Praying for one’s enemy is a spiritual exercise and altruistic value that is taught within Christianity. It is also something that is unnatural, and this might explain why loving, forgiving, and being kind to those who hurt us is heavily emphasized in the bible. The idea of praying for our enemies seems to be a strange thing to do, probably because it IS a strange thing to do.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5: 44-45
O.K…. Jesus has made it clear, pray for our enemies. But I’m concerned about what some people think is involved in praying for those who cause us harm.
Praying for those who continue to harm us is involves:
-Praying they will change their harmful behaviour
-Praying that they will be transformed for the better
-Praying that they see the error of their ways and the harm they have caused others
-Praying the person(s) involved in an offense make amends with those they have hurt (only if it is safe for the victims)
-Pray for the person to develop a Christ-like heart
-Praying for wisdom and guidance about how to deal with the person
-Praying for courage to protect and stand up for ourselves
Praying for our enemies doesn’t involve:
-Praying that others die or are harmed. This is called revenge; we are not called to be spiteful.
-Praying ill-will on their family
-Praying to God by asking him to do horrible things to others
-Ignoring the wrongs that a person has done
-Praying for a quick recovery so the person can rapidly return to the same destructive behaviour they engaged in before becoming sick
-Forcing others to pray for YOUR enemy. Prayer is heart-filled, intimate communication with God, it needs to be voluntary.
-Thinking that because we as Christians believe in praying for our enemies, it means that others are bad people if they don’t pray as well.
Prayer helps us remain focused. When we are emotionally driven, our thoughts are all over the place; we begin to lose control and are no longer thinking rationally. Nothing makes an enemy happier than seeing the people they are harming fall apart.
Engaging in the spiritual discipline of prayer also helps to prevent self destructive responses to the harm inflicted upon us. Praying before we act gives us time to slow down, identify what we are experiencing and feeling, and make smarter decisions. Praying for our enemies is as much a benefit for ourselves as it is for others.
2020 has proven to be an overwhelming year. So much is happening, much of it out of our control. I decided to spend the weekend focusing on the things I could control. I was feeling frustrated with wearing masks that left me feeling like someone had a pillow over my face all day, and the continuous limitations placed on us by pandemic bylaws and provincial regulations. There was nothing I could do about this, but what I could control was the amount of time I spent on social media.
I asked myself what activities I could engage in that didn’t include social media; there were plenty.
I know a number of people say that social media is necessary during this time due to restricted in person contact. That might sound reasonable on the surface, but limiting social media isn’t about removing yourself from necessary online contact like work and school, virtual family visits, and keeping in touch with friends.
Limiting social media or taking social media breaks are about not taking in too much distressing news, and about not relying on social media to keep us distracted. I didn’t enjoy scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing endless posts about people being shot, murdered, and killed; corrupt politicians, arguments about wearing masks, and conspiracy theories that made me question the intelligence of people I have known for years. When you are constantly bombarded by distressing news and information you eventually tune out and when that happens you risk not caring about things that matter in this world. You become desensitized to corruption, brutality, and injustice.
Something else that I’ve noticed during this pandemic is the level of envy and jealousy being expressed in comment sections. It’s alright for Jane and John Doe to have a good time during this season of upheaval. If they are the lucky ones who have been able to keep their jobs and maintain the same lifestyle pre-pandemic, let them enjoy themselves. Things may be rough for you right now, but trust and have faith that with time things will change. The job market and economy won’t always be bad.
Stay focused on being thankful for what you do have; sometimes it’s hard to feel thankful when you are struggling and need assistance; but an angry, bitter, and jealous heart makes difficult times even worse.
“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,…” Galatians 6: 3-4
Who you are as a child of God has nothing to do with your job status, bank account balance, or social status. Excess social media during troubling times does not build you up, instead it can easily bring you down; this is why finding things to do off line is so important during times like this.
I’m sharing with you a list from the website Cultivate What Matters. It has some great and simple ideas about what you can do instead of spending too much time online.
I recently started re-reading the book “Let Your Life Speak” by parker J. Palmer. I’m still only in the first chapter, but I’ve had to stop multiple and meditate on what I’m taking in.
What’s resonating with me within the context of getting used to living life in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be slowing it’s spread of a potentially deadly virus is a line from the opening chapter, “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” It is from the poem ASK Me by William Stafford.
The past four months of isolation, social isolation, and more spare time that I ever cared to have has help me with doing a lot of soul searching. If and when this pandemic is over we’ll all be facing a future that is significantly different. A number of restaurants and eateries have closed, some of our favourite clothing and department stores have shut down for good, people are still working from home, and many people have ended up unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on businesses.
If your job, material goods, and your leisure activities defined you – who are you once those things are no longer available?
Isolation, quarantine, social distancing, and endless online meetings have revealed our weaknesses and our strengths. The rapid changes that have taken place are an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s life.
