In its pure form, prayer is the divine breath of those whom the world tries to suffocate with terror.
By Henri Nouwen
The first thing we are called to do when you think of others as our enemies is to pray for them. This is certainly not easy. It requires discipline to allow those who hate us or those towards whom we have hostile feelings to come into the intimate centre of our hearts.
Yet every time we overcome this impatience with our opponents and are willing to listen to the cry of those who persecute us, we will recognize them as brothers and sisters too. Praying for our enemies is therefore a real event, the event of reconciliation. It is impossible to lift our enemies up in the presence of God and at the same time continue to hate them. Seen in the place of prayer, even the unprincipled dictator and the vicious torturer can no longer appear as the object of fear, hatred and revenge, because when we pray for them, we stand at the centre of the great mystery of Divine Compassion.
There is probably no prayer as powerful as the prayer for our enemies. But it is also the most difficult prayer since it is most contrary to our impulses. This explains why some saints consider prayer for our enemies the main criterion of holiness.
To cry out to the God of life in the midst of darkness, to hold on to joy while walking in a valley of tears, to keep speaking of peace when sounds of war fill the air—that is what prayer is about. It is indeed a clinging to the Lord when all is being torn apart by greed, hatred, violence and war.
In its pure form, prayer is the divine breath of those whom the world tries to suffocate with terror. Prayer is the martyrdom of those who live.
(Extracted from Henri Nouwen’s Circles of Love. Holland-born Nouwen (d.1996) was a Catholic priest).