I’ve been thinking about a prayer I used to offer each night while putting the kids to bed. You really have to think about what you want to pray for your young children. One of the things I settled on was to ask God that he would help them to become wise, strong, and loving. I still pray it, but no longer while sitting on the edge of a child’s bed.
If I could pray anything for the people of my country and for myself, it would be this same thing. It seems to me that we are currently far from the goal.
What is it to be wise? To be wise is not to be caught in the grip of one’s passions and to lose discernment in the process. The wise person doesn’t have to know everything, but they do need to be sure that they DON’T know it all. The wise person must be measured and judicious. Wisdom means not jumping to conclusions, prejudging motives, and making too easy denominations of people into friends and enemies. Being wise means seeking understanding rather than casting aspersions and assuming ill will. To be wise is to give others the benefit of the doubt and to assume they mean well until evil intent becomes obvious (which is quite rare).
Being strong doesn’t have to do with physical strength, at least not the way I was praying for it. When I ask for my kids to be strong, I mean that I hope they will learn to be resilient. Strong people don’t give up easily. They take their licks from the world and don’t go into permanent retreat. To be strong is to continue to try to learn and grow. It is to encounter difficulty and to realize that while the challenge is too big right now, it won’t always be that way. Strong people intuitively understand that they have inherent value (given by God, in my mind) and that the world is not enough to dissolve them down to nothing. Strength comes in part from finding joy in overcoming failure. We also display strength when we make correct use of our will. Instead of dominating us, it exists to give energy and emotional substance to our reason.
When I ask for my children to be loving, I am looking for them to gain the ability to extend their heart out beyond themselves. Love is fierce and real for spouse, for family, and for children. That is true. But love should not be in partnership with the preference and hatred that can emerge for those we see as being outside of our circles. Love has to do with seeing every person as a special creation of God. It means situating yourself within God’s will as a person who reaches out to others and who tries to bring them in to the fellowship of all mankind. Love doesn’t mean abandoning your beliefs, though, because without conviction love can degenerate into nothing more than sentiment without foundation.
My prayer is that we would gain the wisdom, strength, and love to bear with each other. We need to utterly deny the sick, emotional satisfaction of seeing others as villains in the Lex Luthor mold. We need to be resilient enough not to make enemies too easily and to bounce back quickly when our pride is hurt. We need to love well enough to give up the self-centeredness and tribalism that so easily possess us. We need to gain the capacity for real friendship even with those with whom we disagree.
I pray these things for my children. I pray them for you. I pray them for myself.