Green prayer

Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel

Some silver linings turn out to be green. There was a spike in US gas prices during the war in Iraq, and one result was an awakened interest in super fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid-powered cars. If this focus on efficiency is based on a public desire to consider unselfishly interests beyond those of one individual or nation, it may be a green/silver lining to the dark clouds of war, even as the clouds fade and the price of gas falls.

People have various practical reasons for thinking of the environment. For some consumers, buying a high-tech, fuel-efficient car may be worth it because it costs less to own and to keep filled with gas. Others may feel that more fuel-efficient cars may be a good thing because they reduce dependence on foreign oil.

But although the technology is in place to build super-clean, fuel-efficient cars (they're already in dealer showrooms in limited but growing numbers), maybe what's really exciting about all this is that it's coupled with a greater openness of thought on the part of the public. This points to a spiritual impulsion that's worth nurturing for so many reasons. And that's where prayer comes in.

Prayer isn't about herding American consumers into showrooms to make particular purchases. It isn't about influencing oil consumption or making political decisions. But it is about detecting and supporting humanity's most spiritually authentic impulses. Those impulses are always good - "green," if you will, in the sense that they are always fresh, unfailingly unselfish and caring, promotive of everything that's good for humanity. Our prayerful impulses are not heaps of self-centered wants. And although it's often dormant, unselfishness, even to the point of visionary caring for others, is present in each individual because God puts it there.

Maybe that's what the Psalmist saw. "The Lord is my shepherd," begins one of the most loved of all psalms, "I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters" (Ps. 23:1, 2). Some scholars say the Hebrew word translated want also means "fail" (see "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance"). It seems safe to say that God doesn't shepherd us to that point of "not wanting" by indulging our every whim, feeding our every selfish desire. It's when we're cleansed of these that we're free to make our best choices. Through the power of the Shepherd, of divine Love, we never fail to be in the presence of green pastures and peaceful waters - to find solutions to the world's problems.

As we follow God's lead, identifying all humanity as part of the same flock, we can expect to find resources for humanity that are pristine and renewable. He will guide us to them. They are not essentially physical things like nonpolluting, gas-miserly cars. They are, in fact, moral and spiritual, qualities of openness to good, unselfish caring, visionary foresightedness. Such qualities of thought are never spent, and they point the thinker to decisions - political, personal, environmental - that can't help resulting in our taking better care of the planet and ourselves.

I'm reminded of a poem that the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote. Like the 23rd Psalm, it utilizes the metaphor of God as the Shepherd and describes how this God of love provides for His sheep and restores us to an original cleanness. It concludes in prayer to God, asking of Him:

Feed the hungry, heal the heart,
Till the morning's beam;
White as wool, ere they depart,
Shepherd, wash them clean.

"Poems," pg. 14

Washed clean. With unthreatened, green pastures. It's worth prayerfully remembering that this is how the Shepherd sees us and sees the whole planet.

Create in me
a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit
within me.
Psalms 51:10

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