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PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES...FIRST
October 16, 2003
 
It is 8:00 in the morning in New York and 1pm in London. This is the second day of the two-day summit of Anglican Primates to deal with the action of the American House of Bishops in approving Gene Robinson's election as Bishop of New Hampshire. Perhaps there will be some news in mid-afternoon, New York time.

I have had several emails from outside the communion asking about the designation "primates." Some have mentioned lemurs, chimpanzees and other intelligent animals of the same phylum. Others have asked if such a title isn't a tad too hierarchical for our century. I don't imagine the second concern troubles many of the Primates. They have never expressed an opinion on the first. My advice is to let it go: the Church is an outfit that calls a lobby a "narthex," a goblet a "chalice," a plate a "paten" and a breadbox a "ciborium." Its priests wear ponchos, which they call "chasubles," made of fabrics otherwise used only in curtains. You're not going to change them.

They may, however, change themselves. Or they may not. Something, though, will come out of the meeting in London, and Anglicans all over the world are watching and waiting. And arguing. Threatening to leave and threatening to stay. Calling each other names.

The time for argument is over. I do believe just about everything that could be said on either side of the argument about homosexuality in the Church has been said, hundreds of times in hundreds of places. We have done that.

I believe that prayer is now the only thing left to people who are worried about the outcome of this meeting -- and worried, in general, about what is ahead. Prayer is the only thing left, and it is fortunate that prayer is a mighty thing. Its might, though, is manifest to us in strange and indirect ways. God's response to prayer is not immediate and clear, as we wish it were. The reason for this lies not in God's inability to express Himself, but in our inability to understand. This is not our fault. God is God. We are only primates.

In praying about this controversy, consider praying first for the one with whom you disagree. Think about praying first for the one who infuriates you. And pray for that person or group of people without an agenda of your own -- don't pray that they might see the error of their ways and repent, or that God might give them all a walloping case of intestinal flu. Don't pray anything specific for them. You don't need to. The madder you are about it, the more assiduously you should avoid any words at all in your prayer for your enemy. Leave the details to God. God doesn't need our suggestions anyway --- He is fully informed about our affairs. We don't need to tell God things. God knows.

Just name them before God. Picture them, if you can. Picture them in the hands of God -- literally -- if you have that kind of childish ability to imagine. Just lift them up to God for blessing, the same blessing for which you yourself long. You need do nothing beyond this in prayer.

Something interesting will happen if you do this: your foe will become a human being to you. He will cease to be a cartoon of his offense. You will come to understand that there is more to him than the part you despise. This is the beginning of healing. And there is more: something happens in your foe when you pray as well. Not something you can predict or control, but there is an ecology of prayer: change something, and everything changes, just a little. A lot, sometimes. You have to be foolish enough and brave enough to take the counterintuitive step of praying with humility and without words for someone you can't stand. For those who can summon such foolishness and such courage, miracle awaits.

Spend some time in the prayer for your enemy, in these days of high emotion and hot temper. Have the courage to present your adversary to God in trust that God knows our hearts -- all of our hearts -- and that Christ is, as we have always maintained, the Lord of history. Nothing can happen, in the Church or in the world, that is beyond the mercy of God to heal. Nothing is beyond the power of God to turn what happens in human affairs to possibility and good.

The healing and goodness of God is hard for us to grasp sometimes. Sometimes it's so obvious to us what should happen, and we are heartbroken and angry when something else happens instead. But God is never absent from anything that happens. God is around here someplace. Dry your eyes and look around. Listen. There is an unexpected good here.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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