I don’t know about you, but I can tell you that this Election season has increased my level of prayer, especially for this nation. It has been a near constant refrain running through my head of, “Oh, Lord,” or “Dear God,” or “Heaven help us,” or, “Lord have mercy (Christ have mercy) Lord have mercy…”
Most of the time, it wasn’t even conscious – just a running refrain in my head, heart and soul as our nation lurched toward yet another election in our history, with who many of us consider to be the two worst candidates in our lifetimes. As the election results rolled in, many of us were just in shock. Of course, we likely would have been regardless of who won. Either way, many of us feared this nation would be in for a very bumpy ride.
So far, that fear seems justified. So does the prayer, incessant prayer, toward which many of us have turned. One such person, Mary C. Tillotsson, wrote about how her faith, and praying the Novena, helped her through this impossible choice, differentiating between prayer and panic, and put it all in some historical perspective. From The Federalist:
High stakes with no clear solution, where we all have some agency but no real control over the outcome but have to abide by the decision—it’s a recipe for panic. Most days I’m too tired to handle much panic, and while I didn’t decide my presidential vote until the eleventh hour, I was fairly unemotional about it. I thought we ought to pray about the election, and was surprised and disappointed at how few people—and which people—seemed to get that.
Isn’t worry supposed to make people more inclined to pray? Yes, but worry and panic are different. There’s a line between legitimate concern over something important and all-out panic, where, if we pray at all, we toss up desperate pleas begging God to work things out in the only way we can see might not be excruciating. The latter attitude seemed rampant.
Hence, the author, a Catholic, turned to a novena – nine days of prayer, though Catholics aren’t the only Christians to engage in this practice, she noted. And, given this election season, Tillotsson got creative:
So I made “election novena” a Facebook event, and later I found a Catholic church nearby had published a novena for the election in its bulletin and the Knights of Columbus were sponsoring one, too, as were a few other Catholic organizations. On Halloween, many Catholics across the country began nine days of intense prayer and fasting for the election.
Many of us weren’t sure what we were hoping for. We wanted a president who would defend our right to live our faith, who would defend the right of all people to live, who respected everyone’s dignity, whom we could trust to lead this country in a good direction. But how was that going to happen? Hillary Clinton had all but vowed to dismantle everything we believe in, but the alternative was Donald Trump.
Uh, yeah. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Or as Tillotsson noted early in the article, like choosing between playing Russian Roulette and a loaded gun. Neither choice was really a palatable choice, to put it mildly.
And here comes that historical, theological perspective:
I’ve been familiar with novenas my whole life, but only recently learned why we pray them. The nine days of prayer are modeled after the nine days the apostles spent in the Upper Room between the Ascension and Pentecost.
Consider the intensity with which they must have prayed. They had come to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah, then saw him brutally executed like a criminal, then saw him bodily risen. They heard him teach for another month or so, and then he ascended into heaven. Right before his ascension, he reminded them of their commission to spread the good news, and promised to send them the Holy Spirit. And then he was gone.
You know what didn’t happen at Pentecost? The Romans did not elect a morally upstanding, pro-life, pro-First Amendment emperor who cared deeply about the poor citizens and noncitizens of their empire. They did not quit leaving “unwanted” babies to die alone under bridges. They did not reconsider the ethics of slavery or gladiatorial games, or allow women to vote.
You know what did happen on Pentecost? The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given courage to speak openly about the gospel even if it meant humiliation and death—and for many of them, it did. They were able to communicate the truth and joy of the gospel to people they couldn’t have said hello to before. Thousands of people heard, recognized, and believed the good news and were baptized. […] (Click here to read the rest.)
And there you have it. Panic, as Tillotsson concluded, isn’t helpful. We knew it was going to be bad regardless. We can hope that it won’t be as bad as we feared. But one thing is certain: Trump or Clinton, neither one has power over our beliefs, our exercise of religion, or the work of the Spirit within and among us. They just aren’t that powerful. No one is.
One thing is certain: this too shall pass. As Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
And so it will be. We will get through this. Prayer will help us get through this. Or meditation and reflection. Whatever works for you. It is a proven fact that prayer, directed energy, works.
I’d say we could use a whole lot of prayer about now. How about you? This is an Open Thread.