Last Wednesday at our study about space for God we talked about prayer and compassion. One of the insights from the evening was that when we spend time praying for people like the homeless, the victims of crime etc. then we are more able to recognize them when they approach us for help.
As I have pondered that, I have also been thinking about a prayer that I used on Remembrance Day in worship. As we prayed for victims of war or conflict we used the refrain “and we pray harder for those who attack them.” Likewise for the poor, the homeless etc, because in every case there are those whose actions bring harm.
That, then, must mean that we are more able to recognize and have compassion for those who make war, oppress, attack and otherwise harm the world and its people through their actions or lack of action.
That is humbling. We prefer to be on the side of the victim and we rarely think about caring for the oppressor. In fact we can be very quick to judge those whose behaviour does not meet our moral code. I think that can be especially true for those of us whose orientation is justice, mercy, and mission. I know that I can fail to have compassion for them when I am fueled with outrage over the oppression of the “least of these”. Yet as the prayer I chose for Remembrance Day points out, when we pray for the victims we do need to pray and maybe pray harder for the victimizer.
I am humbled, because at my heart I do believe that. After 911 the sermon I preached said that the Lord seeks for and loves the lost lambs, even if they are flying planes into towers. I must say it is far easier to preach than to live by.
Yet if our prayers bring us into contact with God–and I believe that they do–then they must also make us aware of the needs of all those for whom Christ died.
The assignment for the week was to pray deeply about an issue that we read about or hear about in the news. That for me is easy because I am a “news junkie” and often pray for “those poor people, God.” But the challenge I set for myself has been to pray for those poor people and the people who harm them. Interesting challenge.
Especially interesting in the face of news items of late. What happens when we pray with compassion for the person behind the gun at mass shootings, or those behind the slaying of a journalist, or those involved in gang rape at a private boys school?
What happens? We bring them into the presence of God, and God who loves them ministers to their secret pain, and begins a softening in their hearts. Who knows what the outcome will be, or if we will be happy with the outcome–but that is not for us to say. Our responsibility is to pray for all kings and leaders, for our enemies and the enemies of countless people around the world. We can’t just pray for what and who are near and dear to us. We need to try and remember to pray also for the peace of the whole world and to start by praying for peace, wisdom, grace and compassion to be given to those whose actions will have a profound effect on the state of the world.
Today’s Prayer: ENEMIES
Enlivening God, whose love has been given to all people on earth
Nurture among us the desire to pray for those whom we despise as well as those we care about
Encourage us to pray for those who harm the world
Make your presence and your love known to those who have caused conflict, war, or irreparable harm to others
Instill in the hearts of the powerful a desire to rule with compassion and wisdom
Express your love to them and surround them with the guidance of your Holy Spirit
So that the whole world may come to know your peace and your joy.
This is our strong hope filled prayer. In Jesus name, Amen