... Of which I am the first
5) Learn to say this prayer: “Dear Lord, bless [annoying person’s name] and have mercy on me!”—56 Ways to Be Merciful in the Jubilee Year of Mercy
It began on subway trains and buses.
In between staring out the window, reading books and catching some extra shut-eye during my daily treks to work and classes, I noticed people who looked like they could use a prayer, so I would silently ask God to bless them. It wasn’t always the ones who looked homeless, or seemed to be “on” something or looked like they were about to explode; oftentimes my fellow travelers didn’t appear outwardly needy at all, but there was a weariness in their eyes or a way they would strike me, and I’d ask God to bless them.
It became a habit to do this, a way I could intercede for others in the midst of my everyday life.
It was easy to offer these prayers when I was consistently hopping subways and riding buses in the big city. Every day, when I left my house, whether I was walking along crowded streets or hanging out in bustling cafes, I encountered many different people with many different hidden stories.
When I moved to a small town to attend graduate school, life changed a lot, but the habit of silently asking God to bless random strangers stayed with me and ended up morphing into a slightly different kind of prayer.
I get along well with most people and like to think I’m not easily rattled, but during the first few months of my studies I found myself constantly annoyed by a particular person whose path I crossed a lot. He was passionate about what he believed and loved to argue his points, and although I often appreciate this in a person, this particular guy constantly rubbed me the wrong way. We got into arguments on a regular basis, and I often left our encounters frustrated and angry.
One day as I was steaming about yet another thing this guy had proclaimed from on high, the blessing prayer came to mind. He wasn’t a needy-looking stranger on a subway train, and I didn’t feel like asking God to bless him — instead I wanted to ask the good Lord to shut him up, or better yet, change him.
But after some reflection it occurred to me: he wasn’t the only one who needed to change. I did too. What did it say about me that I was always triggered and annoyed by this guy? And where was my patience? My compassion?
So my prayer became, “Dear Lord, bless [annoying person’s name] and have mercy on me.” It lessened my frustration, and in time, eventually changed the way I related to this person.
This prayer has come in handy many times since — because I don’t live on a desert island and even the people I love the most annoy me sometimes. If our personal and professional lives don’t offer us ample opportunity to be annoyed with someone from time to time, the Internet will be happy to provide such occasions in spades.
Asking God to bless those who annoy us, who hurt us, who we don’t like or who don’t like us is much harder than asking him to bless people we love, or strangers who tug on our heartstrings. Praying for our enemies is one way to love them, which the Lord commands us to do, but asking for mercy for ourselves at the same time takes it a step further. It’s an acknowledgement that we ourselves are in need and sinful. Asking for God’s mercy while asking him to bless someone we find annoying forces us off our high horse and reminds us that humility is the only path to holiness.
Zoe Romanowsky is the lifestyle editor and video content producer for Aleteia.