At this writing, talks have broken off between Senate Democrats and Republicans. A showdown appears likely over the issue of President Bush's judicial nominees, who must be approved by the Senate in order to take their places on the bench.
Senate Democrats threaten a filibuster, which could tie up the Senate indefinitely. Senate Republicans threaten the "nuclear option" - a phrase used to describe possible drastic changes to longstanding Senate procedures. Those changes would eliminate the use of the filibuster, not on all issues, but on those that apply to the confirmation of judges.
Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said, "This whole showdown is a symptom of the bitterness and partisanship that prevails here in Washington." Passions run high because there may soon be an opening on the United States Supreme Court. The new appointee could have a huge impact on a wide range of issues for decades to come.
As I look at this stalemate, I consider the options. Join in the bitterness, take sides in the partisanship, detach from the whole discussion and slump into cynicism? No, thanks. I'd like to check the box marked "None of the above." Intuitively, I sense that better possibilities exist, that those most immediately involved - both Democrats and Republicans - deserve the underpinning of prayer.
Then I recall an insight from the Scriptures. "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us" (Isa. 33:22). Ancient wisdom for a modern-day dilemma? Absolutely. Those different terms for God - judge, lawgiver, king - shed light on the divine nature - a nature equally available to both sides of the aisle.
Those names for God tell us so much about who He is. When realized in prayer, they lift a load of responsibility off any individual or group saddled with judicial or legislative responsibilities.
But what most captivates me about this Bible passage, at least for today, is the final phrase. It focuses not just on who God is, but on what God does. "He will save us."
As I ponder this in light of the current impasse, I ask myself, Save us from what? Ourselves? That might be a good place to start. Maybe the real need is not to save us from a filibuster. Could it be that the saving power of the judge, lawgiver, and king is really to deliver us from our worst inclinations to bitterness and mediocrity? Could it be that the saving power of God delivers us from that and to our better selves? Yes, definitely.
Truth be told, we each have God-bestowed capacity and power to think and speak and act in ways expressive of the God who is Love. Bitterness doesn't have the power to dispossess us of our better inclinations. Something higher, purer, more powerful is at work in each heart, in each individual.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love. If you maintain this position, who or what can cause you to sin or suffer?" ("Pulpit and Press," page 3).
The power, bestowed by God, to think and act rightly is the power so urgently needed.
The God who saves us from bitterness also saves within us the capacity for thinking and acting beyond partisanship. He saves within us the ability to find and enact solutions that can bless both sides.
Maybe you are passionately political - resolutely Democratic, or adamantly Republican. Or maybe not. Maybe you have no politics, but still care about fair and productive government. No matter which category you fit into, you can pray. The Lord is your judge, your lawgiver, your king, just as He is for each individual, each senator, each voter.
The purpose of prayer isn't to push a political agenda, no matter how dearly held. The purpose of prayer is to acknowledge God is on the scene, governing, harmonizing, healing. God is on the scene empowering each of us to think and act in ways that express His wisdom. Then, bitterness begins to drain off. Cynicism ebbs. And solutions acceptable to both sides emerge. It is not an impossible dream. It is possible. It is worth praying for.