Let’s talk about prayer today. Specifically prayer for those who may upset us (those we might even consider an “enemy.”) Typically, the two types of prayer that I commonly hear are a) pleading for help b) asking the genie God for wish.
The pleading prayer is usually at the point of a direct need… it comes through dark emotions of fear and worry. It can sound like, “LORD PLEASE Help me through this problem.”
Wishful prayer wishes for things. It cries out, “I want.. I want..” Instead of a desperate need (as in the pleading prayer) we have a cry for a wish to be granted.
I find either of these as less effective than a deeper prayer that establishes the origin of the speaker (Divine Source) and the origin of their target of prayer. When you pray considering the same source within both yourself and the other (that person whom frustrates you), you begin to touch upon the subject of “oneness.” We begin to re-evaluate the nature between “self” and “other.”
Prayer for our Enemies
When we think of our “enemies,” it seems today we hardly think of praying for them. Yet the great spiritual forces have taught their disciples that compassion and love towards the so called “enemy” is very important.
Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 5:38-48
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The pacifism of Buddhism likewise teaches a similar path of love and compassion towards one’s “enemies.” The Buddhist Master, Shantideva gave a lecture on a practice called “Exchanging Self With Others.” In his teachings Master Shantideva talks about the illusionary nature of the idea of “self.” Self can extend – it can move from an individual to a spouse… to a family… a race… a nation. It can grow or shrink. It could even extend to a possession. When the idea of self, however, separates us from others it becomes a problem. The practice of Meditation and Exchanging Self With Others, allows us to find a oneness – eliminating the problem of enmity.
From Master Shantideva’s work Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (translated by Asian Classics Institute):
From the very beginning exert yourself
In the practice of treating others
And yourself the same.
When the happiness and the sufferings
Are the same, then you will care for all
Just as you do yourself.
Such sentiment of the Buddhist is also about how we see others – as really extensions of ourselves. Adding to this, the idea of Karma (the return of our actions) – our giving to others (especially enemies) creates a wonderful return.
How do we pray for our enemies?
We can see them as extensions of ourselves. Think of the enemy… are there people who love them? Are there people who see them as caring? Do they have children who love them? Parents who love them? Do they suffer like us? Are they in pain? Do they get what they don’t want and not have what they desire? If we consider this long enough we will probably see they share some of the same issues of ourselves.
Another idea is to find the Divine Source that is within yourself, as something existing in all beings (even your enemy.) Meditation on this will bring a person to the Gnosis of Oneness.
A Meditation: The Enemy as a Child
If you find compassion and love towards children, it may help to see your enemy as they were when they were a child. You could imagine them as they were at 3 years old. They weren’t the person in your life. They were without the negative traits they now seem to radiate.
Just take a moment and ponder what horrible things may have happened to this person as a child, to make them the way they are now. Where they hurt by others? Are they damaged? Perhaps they lost a loved one early on.
Think of all the possible things that may have hurt them to make them cynical, cruel or manipulative. Draw in your feelings of compassion towards them as a child. Perhaps consider your own children/child. If your child was hurt this way, perhaps they would become a similar person?
If you don’t have a child, consider yourself as a child. Did you go through similar things that this person did? What if you were hurt/abused worse, could you have become like your enemy?
Think for a moment about your own actions. Do you have any thoughts or activities that are similar to the actions you dislike in your enemy? If your enemy is cruel to you, do you harbor angry or cruel thoughts towards another?
Take time to ponder the actions of the “enemy” that are so troubling and see if you have any similar thoughts or actions in your own life. If you discover something in your life that is similar, jot it down as something to work on.
Prayer of Words
If you pray with words you can ask your own Divine Source to bless this person. But you must first make sure your feelings for them are positive and pure.
Once you have love in your heart, you can accomplish much. The enemy is no longer the enemy. In love you pray a blessing such as:
God/ Source / I, ask that [the other, or enemy] becomes blessed with the fullness of your source. Your energy already at work within them is turning their minds to focus upon the higher. As they feel your presence within their own hearts, they turn to express love to you and me as I do to them.
The above is a simple example only. Prayer should include positive affirmations – acknowledging that the Divine Source is already here and working through the situation. It also needs to be heartfelt.
Wordless Prayer & Blessing
A wordless prayer is one in which we simply tap into the Divine source of presence within our own lives, and we then express it outward like a force or energy, blessing the other.
This first requires us to tune into the Divine force within us. One method is the following:
- Sit in a position with your back straight, hands on your knees (or cupped in your lap)
- Close your eyes
- Take a few moments and mentally follow your breath. As you breathe in through your nose, mentally acknowledge the breathe and follow it from the start of the in breath to it’s conclusion. Follow the out breath as well. If any thoughts arise, let them go and return your focus to your breathing.
- Do this for 10 minutes or more.
- Mentally scan your body and look for points of stress. Focus on each point of stress and relax that part of your body.
- At this point, mentally picture a brilliant point of light within a mental image of your body. You could imagine your body as a outline standing in your mental space. But at the center of your chest, you see a brilliant point of light.
- Focusing on that point of light in your chest, pull up a positive emotion of love. You could remember someone you love deeply. You want to feel out your body for a sensation of force. As though this emotion has a force to it.
- Mentally extend this force field of compassion and love from your center to surround you.
- Extend this field from around you to another person.
The above is just one methodology to achieve this. What is occurring is that we are tapping into the heart chakra – which correlates to the positive emotions of love and compassion. It is not related to the physical body heart, but more the center of our chest.
Once you are able to tune into this point and feel this depth of emotion, you can immediately tune to it and extend it to someone else.
Personally, I feel the most effective blessing is one that is wordless.
Love & Light – One of the Best Prayers for our Enemies
When I was part of a Hindu group that studied the works of Yogananda, I was given the mantra:
[the other person] is filled with love and light.
After repeating it, we begin to know it as true.
Then we modify it to:
I am filled with love and light.
After repeating it, we begin to know that is true.
Then with the two truths the bridge between them is that we are one in the Love and Light of the Divine.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s Harmony Prayer
The Hindu teacher and Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda is perhaps best known for his inspiring work, “Autobiography of a Yogi.” He established the SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship) and from that have come various offshoots, including Ananda.
Ananda is a wonderful group that started with Swami Kriyananda (Donald Walters.) Ananda has a strong online presence and have produced considerable teachings both online and in print.
The quote below is taken from the group Ananda and is a teaching of praying for another via Love & Light:
Visualize the person in question in the divine light, and then pray from your heart, “Lord, fill [him/her/a situation] with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” Repeat this for about a minute. Then visualize yourself in divine light, and say, “Lord, fill me with peace and harmony, peace and harmony” for fifteen seconds. For maximum effect it’s recommended to say this prayer (both parts) five times daily. –Source: email from Ananda.org
Praying for our enemies allows us to break the barrier of “me” and “other.” It also helps us discover our own similar thoughts and actions. By growing compassion for others (especially our enemies), we become more like God – expressing love to those who hate.
In my personal life, I don’t know that I have a true “enemy,” but I do have people who frustrate me. The figure of Donald Trump in the news is often a point of frustration for me. But rather than hate him or be upset with him, I feel he must be treated with compassion and love.
From the Buddhist perspective, the only way to remove negative people from our life, is to love them. In this way our karma changes and we generate a new vision where the frustrating individuals no longer reign.