Friday, February 26, 2010

Pray For Your Enemies

Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies. I suppose many of us have done that, but it is not an easy thing to do with true and generous love in our hearts.  Our dilemma may not be whether or not we pray for them, but how we pray for them. If we are praying that they will change, than I think we have misunderstood what Jesus is asking of us. If you know someone who considers you an enemy, how would you feel about their prayer that you change? It is hard to pray for our enemies when even the thought of them makes our hearts agitated. But we are truly blessed with the task of holding others in prayer, even our enemies. Thomas Kelly, in his Testament of Devotion describes a way of holding others in prayer as an “interior act and attitude,” as “inward, wordless prayer.” We all provide this for others and we all need this special holding. I trust that there are those who hold me before God; how wonderful it is to know that I am held this way.

This is different than what we often experience as intercessory prayer. In intercessory prayer, we hold others in the light of God’s love with a particular need such as healing or empowerment. Many folks have lists of people for whom they pray, some of whom they may not even know personally. Our prayer chains diligently work to surround us in prayer, or cover us with prayer. We are even guarded or protected in prayer. I am very thankful for all those prayers and I have prayed for people many times with such ideas in mind. The power of this kind of prayer is well documented. But to be held wordlessly, without ceasing, with no agenda, in the presence of God by someone that knows me and loves me fills me with a sense of wonder and amazement. What do you think God will do? Here I am, held up to God’s attention, simply there for God to love. God knows what is needful better than even I myself know. I rest in God’s embrace not only because God embraces me, but also because someone else holds me there.

We do this for each other, even or perhaps especially our enemies. Just as someone does it for me, I do it for those whom God has given to me for this special purpose. That includes my enemies. I think it is much easier to pray for my enemies this way – the agenda is not up to me. I can still be angry or upset with my enemy and trust that God knows what is needful (which may have more to do with me than with my enemy!). We hold others before God just as we are held before God. What a stunning and beautiful reality.

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