In the United States, the presidential campaign season is heating up. By describing their suitability for office and presenting their thoughts about government, those hoping to succeed President Obama help voters to make choices. In addition to listening to what competitors say, voters also judge their character, honesty, intelligence, reliability, and other important qualities.
As the presidential primaries move along, each of us has the opportunity to look for spiritual qualities in candidates. If we’re tempted by sour or aggravated feelings about this candidate’s speech or that one’s policies, our prayers will actually help us overcome mere partisanship, give us discernment in responding to news reports and commentators’ opinions, and keep us listening when it seems like the “speechifying” will never end. Ultimately, prayers aren’t about electing certain people – they’re about supporting our right to honest and competent government.
I recall vividly an encounter some friends and I had with a US senator to talk about a particular community issue. He came across as very arrogant at first. I, and I’m sure others, were praying for patience and also to recognize this man’s goodness and intelligence, qualities all of us have from God. At first there was no change in his attitude, but as he listened to us, he became more patient, and in the end he supported the change that was needed.
One way I’ve often prayed about politics is to review the spiritual concepts that constitute real leadership – humility, transparency, respect, moral courage, etc. – and how to discern them in individual candidates. These qualities have their source in divine Mind, God, and in the nature bestowed on each of us as the spiritual expression of this Mind. So they’re available wherever they’re needed on the human scene. Prayer helps us discern this spiritual reality of everyone, which in turns helps bring the needed qualities to light as always present.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of the Monitor, wrote, “The characters and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity, and life of nations” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 277).
Rather than our becoming embroiled in feelings of conflict and division in the early stages of campaigning, we can turn to prayer to free us and others from frustration. Prayer helps us see that divine Love, God, is continuously unfolding intelligence and discernment in each one of His children. This spiritual recognition supports progress. As we are receptive to God’s goodness, embracing our common spirituality, instead of partisanship, for example, it becomes easier to see what is genuinely good in the candidates.
If you study leaders in the Bible, you’ll find that despite apparent human failings, the spiritual qualities they expressed shone through. For example, David’s courage as a shepherd, facing down the giant warrior Goliath, was a hint of the spiritual strength he would later exhibit as king. Nehemiah wasn’t an architect or a warrior, but when he was called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he exhibited great discernment in anticipating the next moves of his people’s enemies and overcame many challenges.
Where there appears to be human weakness, or views that are merely self-serving, we can pray to know that in an ultimate sense, each of us is governed by God, infinite Love, and that Love’s government must become evident in greater honesty, charitableness, patience, and wisdom. I like to remind myself that God loves all of His children, and this understanding of God’s love can uplift both voters and candidates to a sense of government that is not a competition between politicians but a demonstration of real progress for all of us.
God-given qualities are a wonderful protection to all candidates. Integrity will help him or her resist the temptation to take shortcuts; patience will protect him or her from hasty decisions. As the expression of the one Mind, each of God’s children includes the confidence of Mind itself, and the unselfishness of divine Love. Grasping this truth, even in a degree, can foster greater fearlessness in confronting evil, more genuine love for humanity, and a fuller ability and intelligence to deal with difficulties facing the United States and the world.
Prayer can only bless the political process. Patience and spiritual discernment bring satisfaction, not frustration, to the political arena.