Saturday, July 08, 2006

More thoughts on praying for our enemies

The current threads about "praying for our enemies," and "wrapping Jesus in an American flag" has made me stop and think.

Specifically, I've been worried about how to pray for enemies. This issue is hard for me. The human temptation is to pray for victory, which is not unreasonable because victory would bring peace of a sort. But a straight victory prayer violates the commands of Our Lord (as Andy pointed out, in the post just below) to pray for our enemies. To pray for victory is really a prayer for self.

So, with the understanding that I'm not a deep thinker and that I don't have the final answer, here are some of my thoughts:

(1) As we've noted here earlier, a prayer for peace is--in one sense--a prayer for our enemies, as well as for our troops "in harm's way."

(2) The peace prayer needs to be for a lasting peace, not just a cease fire. Like Abraham Lincoln noted in the Gettysburg Address, we don't want "these honored dead" to have "died in vain." If we can't build a lasting peace, the following conflict could be worse than the present one, i.e. World War II following the cease fire of World War I.

(3) We need to pray to recognize our opponents as fellow humans. We need to keep a clear-eyed view of our acts of war for what they are--acts against other humans. The prayer would protect us from propaganda that would objectify opponents.

(4) We need to pray that if the conflict must continue, that civilians be spared as much as possible. I'm old enough to remember the photograph from Vietnam of the burned little girl running down a smoky road after an air strike. She's naked and screaming, and none of the troops passing her are even looking up. Similar images come out of Iraq, followed by similar nightmares.

(5) Perhaps we should pray that the leaders of both sides will--if I may use a sports metaphor here--step out of the batter's box. As Barbara Tuchman noted in The Guns of August, both sides has to work for years to bring on World War I. They had no idea how bad it would be when the shooting started in 1914. So the last thing we need is for leaders to take things to "the next level."

(6) We need to pray for forgiveness. I don't feel like going into the labyrinth of "just war" theory. In summary, it seems to be that organized violence is sinful and against the will of God. Forgiveness is needed all around.

(7) We need to pray for forgetfulness. In cultures that teach hatred in the crib, violence can linger for centuries. We need the wounds to heal as quickly as possible so that new wounds will not be inflicted.

Those are my thoughts on praying for enemies. Reactions?

On the subject of wrapping Jesus in the American flag, I remember reading once that British historian Arnold Toynbee said the "Church of England" was in the business of worshipping England. The participants assumed that Jesus (and his Father) were Englishman.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith


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