The following prayer, it is said, was found near the body of a dead child in the Ravensbrück concentration camp during World War II:
O Lord, remember not only men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they inflicted on us. Remember the fruits we have born thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this; and when they come to judgment let all the fruits that we have born be their forgiveness.
The first time I read that, it left me speechless—and leveled—in such a tender and necessary way I cannot quite find the words to describe it.
Here it is, I thought, plain as day, this terrible “new love your enemies commandment” given to us by the Lord in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (5:43-48).
And prayer—gorgeous, heartfelt, magnanimous prayer—for one’s persecutors. Could Jesus really mean it, even in this? Could He possibly expect it—from me? Weak and little and mewling as I often am, and over ridiculously-less-egregious offenses than those suffered in Ravensbrück? How does one acquire such a forgiving heart, such greatness of heart?
Truly, I cannot conjure a heart like that for myself. But what I can do is step under the umbrella of the Father’s mercy and take shelter there. What I can do is hide my heart in the wound of His side, tuck my littleness close to His pierced heart and beg Him to teach me how to say the words, “They have no idea how they’ve hurt me; forgive them anyway.” I can beg Him to teach me how to mean it one day, how to love my enemies, in prayer.
Where do you struggle to forgive? For whom do you struggle to offer great-hearted prayer? Today let’s practice together praying for our enemies, loving them through our intercession, and trust that Jesus will always accept and assist a magnanimous prayer-warrior in the making.
Thank you for being here.
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