Breath Prayer for Politics (among other things)
“Let us be compassionate in our approach and creative in our response.”
That was the prayer I uttered as I lay silently on the couch last night after work, waiting for Dan to finish dinner.
Earlier that afternoon, I had chosen to engage in a gun control debate on Facebook with a friend who leans so far right, he claimed the Democrats were trying to “bust down our doors and steal our guns.”
I read his comment, as well as the article he referenced (which said nothing about busting down doors and stealing guns), took a deep breath, and responded.
We went back and forth a bit. I asked a few questions about how he would solve our current gun violence crisis and he responded with five different points (I later told him I could get on board with some of what he was saying). Then a friend of his responded with an absurd (in my opinion) analogy about putting a frog in a pot and turning the water up to boil. “That’s what the dems are doing,” he said. “Taking our guns is just the first step…” (I later asked him how many democrats he knew and what they had done to make him believe half the country was out to get him).
I closed my computer and decided not to engage for the rest of the night. And that’s when my prayer came.
On Friday mornings at work, our team spends 45 minutes in prayer and devotion. We each take turns leading, bringing with us something God is teaching us or something we want to pray through as a team.
Yesterday, our marketing director debriefed with us about her recent trip to the border. She said her mind had been spinning since she returned after witnessing the heartbreakingly complex situation. She lead us through a prayer exercise she had received while she was there, and we prayed for immigrants and their allies. Afterwards, we spent some time processing how hard our work is, how difficult it is to read traumatic stories from around the world every day and encounter them first hand when we go into the field.
My boss recalled feeling a similar overwhelm on a recent trip to Africa. She said the issues we encounter in our work are complex, and complexity can often be a barrier to prayer; things can seem so tricky and our emotions can be so strong that really don’t even know how to even begin to pray.
And that’s when she brought up breath prayers, something her mother advised her to use when she was too overwhelmed to pray a long prayer. Breath prayers are simple one sentence prayers that we can utter when our words run short or we’re just too tired to think of anything else to say. “Lord have mercy,” she said. “Or, God help us.” or “Jesus be with immigrants and refugees.”.
I lay on the couch after work, after experiencing all of this, and asked God to show me what my breath prayer could be. How do I want to respond to this facebook debate? How do I wish other people would respond as well? What is it that I want?
Yes…that’s it… “God, let us be compassionate in our approach and creative in our response.”
Compassionate in our approach means we believe the best about someone before we respond. We see them as a child of God, created in his image. We believe that they want what’s best for our country, even if we see flaws in the way they’re getting there. Compassionate means always approaching someone with love.
Creative in our response means our responses are well thought out. We respond with our heart and mind. We pause before we speak and evaluate if what we have to say is both loving and wise. We question our own convictions and ask ourselves, “is my way really the best way?” We do not copy paste rhetoric from any politician, lobbyist or news anchor, but instead, do the hard work of putting it into our own words. We are curious and pose more questions than answers. We acknowledge when we don’t know something and commit to learning more. And in the end, we willingly look for ways to compromise.
Compassionate in my response and Creative in my approach. That’s the kind of person I want to be. That’s the kind of people I want us to be.
Comment below with a breath prayer of your own.
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