Some might justifiably call it the California quagmire. Others might find less complimentary terms. But no matter how you slice it, the most populous state finds itself in an ongoing pickle. Both last week's editorial, "California, hit the reset button" (Feb. 19), and this week's front-page article, "California, once a dream state, strives to get back its groove" (Feb. 23), articulate ongoing challenges in a state previously considered golden. While a budget agreement was reached after months of deliberation, finger-pointing continues to divide along partisan lines.
Sadly, despite signs of reform, few promise immediate and enduring peace. After all, not many months will lapse before the process begins again, and unresolved problems still lie beneath the surface. Dan Wood's article identified "a perfect storm" of state problems "from drought to high taxes, from overcrowded classrooms to overflowing prisons," not to mention a crumbling infrastructure, immigration enforcement, gangs, and traffic congestion.
While average citizens might not be invited into the legislative chambers or the governor's mansion, no one need feel sidelined. Everyone can participate in local, state, and national government through prayer. Not so much the kind of prayer that asks God to come down and fix a surfeit of problems, but the kind that cuts through problems to see the true nature of God's governance and state of affairs. Historically, this mode of prayer has proved enormously successful. One need only open the pages of the Bible to find numerous examples, but few are as poignant as that of Joseph. Here's how the story goes:
Out of jealousy, Joseph's brothers sell him into Egypt. He refuses to be angry, and soon enough begins to climb the ladder out of his plight. Then the tides turn, and he lands in jail because of lies told by his employer's wife. He declines to affix blame. Even though his prospects for a future seem pretty bleak, Joseph never stops praying or acknowledging that God is in control of his and everyone else's lives.
As a result, he soon finds himself in a position to interpret a dream for Egypt's ruler. Joseph's wisdom is clearly evident, so the ruler sets him up to guide that nation through years of abundant growth followed by a severe famine. Joseph even stores up enough provisions so that, during the years of blight, he can support those who travel to Egypt to obtain food, including his own brothers. Joseph shows them that they shouldn't feel guilty for what they did. He needed to be right where he was in order to do God's work.
Where are the Josephs of our day? Today, many rely on God for solutions and discover He's worthy of that trust. They've found that their own state of affairs, along with those of their local, state, and national governments, are well served by single-minded prayer such as Joseph's.
Three things stand out when considering what his prayer might have sounded like. First, he trusted that God's will would be done and no one or nothing could overturn it. Second, he understood that this will is innately good, therefore needn't be feared or questioned. And third, he knew that God's plan is universal; it includes everyone. These powerful convictions can guide one through any stormy condition.
Mary Baker Eddy, who started this newspaper 100 years ago, learned that she, too, could rely on God for solutions. She wrote: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 307). The "you" she uses can include the collective citizenry within a state, along with individuals. God's infinitely good plan includes everyone, as Joseph's experience illustrated.
The object of prayer isn't so much to change an intransigent set of circumstances as it is to lift thought above the quagmire to see that God is in control, that He can impart right ideas to everyone, and that we can listen for His guidance every step of the way. When one achieves this height through prayer, it becomes evident that no quagmire exists – just fresh and boundless opportunities.