Recently a friend shared a story of how he was brought up short when he was praying the Lord’s Prayer. Everything had been going fine until he reached the line that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
What happens when we hold on to our anger against someone else? when we refuse to forgive them?
What about those people we consider “enemies”? Are we supposed to pray for them as well? to forgive them? Isn’t it right to hold them accountable? to have righteous anger?
Are we supposed to pray for them to change? or for us to change? Are we supposed to just roll over and let them do whatever they want?
I’ve struggled with those questions. There aren’t easy answers.
When I think of those questions, I’m reminded of a scene I enjoy in Fiddler on the Roof: Tevye is saying that they have a prayer for everything in the community. We see the students coming out of the synagogue with the rabbi, with the rabbi’s son asking him if there is a prayer for the tsar. The rabbi thinks for a moment and then says, “May God bless and keep the tsar…far away from us!”
Sometimes that’s the only way I can pray. And maybe that’s a start.
Sometimes I just have absolutely no idea of words to use. And that’s okay as well. If the desire is there, that is the start of prayer.
Praying for enemies…forgiving others…sometimes starts as an act of will. Sometimes I almost “throw” those prayers at God, saying something like “Okay, God…I have no idea what to say or what to pray for, for these people. But here they are. I give them to you.”
That doesn’t mean that we can’t be angry at the results of their actions (or inactions)…or that we can’t hold them accountable…just as others hold us accountable.
We have to see them as loved children of the Divine–just the same as we see ourselves. That’s not easy. But only then can we begin to find–and create–peace in this world.