“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
– Matthew 5:43-48
I listened to the BBC Sporting Witness episode on Eric Liddell, the Flying Scotsman. As a missionary in China, he was placed in a Japanese prison camp, started a Bible study group, and encouraged the participants to pray for the Japanese.
I notice for myself how powerful it is to pray for the health and well-being of myself and others, and especially those who trigger beliefs in me. As I pray, an image often comes up of them living in health and happiness, of love flowing from their heart center and filling them and their surroundings, and of them as light and love (as they and all of us and everything already are).
As one of the participants in the Bible group says, this shifts how I relate to the ones I pray for. Love and sincere well-wishing replaces whatever resentment and fear may be there. It’s as if love takes up the space where fear otherwise would be.
When Jesus asked if you love only those who love you, what reward will you get? I find for myself that my reward is to stay in resentment and fear. As I instead include in my sincere prayer and well-wishing the ones I tell myself disturb me, the reward is love – a love that is all encompassing and all inclusive of myself and others. This is the perfect love that already is here, that we all already are and everything already is, and which I prevent myself from seeing, feeling and living when I am caught in resentment, fear and beliefs.
When I pray for others, I often pray for those close to me and myself, include the wider circles (family, friends, city, country, all humans, all beings, the Earth, all beings in the universe), and also the ones I sometimes have beliefs about. Sometimes, I start with the latter group, and include myself and those close to me. And sometimes, I go back in time in my own life, praying for myself and others in situations that triggered beliefs and fears in me. I may also pray for groups of people, all humans, or all beings, in the present, past and future.