A few weeks ago, I was reading the "Irish News," which included a map of the "new Europe." It showed a union of nations that stretched from Ireland in the far west all the way to the new member states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in the east. It was an impressive sight. Even more impressive is that on June 10, 25 countries in this European Union are going to vote over a two-day period for representatives to the European Parliament, a forum where they work together to advance economically, solve shared social problems, and think through issues that touch them all.
It is amazing to think that just over 50 years ago, Europe was winding down from a major World War and that for the next few years countries would be literally divided by a physical wall and also a mental wall of fear and suspicion.
I believe that one of the reasons for these signs of progress is prayer - individual prayer on the part of citizens in each country and also prayer for their nations. Such prayer has been practiced for centuries - as is evidenced by a letter written to an early Christian named Timothy. It's in the Bible. The writer told Timothy, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2:1, 2).
I don't know about you, but "a quiet and peaceable life" sounds pretty good to me, especially these days with the war in Iraq and the dangers of terrorism. So that's why - even though I'm an American - I'm going to pray for the European elections, which will take place between June 10 and 13. No one - except maybe a professional diplomat - can know all the details of 25 different countries, but there are two ideas that I've found comforting and helpful.
The first is the opening line of the Lord's Prayer - the prayer Jesus gave to his disciples when they asked him how to pray. He began, "Our Father which art in heaven." Whenever I face a clash of wills - at work, at home, or elsewhere - I consider the thought that all of us in the room have one Father and He is ours - ours to be relied on, trusted, and guided by. Then I try to let go of my personal position and see where God leads my thoughts. I've found that exercise really helpful in thinking about politicians, too!
Mary Baker Eddy interpreted the first line of the Lord's Prayer as "Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 16). To me, this means that God's presence has to lead to good - to all-harmony - and can never be divisive or destructive.
To understand that the God Jesus called Father is also a Father to you and to me - even if we don't share the same religion - means that all people can live in harmony.
Under one all-loving Father, each of us can share a common desire to be respectful and loving toward one another - and can expect the same from our friends and neighbors. Why is this possible? Because each of us is His spiritual idea, created by Him and designed to be and to do good.
Why is it worth it to make such an effort? To reap the benefit of the second helpful idea I am working with during the European elections. In her book Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" (p. 340).
That's a wonderful promise! Just think - to lead the world toward greater unity, to drive out terrorism and other evils. And it's achievable, even if it needs to be done in increments, even if it's difficult at times. The fact that so much progress has already been made shows that such a commitment is not in vain. Through our individual prayers for "all who are in authority," we can help forward unity among nations, and thus gain greater peace and safety for all of us.