Taking a while to catch up with the Sunday Times, I noticed in the ‘Life Lessons’ section that the agony aunt Sally Brampton was recommending prayer.
Someone wrote in about her dislike of her fiance’s friend which was bad enough to make her want to bar him from their wedding. Sally B. tried to jolly her into putting up with him for the big day, and then wrote:
“Okay, now I want you to grit your teeth and pray for them, every day. Yes, it sounds bonkers, but it works – following a long line of Buddhist tradition. Wish them light and happiness and ask for your resentment to be lifted. I’m not suggesting you turn into a Zen monk [why not nun?] but, as difficult and jaw-clenching as it will feel at first, turning your thoughts to peace rather than hatred does have a remarkable lightening effect on the mind.”
Well, has she been reading Karen Armstrong’s Compassionate Life? She certainly recommends the personal therapuetic benefit of ‘loving one’s enemy’ through a mode of Buddhist mindfulness. But why Buddhist prayer? Is it somehow more acceptable than Christian prayer, which has as much if not more about loving your enemies and praying for them. Perhaps it doesn’t spell out the steps to be taken quite so clearly. But more likely, Christian forgiveness arises out of convictions about God which are not familiar or even plausible to many in their traditional presentations.
I wonder if children in ‘circle time’ at schools will be taught to pray for others they dislike in this God-free but ‘mind-lightening’ way.