To read the draft text of the new Iraqi constitution is to be transported in time to the birth of one's own country - whichever one it may be - and to think of the prayer, diligence, and determination it takes to mold many different cultures, desires, and dreams into a single nation. As Iraqis go to the polls on Saturday to vote on this constitution, our prayers can go with them.
Perhaps the most important words in this document, as translated by the Associated Press, are in the preamble: "In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate." These are the very first words, and in the writers' eyes, the basis for sound government. Keeping God's control and ultimate authority in sharp focus as the nation develops, is vital for all factions - the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and smaller groups.
To some extent, each will have to set aside ethnic loyalties to reach a higher understanding of God's love for all His people. And this love can be supported and expressed through individual prayers for good government.
Here is where the Bible's First Commandment - "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" - seems so applicable to progress in Iraq and in the Middle East as a whole.
Sometimes grudges toward other ethnic groups, feelings of fear or jealousy, anger at outsiders, or hatred of change may become a kind of god in the thoughts of its citizens. These false gods become so important that one doesn't feel that progress can be made unless this false god is somehow appeased. For example, getting revenge may become so central that only a sacrifice on its altar will be satisfying.
To truly honor God, however, is to head in exactly the opposite direction. If God is merciful and compassionate, then each of us - as His creation - should strive to be merciful and compassionate with our fellow beings. When we do this, we are reflecting the qualities of God through the patience and love we embrace.
Such mercy and compassion eliminate the desire for revenge, they disarm hatred, they quiet fear. They also enable one to resist the temptation to resort to violence as a solution.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, understood the importance of resisting this temptation. She wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "The despotic tendencies, inherent in mortal mind and always germinating in new forms of tyranny, must be rooted out through the action of the divine Mind" (p. 225).
In praying for Iraq, one can affirm the oneness of the divine Mind or God. This oneness in God unites all people, no matter what their religious or political beliefs may be. Under the oneness of God, each has the right to peace and freedom that naturally accompany the goodness of a God who is infinite Love. Yet this God is also one of strength, law, and stability, and this spiritual fact undergirds whatever efforts are made toward progress. It also provides moral courage to support the process, as Sunni leader Mahmood Al Mashahadani has done in urging Iraqis to support the constitution.
Most of us will be on the sidelines, watching and praying as the Iraqis vote. But our prayers can do much to support them. We can affirm in those desires that each group can put aside personal ambitions, agendas, and desires for revenge - even if only to a degree. All can unite their hearts in loyalty to "God, the most merciful, the most compassionate" and can express that mercy and compassion to their fellow countrymen.
Building a nation is a holy business - one in which each citizen has the opportunity to see the divine power forge spiritual unity even among disparate groups. All of us who pray along with Iraqis at this special time in their history will also be witnesses to the hand of the merciful and compassionate God whose love and care will be with them and with us, always.