Voting as a Form of Prayer
Some of us have a difficult time thinking about voting as a form of prayer.
We may have a particularly partisan approach to life. Our decisions about voting do not necessarily involve any reflection of contemplation. We know what we think and how we want to vote to support our ideas.
Others of us do not experience voting as a form of prayer because we do not vote. We are disillusioned and do not believe politics is worth the time it takes.
Some of us believe voting is complicated and we do not have time to think about it. The process is hard to understand. We know we probably should vote, but thinking about it just gives us a headache. Why does it have to be so complicated?
We may know people who get intense when they talk about voting, and we certainly do not want to be like them. Everyone is already divided. All the intensity only divides us more.
I believe politics and voting is another opportunity to practice contemplative spiritual life. Like other forms of prayer, listening and openness are crucial to contemplative voting. We listen and discern where spiritual life is drawing us as we consider how to vote.
There are times when listening to the stillness between the words is the most significant aspect of politics.
Like spiritual life, we can approach voting without enmeshing ourselves in a particular ideology or political philosophy. How we vote is not simply a matter of competing metaphors, or a contest between parties. Voting as a form of prayer can help open our eyes to aspects of politics we have ignored.
The way we approach voting can help change how we understand the rest of life, including spiritual life.
Voting can become a place of peace.
Why Experience Voting as a Form of Prayer?
Some of us are passionate about politics. We may connect strongly to candidates and policies which appeal to our own deepest feelings. Some of us might express our political ideals in strong language and memes on social media. We are not trying to persuade other people to agree with us. Our political ideas and involvement might express our strongest, most personal emotions. We might view politics as a struggle, a conflict, and are campaigning for what we believe is right.
There have been times when I have been politically passionate. I studied political science, law, and public administration, and worked on political campaigns. The candidates and issues I support are ones in which I believe. I have tasted the thrill of political victory and the agony of defeat.
The people I support do not always embody what is wise, nor do their political rivals embody disaster. We can be certain, though, someone will win each election, and someone will be defeated. This will be as true for today’s election, and the next one, as it was for those in the past.
We can also be certain everyone who participates in elections needs our support. The one thing I know I can do to help is pray for them.
We can begin now to pray they will find wisdom and discernment, and pray they will be able to work together.
It may be a wise use of our time and effort to pray for the people who will be elected. It is also wise for us to pray for those who will not be elected.
How we pray could be more significant than how we vote.
How Do We Approach Voting as a Form of Prayer?
For me, the first step is a healthy distance and skepticism about the game of politics.
I grew up with a belief politics was a contest between right and wrong, good and evil. One party or position was what was best for our society, and the other was a path to the end of what we value. Each election was all about defeating the forces which wanted to destroy what we hold dear and supporting what was right and good.
My understanding of politics and voting reflected the way I saw most of the rest of the world.
As much as I appreciate the tactical and strategic parts of politics, I have grown into seeing politics in new ways.
Contemplative spirituality and practices have shaped my perspective and helped me see things in new ways. While I still enjoy winning more than losing, I have learned about what is won and lost.
Contemplative spirituality guides me into deeper, more reflective understanding. Becoming contemplative has shown me how to release things I have held onto for years and see them in new ways.
Each of us needs to learn how to see some things in new ways and to release what we have held tightly for so long.
When We Practice Voting as a Form of Prayer
Voting as a form of prayer helps me understand and approach politics and voting from a more comprehensive perspective.
Combining thinking about politics and contemplation reminds me of everything I forget or ignore by doing them separately. I remember as I watch the news to pray for the people experiencing the disasters. It helps me remember issues and incidents are part of the same story, woven into the same tapestry.
Voting as a form of prayer allows spiritual life to shape my politics, and public affairs to make my spirituality more practical. What I believe and how I behave flow together and strengthen each other.
I believe voting is a form of prayer and praying is a political act. We can pray for each other even when we disagree about specific issues and questions. What we think does not necessarily get in the way of what we believe, and what we believe does not necessarily divide us.
We listen and are open, and practice voting as a form of prayer.
How will we practice voting as a form of prayer today?
What would voting as a form of prayer be like for us this week?
[Image by mandamonium]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.