The world is aflame with war, economic strife, and political instability. My morning newspaper is filled with pictures and stories of a genocidal campaign in which Russia seems intent on slaughtering as many Ukrainian men, women and children as possible. Why? To satisfy the blood-lust of Vladimir Putin.
The world’s democracies have lined up behind Ukraine, while the autocracies support Russia. Billions of dollars of weapons are killing thousands of people, and thousands more are starving in basements. Nearly five million have become refugees. While the Russia-Ukraine conflict dominates the news, deadly conflicts are raging in more than a dozen other nations, according to the World Population Review.
Meanwhile, my nation is stymied by political and social divisions that are so deep and broad that violence frequently becomes the response of first resort. And in a nation with more than 390 million guns in the hands of civilians, violent conflicts can quickly become deadly.
Many of us in America, Republicans and Democrats alike, yearn for peace and an end to the intractable divisions that separate us into warring camps. We want national, state and local leaders to find common ground and begin implementing solutions to the pressing environmental, social and economic issues that are besieging us. But it seems that the harder we struggle for common good, the more entwined we become in a morass of frustration and anger. It is easy to fall into a state of hopelessness.
So, let’s all step back from the struggles of our daily lives, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. Imagine the world you hope for, not the world of your frustrations. Imagine possibilities instead of seemingly impassable roadblocks. Imagine a peaceful path through the thicket of brambles we find ourselves mired in today
Starting with this Holy season of Easter, Passover and Ramadan I am going to try a different path: Prayer. Whether a person is Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Polytheist, Unitarian Universalist or secular humanist, new solutions to our seemingly intractable divisions might be discerned in a prayer or meditation discipline.
I am not suggesting that prayer or meditation will end war, clean our environment, or fix our economy. I am not suggesting that prayer or meditation will resolve the harsh political, economic and social differences in America. I am not suggesting that some mystical giant in the sky will wave her hands over our mess and all will be well. But I am suggesting that it might rewire our minds and open the eyes of our hearts to intuitively see a new path out of those thickets of violence and division.
Walking that path will not be easy. It will take effort, time and perseverance. The brambles will at times entangle us. But each step will bring us closer to the inspired vision of a more just, equitable and sustainable world.
The Path of Prayer
My dear friend Dara Molloy in Ireland took those steps. He left his Catholic priestly ministry on the mainland, moved to the Aran Island of Inis Mór and became a priest in the Celtic tradition. Dara offered the following poem about his path to prayer:
When I came to live on Aran as a hermit, prayer was something I did. There were fixed times in the day for prayer. Prayer was worship in song, in body position, in psalms, in biblical readings, in invocations and supplications.
That’s all gone. Prayer is now being, not doing. It is being in tune, being on track, being present, being in the moment.
Prayer is being immersed in wonder as I watch the birds on the feeder, as I contemplate the amazing sunset, as I feel the calmness of the weather and the sea,
Prayer is being open to surprise, to intuition, to the unexpected email, to the issue that needs attention in the moment. Prayer is being rooted in a silent presence that is always there—watching for the subtle stirring of the waters.
Amen, Amên, ‘Āmīn, and Happy Holy Days.
Postscript: To read more about the extraordinary work Dara does in partnership with his wife Tess click here. I have found this every-six-week newsletter to be both informative and inspiring.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.