Welcoming Prayer and Presidential Politics: Watching the Debates as a Spiritual Practice

Ours is a political household.  My husband and I watch talking heads in the evenings and check political blogs during the day.  We regularly discuss races and polls.  He is running for a local office for the fourth or fifth time (I’ve lost track), so our girls got to “vote for Daddy” when we went to vote early.  But I can’t for the life of me sit through these presidential debates.  I get a queasy feeling just thinking about watching them.  I understand the purpose is to air political positions in a public forum, but for me that purpose gets lost in the attack/counter-attack mode that instantly becomes the norm.  These debates seem more like modern-day gladiator fights than anything else, the crowd giving a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down based on the quality of the fight.  Why does someone need to win, anyway?  Why can’t the debates simply be an opportunity for two sides to share their views and then I get to decide what I think?

I don’t like how the debates make me feel, which is exactly why I’m going to watch tonight.  I’m going to watch while I pray the “Welcoming Prayer” that Cynthia Bourgeault writes about in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Here is how the prayer breaks down:

1. Focus and Sink In

2. Welcome

3. Let Go

These steps look deceptively simple, but their purpose can be profound.  To quote Bourgeault:

Like most methods of inner awakening, (the prayer) operates on the principle of making a separation between the “I” totally lost in its reactions, desires, and aversions and the deeper “I”.  But it does this in a very unique and interesting way.  Rather than simply letting go of the thought, as is done in Centering Prayer itself and many schools of inner work, it actually “rides” the gathering storm of emotional and physical energy through the body so that it is liberated from the false self system and recaptured as vital energy for inner transformation.  (142)

That sounds good to me.  Here is how I can imagine my prayer working tonight.

1.  Focus and Sink In

Embrace that icky feeling.  “Don’t try and change anything.  Just stay present.”   (143)

2.  Welcome

Welcome the icky feeling.  It seems to me this moment should allow the one praying to stay present and keep from reacting (i.e. blowing off the debate for a good book and an early bedtime).

3.  Let Go

This prayer can be simply “I let go of my anger,” or “I give God my anger.”  But it can also be prayed using this formula suggested by Bourgeault.

I let go of my desire for security and survival.

I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire to change the situation. (147)

 

I’m going to try this prayer tonight.  I may not make it all the way through the debate, and the truth is I don’t care if I don’t.  An early bedtime is never a bad idea.  Still, there is something to this practice of praying through these times of strong emotion that I find appealing and worth practicing.  Chances are, because my children are home from school today, I’ll have several opportunities to pray this prayer BEFORE the debate.  I should be good and ready by then.

2 thoughts on “Welcoming Prayer and Presidential Politics: Watching the Debates as a Spiritual Practice

  1. Okay, maybe I will watch tonight. I couldn’t make it through 1/2 hour of the other two. I like the idea of giving God my anger. I hope she gets really pissed and knows what to do with it because I sure don’t.

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