Some simple questions to ask one’s self:
-What have I missed the most?
-What have I missed the least?
-What are some new ways of doing things that I enjoy or like?
-What are some old ways of doing things that I hope we don’t return to?
-What are some new skills I’ve learned over the past few months?
-What has my outlook been like? Hopeful, anxious, confused, grief-filled, resistant, disbelieving, etc.
If you haven’t taken some quiet time for internal reflection during this COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to do so. It’s not a time to beat yourself up or make extreme unattainable goals; it’s simply a time to reflect on what you’ve been feeling, thinking, and doing during these times of instability and rapid changes.
Whatever your reflections reveal, remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in the mid sized city I call home, we have now been in a pandemic state of emergency since March 17, 2020. Slowly, and possibly too quickly, our Province and city are beginning to “reopen” businesses and services with the intention of, as they have said, “get the economy going again”. It’s important to remember that businesses are being given permission to reopen, not because it is necessarily safe to do so, but because we have an economy that our government is worried about.
Returning to work and aiming to resume “normalcy” is a hot topic that brings out the anger, frustration, and fear in people. Some fear for their lives, others fear for their bank accounts.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Further into this chapter of Matthew Jesus tells us not worry about our lives: what we’ll eat, drink, or wear; but this is often easier said than done. I don’t want people to think that they are faithless if they have concerns about the essentials for life and living. People are worried about something during this pandemic. It might be their family, their health, their finances, their employment status, the house or rent, and the state of the world.
I don’t believe God is going to punish us or turn a blind eye towards our pandemic problems. He is our father, he understands our fears. What I do think God will be concerned about is how we handle these fears.
It’s important not to neglect our spiritual self during these troubling times. When we feel fear, don’t forget to take a moment to stop and ask yourself, “Why am I afraid”, “What am I afraid of” and “How am I handling this fear”.
Excessive worry and fear cloud our judgment, leading to poor decision making and additional stress. The key point to the Do Not Worry passage in Matthew is found in verse 27 “Can any one of your by worrying add a single hour to your life?” We know the answer is, no. This is why excessive worry is a waste.
If you’re wondering what we should be doing instead of worrying, here’s what Jesus tells us is a better choice, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
How do we seek first God’s kingdom during this COVID19 pandemic? Here are some ways.
Seek and speak truth: Don’t spread conspiracy theories, fake news and false information about COVID19 on your social media pages or in person. Be a person who speaks truth and knowledge.
Check on Yourself and Others: Do a self examen every day. Things change rapidly during a pandemic and it’s easy for us to become frustrated, angry, nervous, or confused. Check your feelings on a regular basis. Ask yourself, “how am I really doing?” Be honest with yourself. Check on your friends and family. See how they are doing? They might be coping better or worse than you, what matters is that you care about them. You don’t have to “fix” someone or cheer them up, all that is required is for you to be present when you do reach out to them.
Pray: Pray about what to do, how to live a life under lockdown, quarantine, sweaty masks, and social distancing. Ask God to guide your decisions and next steps. Don’t make any major decisions without praying first. Trust that God will guide you in the right direction even when if it means taking a difficult, unpredictable path.
Acknowledge the Experts: God most certainly wants us to trust him and activate our faith, but nothing makes a Christian looks more careless than dismissing experts who know what they’re talking about. Science is not the same as religion, scientists are supposed to develop new theories based on new and emerging evidence. As a nouveau corona virus scientists and the medical community are still learning about it; let them do their job, they know more and have more information than we do. God is not a fan of pridefulness. When the experts say there can be no church gatherings, there’s a reason, they are not on a mission to attack or destroy the church. Remember how Christians often say the church is more than a building? Well, now is the time to prove it.
Embrace technology: By embracing technology you can view Sunday sermons online, have virtual bible studies, and visit each other via apps like Zoom, Google, Facebook Chat, and Skype (to name a few). By embracing technology you can continue “meeting” together. It often feels more pleasant to meet in person, but for now, this is the next best thing.
Seek Help: God didn’t design humans to do things alone. If you need help with anything find a way. The need might be helping your kids with school work, learning how to use an online tool, or finding a place that provides help in the form of food, shelter, and finances. Whatever the need is there might be someone out there who can meet it. Be brave and put the word out that you need some help.
Work on personal development: Allow this pandemic to build your resiliency and character. Are you an impatient person? Try learning to be more patient while waiting in the long lines designed around social distancing and store capacity. Maybe you are not comfortable being alone. Now is a great time to learn to enjoy your own company. Do you have issues with being controlling? Well, this pandemic is a great way to learn that you can’t control everything; things have been changing constantly and it is mostly out of our control. Whatever plans you made a couple months ago are now uncertain.
Whatever your circumstances are during this global pandemic, please remain safe and remember we can survive this if we all work together.