Angry words, incendiary rhetoric and violent actions. Scenes played and replayed every day around the world. Sometimes they’re close to home and cause that moment to ponder -
how could this happen?
how can it be stopped?
These questions have been turning in circles of thought for decades. There have been many attempts to impose peace and order and they have their effect. Ultimately, though, we are all stakeholders in peace – whether across the street, across the country or across the ocean.
Before a sentence is composed or a word uttered, there must be a thought. The motives of action reside in thought. So, I’m thinking, that thinking is what needs to be thought about.
To me the origin of thought begins with attention. As a Christian Scientist that attention is guided through prayer.
I know some folks would say that there is only a limited place or no place for prayer in confronting the problems of today. Well, my experience as a Christian Scientist has lead me to a different conclusion - prayer is always the starting point and the leading thought mover and I expect to see results. It’s like my grandfather’s coal shovel.
This week we found about 5 inches of snow topped with ice in our area and we needed to clear our driveway and walkway. I picked up my granddad’s old coal shovel for the job. A shovel is a simple tool. They can be found in many shapes and sizes, but they all perform the same task. Shovels have been around for centuries because they are efficient and versatile As I heaved the snow and ice out of the driveway I marveled that such an old piece of equipment worked so well. The old blade easily pried up the ice from the concrete and the sturdy wood handle made it easy to move the snow and ice out of the way.
So, how is that old shovel like prayer? Well, prayer is a simple tool, well used and efficient. And like any tool, when it’s used often, it gets easier to use. When it’s used properly, much can be accomplished. It has versatility, I have turned to prayer in every facet of my life and found healing. Also, I didn’t sit around and expect the shovel to do the work without me. Prayer is active, not wishful thinking.
But, I wouldn’t use a shovel to do the job of a pair of pliers. Here’s what I mean – prayer requires me to put aside my opinions of how I’d like to see situations work out. It requires me to be attentive to what exactly I’m thinking about. I know I’ve gone off course if I find myself offering God my solutions or asking Him to make someone else do something. I continue to learn that listening brings discernment.
Everyday thousand of thoughts parade themselves by the doorway of my conscious. Just because the thought presents itself, it doesn’t mean I have to invite it in. Prayer helps me to consider whether an idea conforms with my understanding of God, as all good. If it doesn’t meet that test, it’s probably not an idea I want to keep hold of. So, part of my daily prayer practice is to take out the trash. And, when I look at my fellow man I pray to know he has the opportunity to let go of the trash as well.
Like the shovel, prayer focuses on the project at hand. The work may be slow or quick depending on motivation, dexterity, endurance and strength. Also the shovel never shirks from the job: it doesn’t get discouraged, it doesn’t balk, it doesn’t refuse to work with other shovels. It’s always there ready for the task at hand, just as is prayer.
So as I look out at the scenes of violence, complexity of issues or the simple beauty and stillness of snow falling, I know that prayer is my answer and that it is available to everyone.