I was tired with an early morning ahead of me. So, when she asked if I still wanted to watch the movie I had brought over, I asked if the three of us could just enjoy our tea and coffee with conversation. My mother-in-law and our family friend both agreed that visiting would be just as pleasant as the musical sitting in its case on the countertop.
We sat sipping our warm beverages around the kitchen table and began to talk. Somehow the topic that found us was politics. I have grown to enjoy these kinds of conversations in our family, because no matter whether our opinions are similar or very different, we manage to listen respectfully and learn so much in the process of considering viewpoints different from our own.
We talked about the recent DNC and RNC and the campaign ads and what facts we want to explore between now and Election Day. We talked about our frustrations with the gridlock in congress and our failure to carry on civil dialogue between extreme opinions. We talked about how leaders make decisions and try new ideas. They see what works and what does not work and make changes. They realize sometimes we have to experiment to find out what works well. They have to be willing to fail. We discussed how career politicians don’t seem to leadm because often their desire to be re-elected holds them captive from making bold decisions.
We talked about the ideas of Alexis de Tocqueville and “the great American experiment” and the idea that many do not have a good grasp of the ideas upon which our country was founded in a deep way. We talked about the way that our country is slowly moving toward the brink of collapse if something does not change in the culture of our politics. We talked about how disturbing this is. We talked about our role within the state when we identify that our primary allegiance is as a disciple of Christ.
In the midst of all of this, the most memorable moment to me was when my mother-in-law talked of the virulence of political discourse at times on some of the talk news programs, rather than respectful dialogue. She talked of her intuition and being aware of something spiritually dark in this manner of rhetoric. Our friend responded back with a word from God asking what she does in these moments. She suggested rather than just turning the programs off, tuning out or feeling frustrated and defeated that she should pray. Just pray.
In the midst of all of the political moments that make us sick, angry, hopeful, sorrowful, frustrated or excited what would it be like if our first instinct was to stop and pray? What if we decided to leave ranting to a friend or posting a thought on Facebook when we hear something that provokes our thoughts and tabled it? What if we decided to commit that moment to prayer, instead?
Might we disciples best serve our country in this way?
Jeremiah 29:7 says “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
The word “seek,” in the Hebrew dāraš, has to do with inquiring of God in prayer for direction and seeking his will. The phrase “peace and prosperity” and “prosper” are all translations for the word šālốm. It has to do with wholeness both internal and external, being complete (VINE’S Expository Dictionary).
Israel was to pray for the wholeness of the city. If the city prospered or was whole, so Israel would be whole too. This was God’s promise to them in exile.
I thought of this and realized, as disciples, our situation is not really that different today. Peter writes, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). We are exiles in the midst of this place that is our home. What might it be like if we embraced this and our call to seek the peace of the country we live in? What might it be like if we sought the will of God on its behalf?
Might we find that we spend time being changed by his Word as we seek His will? Might we find that our response to the political world is one that leads us to our knees, seeking wholeness in prayer? Might we find that we are able to have more discussions with others in respectful ways? Might we find that we are willing to think outside the box, to try something new—even if it means we might fail along the way? Might we find that we are more concerned with the welfare of our neighbor, whether they are rich or poor, and begin seeking their good rather than our own? Might we find that we deal with difficult problems rather than pushing them down the road?
What would it look like if we were disciples first and allowed our discipleship to shape the way we participate in the country we live in?
In the middle of the conversation, I was convicted. I committed to doing a better job of seeking God on behalf of my country—to pray for my leaders that are in office, for the ones that are running for office and for the changes that will prosper this place.
I told my mother-in-law and our friend that I was feeling like we needed to bathe all our conversation with prayer. I asked them if they would join me. Together, we three, sat heads bowed and seeking His peace and prosperity. We prayed one after the other, back and forth, lifting up many issues, many people and these upcoming elections.
When we stopped, I looked at the time.
The movie we would have watched would have long been over. I smiled at this and thought about how I wouldn’t have traded these moments of conversation, conviction and prayer for a few hours of watching a story. A movie would have entertained for a few hours, but that same time spent in conversation had birthed transformed hearts and the start of new habits in us. It made me wonder how often I choose entertainment over transformation.
Maybe, just maybe, as we aliens begin to seek the peace of this country, we will be surprised at the prosperity that follows. It will be prosperity that is not built on a consumer economy, but in enjoying others and seeking the welfare of one another pursuing wholeness, as we are changed by a loving God.
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek the peace and prosperity of this country. May we find that seeking the peace require seeking God in His Word. May it drive us to a hunger for knowing Him and the story of redemption in Scripture. May we find that as we seek the peace that we are changed—having different conversations with people--respectful, considerate, loving--about political issues. May we find that as we call our fellow disciples to join us in prayer, that we are a holy people—winsome in expressing ourselves, loving in our actions. May God have mercy on us for failing to do so in the past and turn his ear to our prayers as we commit to seek the peace in the present and future.