My prayers are prayers of desperation lest I wish ill on the merely irritating.
I pray for those that annoy me by attentively pondering them.
I pray grudgingly at first, and the annoyances form the greater part of my inventories of the traits of the people on my prayer list. I keep thinking. I do not try myself with the laborious task of finding and praising their good qualities. There is little sanctity in my prayer. If I think of them, and think of them again tomorrow, out of simple boredom I begin to think beyond annoyances, and so better prayerfulness grows out of my own less praiseworthy traits.
So I think of them through more days. If I do not, I will lose my soul as I drown in pettiness. People whom I may try to avoid in life become my close daily companions in thought. I try to understand that the characteristics that annoy me are not evil in themselves. I may be able to remember kindnesses. I may see or sense their pains and fears. I pray again tomorrow.
I pray until I can sincerely wish for the best for their lives, and I mourn that, in my weakness, this frequently takes many tomorrows. Perhaps my soul has grown; at least, it has not shrunk. I remain selfish. And yet, it gets easier to see others wholly.
The next annoyances seem less vexing. There are longer intervals between additions to my prayer list. Less time passes before I can wish them well. I see more clearly. I am gentler. Righteousness comes no more, and indignation seldom.
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Cathleen Deery is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Big Flats, New York.
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The first time, I emerged merely breathless, wet, and cold.
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