More than 50 years ago, the US government designated the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer. Many people see this as an opportunity to pray for the general welfare of the country, and some are adopting the theme that the organizers chose this year: "Prayer ... America's hope." Even if you're not an American, you might take this as an opportunity to pray for your own country and its leaders.
Prayer based on trust in God's government is indeed the hope of all nations. While this prayer doesn't make us oblivious to the political or personal issues that concern governments, prayer reveals that these issues are subservient to a higher, spiritual law.
I well remember the first time that prayer played a vital and surprising role in my political thinking. I had belonged to one political party, the party of my parents, all my voting life, and always voted the party line. I was beginning the study of Christian Science and realizing that I could pray about political issues and all that concerned the welfare of my country. When I voted, I turned away from considering merely partisan arguments and followed where my prayers were leading me. I don't remember the results of that election, but I continue to value the importance of praying for my country and letting those prayers dictate my votes.
The news media, including the Monitor, have an important role in keeping the electorate informed on issues important to the welfare of our country. The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, was a prominent religious leader and felt that prayer was important in fulfilling the demands of a righteous and equitable government. At one time she wrote, "Pray that the divine presence may still guide and bless our chief magistrate, those associated with his executive trust, and our national judiciary; give to our congress wisdom, and uphold our nation with the right arm of His righteousness" ("Christian Science versus Pantheism," p. 14).
Throughout her writings, Mrs. Eddy offered insights on how to keep those prayers from being a mere pleading with God for something we want, or for even what we personally feel is right for our country. In her main work, the textbook of Christian Science, she wrote, "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 1).
As people lay down their personal human yearnings and political preferences in prayer for their country, they find their real desires forever being lifted higher and becoming more inclusive of all humankind. Also, accepting the fact that desire has the power of prayer will protect their desires from manipulation by others.
Trusting the one universal God with your desires makes prayers for your country increasingly more unselfish and satisfying. These prayers bring greater equity into life. And government, to use Abraham Lincoln's words, "of the people, by the people, for the people," becomes more of a reality.
The Bible states, "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).
As each of us prays in general for all humanity and specifically for "those in authority," we can allow these prayers to be "moulded and exalted" above personal or political desires. Then we can rejoice, because the Bible promises, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
On May 7, all who are observing a National Day of Prayer can be sure that prayer unites us each day of the year, whether praying about a personal need or turning to God to bless one's country and the world.