Starting on Monday, Iraqis began to vote for their new government, which everyone hopes will bring peace and stability to this struggling nation. Some expect that the results will enable the multinational military forces to withdraw and let Iraqis take over security and governance. Others fear that the outcome may cause the country to disintegrate into three (or more) warring parts. There's a lot at stake.
If there was ever a moment when hope was needed, this could be it.
Each of us - whether or not we have a connection with Iraq - can help lift the banner of hope high in prayer. But the hope that's needed isn't only "I think I can" hope. It's the hope that is confident in God's love for all His people - and that includes everyone - Christian, Sunni, Shiite - no exceptions.
It is an inclusive hope, one that embraces the security forces working to make the election possible, the observers who will be watching for election irregularities, and the ordinary citizen whose vote is so needed. Our prayers can affirm that each one has inspired intelligence to make good decisions, to be alert, and to keep honesty uppermost.
To achieve confident hope in God's care for all involved requires prayer that's based on the conviction that peace and stability aren't just an option, but that they are an actual right of all people. As Mary Baker Eddy put it in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Discerning the rights of man, we cannot fail to foresee the doom of all oppression. Slavery is not the legitimate state of man. God made man free" (p. 227).
Our prayers can support hope for freedom from the slavery of fear, confusion, malgovernance. Even though reports from Iraq would deny any hope of a solution, the truth is that ultimately, the government of good, of Spirit, will prevail, because good is the essence of the universe and even the essence of each of us. Good is the genuine aspiration of all living things.
To understand this gives us in-depth hope that is not easily dismayed when things don't seem to be working.
The Apostle Paul, an intrepid preacher who faced death and danger regularly, relied on this hope, even in prison. With the strength of that spiritual conviction, he could tell Christians in Rome, "Be kindly affectioned one to another.... Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer" (Rom. 12:10, 12).
As our prayers kindle our own hope for good's purpose to prevail, we can be patient if there are challenges along the way. And the answer to those challenges is to be "instant in prayer," rejecting any obstacle that would prevent people from exercising their right to justice, security, and peace. We can affirm the presence of divine law, operating in that nation and uplifting each individual who is associated with the election process.
The steady hope lighted by such prayer is a wonderful influence that spreads from our individual lives to touch others, just as the sunlight that first comes up at dawn spreads until the whole sky is aglow.
This hope will encourage the fearful to vote, will lift the hearts of the depressed, restore a willingness to try again in those who are alienated, and could even soften the hardened feelings of those filled with hate.
Is this election the end of the line - the moment when all things will be worked out one way or another? Probably not. Gaining and maintaining freedom from oppression will probably always be a work in progress as much in Iraq as anywhere else in the world. But at such a pivotal moment in a country's history, prayers that support people on their journey toward a new national identity are vital.
Only Iraqis can vote in this election - and that's as it should be. But the world can join them in prayer and in the conviction that unity and progress are compatible, that freedom is their friend.