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Prayers of loving-kindness

Prayers of loving-kindness

We’ve all experienced difficult, contentious, and broken relationships. It seems to me that we are corporately experiencing more of this than ever as our differences become ever more extreme, and we’re increasingly losing the ability to find common ground or stay engaged with those with different views.

We have few concrete cultural practices laid out for us to help us work toward reversing this trend or for addressing the difficult and broken relationships in our lives, and that leaves us stuck not knowing how to move forward.

There is a Buddhist practice known as metta meditation, which is often translated as loving-kindness meditation, that is a pathway for this kind of mending and healing that few in the West are familiar with or make use of. It’s designed to evoke a sense of loving-kindness for all people in our lives by nurturing these feelings for those dearest to us and gradually moving outward to those we count as enemies.

The practice involves repeating a series of blessings while holding a person (or group of people) in our mind’s eye—beginning first with ourselves then others, working our way from those we have loving feelings toward, to those for whom our feelings may be neutral (acquaintances and strangers), to those whom we view as our enemies.

I’ve adapted this practice for use with an Anglican rosary, as shown below.

Cross prayer:

Loving God, fill my heart with the love that you freely give. Make love my first and last thoughts. May I love others and freely give to them. Make my spirit a spirit of joy, happiness, and love for both my friends and my enemies. Help me love as abundantly as you have loved me. Amen. (from DailyPrayerGuide.net)

Invitatory bead:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Cruciform beads:

Help me to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God. (adapted from Ephesians 5:2)

Pause here to picture the person or group of people you will focus on for the blessings for that week of beads. The more vividly you can picture the person (or people) and these blessings flowing out to them, the more helpful this process will be.
Week 1: yourself
Week 2: a person or group of people you have loving feelings toward
Week 3: a person or group of people for whom your feelings are neutral (for example, acquaintances or strangers, like a store clerk you interact with or the barista at your local coffee shop)
Week 4: a person or group of people you dislike, are in conflict with, or otherwise have a difficult relationship with

Week beads:

Use the following blessings for each of the 7 week beads by inserting the name of the person or the group of people you are thinking of into the blank. It’s also fine to use I/my for yourself in the first week, and they/their for groups, if that’s easier than a name. (These are adapted from a wide variety of versions of metta meditations found online.)

  1. May _______ be well.
  2. May _______ be healthy and strong.
  3. May _______ be happy.
  4. May _______ be free from suffering.
  5. May _______ be free from danger.
  6. May _______’s mind be at ease.
  7. May _______ be at peace.

Once you’ve completed all four weeks of blessings, return to the Invitatory bead prayer and Cross prayer listed above.

If you wish to do a more extended version of this loving-kindness prayer practice, you can go around the loop multiple times using multiple individuals from each category in weeks 2-4 listed above. In this case, making your last week of blessings for a corporate blessings on all of us (“May we all …”) can be an uplifting ending.

As a side note, I am particularly fond of using the dumortierite and snow quartz Anglican rosary with a pendant of Jesus’s face in place of the cross (shown in the image for this post) for this particular practice because there’s something about His face that helps me connect with wanting to mirror His loving ways more completely.

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