of love.

This experience has always been very special to me; it is the way the gospel of Jesus Christ came into my life.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Snow