Five of us on the leadership team led a workshop with some of the high school youth in our area one evening. We want them to grow as we did in our leadership training with the Spirit Journey Youth. So we used a lesson that was taught to us.
We handed out this story of the Desert Fathers and read it aloud.
“Abba Zeno said, ‘If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.”
- What are the words or phrases that jump out at you?
Responses were: “hear quickly,” stretches out his hands” and “enemies.”
- What did you question? What came as hard to believe?
Responses “I don’t believe it.” “Who stretches out his hands to pray?” “Sounds like blackmail to me—pray for enemies and get what you want?” “Why not pray for the poor first, why enemies?”
- Let’s say you do pray for your enemies first before you pray for something else. What stuff could that clear up inside you?
Responses: One person says “If I pray for someone I hate, maybe I will get rid of my hate.” Another youth says “But what if your enemy is someone who hurts you? How can you pray for that?”
So we had a conversation on how forgiveness does not mean you like what the enemy had done. Then one of the youth points out that it doesn’t say forgiveness, it says ‘pray with all your heart for your enemy.’ So we talked about praying with all your heart.
The best response came from a 15 year old who says “Maybe it means not holding anything back from God.”
- What do you think God wants you to learn from this?
Responses: “I think God wants me to care about more than just my friends and family.” “I think God wants me to grow a bigger heart.” “I think God wants prayers that are real.”