The world, it seemed, was standing still. Or, at the very least, holding its breath. Given the global landscape-altering decisions that have been made by the current US government, I guess it's no surprise that so many eyes were on the presidential election last month. Nevertheless, the high level of interest didn't really hit home for me until I read a news report detailing the number of leaders who were watching the returns with a sort of grim resignation.
Call it a statement of the obvious, but the news flash stirred my thoughts. I was troubled by what I saw as an inadvertent US-centrism. And though I'm not so naive as to think that the US doesn't throw its weight around when it comes to international affairs, I also realized how important it is not to think of the world as revolving around the US.
Sifting through some of my own attitudes and perspectives proved telling on this front. Often, I suddenly saw, my own responses to world events - both intellectual and prayerful - were painfully America-centric. And though I certainly believe in the need for - and power of - prayer for my own government, the demand, as I understood it, was for more universal, all-embracing prayer. This is the kind of prayer that I know a God of love impels, because Her nature is one of wholeness, not divisions, of all-inclusiveness, not favoritism. And so I wasn't surprised when I heard it. I heard Love saying to me: "Your prayers are needed - your prayers for the leaders of the world."
I started with the basics. Who God is. What that means for God's creation. These two concepts are summed up nicely in this statement from Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote, "God creates and governs the universe, including man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 295).
Given the focus of my prayers, the reminder that God is not only responsible for Her own creation but that She also governs it, seemed especially significant. Yet, as my thoughts wandered, I couldn't help thinking how achingly absent this government feels at times.
If only we had leaders who were more like King Solomon, I found myself wishing.
Solomon often springs to mind when I'm thinking about good government because his reign provides such a compelling example of just how wise, savvy, and downright God-centered a leader can be - and what that can do for that ruler's people.
Offered his choice of valuables in the divine treasure chest, Solomon makes a decision that might seem inconceivable. "I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in," he tells God. "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (I Kings 3:7, 9)
It's a petition for wisdom over wealth, sound judgment over fortune or fame. But God is a God of so much grace that He not only gives Solomon wisdom, He also showers him with all the riches he could ever ask for. The result is a reign that puts most examples of present-day government to shame.
Yet, as I considered this story, I realized that models like Solomon aren't just to be set on the historical pedestal or longed for in times of political crisis. In fact, what I heard God telling me was this: that Solomon's story is every leader's story. That is, if you start from a spiritual perspective.
What Solomon had in spades wasn't just the good fortune that came from winning God's favor. What he really had was humility - the meekness that admits one's need for God. The childlike receptivity to divine direction. The deep-down willingness to reach out for God's hand - and then to follow, trustingly, wherever it leads. Inevitably, this willingness to hear what a God of all-inclusive love has to say allows solutions to emerge that are just, balanced, and that leave no one out. That was the case in Solomon's time; it's also the case today.
For our current government - and I'm speaking about all the world's leaders here - I think this means that we have so much to be hopeful about. So much good to expect. Rather than seeing some leaders as dominant and myopic and others as marginalized and semi-effective, we can start from the basis that the reflection of divine government that's so apparent in Solomon's case is a reality here and now.
That's the real gift of the Solomon story: the assurance that a God who creates and governs Her children also fosters in them the qualities that turn them to their divine Parent. And the promise that She cultivates in them the humility and expansiveness of vision that leads them to pray, "I am but a little child. Guide me." I know now that this is the prayer that beats in the hearts of every leader - big or small, present or future.
That's my prayer for our leaders - plural - too. I pray that they all find this childlike willingness within. And that they witness the brotherhood, commonality of purpose, and peace, that come from understanding, humble hearts united.