"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." (Jesus, Matthew 5.43-44, NRSV)
Anselm (A.D. 1033-1109) was a medieval theologian as well as a spiritual giant. His Prayers and Meditations remains a favorite of mine. One of his prayers is "A Prayer for Enemies" I find particularly moving and relevant. Whether our "enemy" is Iraq, another ethnic minority, a husband, wife, son, daughter or whomever, I think this prayer shares some insight with us. I wanted to share it with my family at Southside. (Anselm wrote this about A.D. 1070 to 1080ish). I realize there is some terminology that we may disagree with in this prayer, however, we should not let that obscure the real spiritual wisdom expressed here.
A Prayer for Enemies
Almighty and tender Lord Jesus Christ
I have asked you to be good to my friends,
and now I bring before you what I desire in my heart for my
For you see, O God, the reins and the heart,
you penetrate the secrets of my mind.
If you have sown in the soul of your servant
something that can be offered to you,
you see it there;
nor can it lie hid from you
if I and the enemy of mankind have sown there
that which will have to be consumed by fire
Most gracious God,
do not despise what you have sown,
but cherish and increase it,
perfect and preserve it.
I can begin nothing good without you,
neither can I bring anything to fruition
nor maintain it, without you.
Merciful God, do not judge me
according to that which displeases you in me,
but root up that which you have not sown
and save the soul you have created.
For without you I cannot amend,
because whatever is good in us you have made
and not we ourselves.
My soul would not be able to bear it
if you should judge it accoring to its sins.
You alone, Lord, are mighty;
you alone are merciful;
whatever you make me desire for my enemies,
give it to them and give the same back to me,
and if what I ask for them at any time
is outside the rule of charity,
whether through weakness, ignorance, or malice,
good Lord, do not give it to them
and do not give it back to me.
You who are the true light, lighten their darkness;
you who are the whole truth, correct their errors;
you who are the true life, give life to their souls.
For you have said to your beloved disciple
that he who loves not remains dead.
So I pray, Lord, that you will give them love for you
and love for their neighbor, as far as you ordain that they should have it,
lest they should sin before you against their brother.
Tender Lord Jesus,
let me not be the cause of the death of my brothers,
let me not be to them a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.
For it is more than enough, Lord
that I should be a scandal to myself,
my sin is sufficient to me.
Your slave begs you for his fellow slaves,
lest because of me they offend
against the kindness of so good and great a Lord.
Let them be reconciled to you and in concord with me,
according to your will and for your own sake.
This is the punishment
that in the secret of my heart
I want to exact
for those who serve with me and those who sin with me --
this is the punishment that I ask
for those who serve with me and hate me -
let us love you and each other
as you will and is expedient for us,
so that we may make amends to the good Lord
for our own and for each other's offences;
so that we may obey with one heart in love one Lord and one Master.
This is the revenge your sinner asks
on all who wish him evil and act against him.
Most merciful Lord
prepare the same punishment for your sinner.
Do this, my good Creator and my merciful Judge,
according to your mercy that cannot be measured.
Forgive me all my debts
as I before you forgive all those indebted to me.
Perhaps this may not be so
because in your sight I have not yet done this perfectly,
but my will is set to do it,
and to that end I am doing all that I can.
So I offer this to you here, Lord,
so that you may perfectly forgive my sins
and deal with me as gently as you can.
Hear me, good and great Lord,
for my soul hungers and longs
to feed upon the experience of your love,
but it cannot fill itself with you;
for my heart can find no name to invoke
that will satisfy my heart.
For no words have here any taste to me
when my love receives from you that which you give.
I have prayed, Lord, as I can,
but I wish I could do more.
Hear me, and answer as you are able,
for you can do all that you will.
I have prayed as a weak man and a sinner;
you who are mighty and merciful hear my prayer.
Fulfill my prayer, Lord, not only for my friends
and the enemies for who I have prayed,
but distribute the healing of your mercy
wherever you know it may help anyone
and not be contrary to your will,
both to the living and the departed.
Hear me always with your favour,
not according as my heart wills or as my mouth asks,
but as you know and will that I ought to wish and ask,
O Saviour of the world,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns God throughout all ages.
(The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm, With the Proslogion, trans. Benedicta Ward, pp. 216-219). This is a Penguin Classic.
I realize this is a fairly lengthy quote but this is a rich prayer. The idea of the "punishment" to be received is that we "love" one another is, in my view, wonderful. Can you imagine what might happen in our divided churches, our divided communities and broken marriages if we prayed for our enemies like this? A revival might come!
May it be so!