At the time of the Mexican war, often viewed as a practice war for the United States shortly before the American Civil War, the poet James Russell Lowell penned lines that still speak to us:
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
We open our hearts today to your wisdom and to your inspiration, loving God, recognizing in ourselves many problems surrounding “a moment to decide”.
- We pray that we not artificially construct moments of decision that threaten more harm than good. In Columbia there has been a half century struggle between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and the government. Just when it seemed a peace accord had been successfully negotiated, Colombian voters ever so narrowly rejected the proposal. As I write this prayer, serious efforts to preserve peace and to redesign a process they can be accepted by the country as a whole are underway. Oh Lord, in this moment of decision, we pray for your understanding of the importance of peace to all your children. We pray for your wisdom to design a way of living in peace that can endure, even unto generations yet unborn.
- We pray for the United States at its quadrennial moment to decide who shall lead our government for the next four years. May voters not founder in a cowardly discouragement that refuses to make a decision. We pray for a vision inspired by the best in humankind and by the best in ourselves. We pray in deep gratitude for the memory of Shimon Peres. Surely his example of dedication to his country Israel and to his world that we all share can bless our call to citizenship. Be with each of us in our personal moments to decide.
- We pray for refugees being relocated away from the Colima volcano erupting in Mexico and for all those suffering the impact of hurricane Matthew. We pray for strength to rebuild after the storm has played itself out.
- In Syria where children huddle wherever they think they may survive, we pray that the leaders in the United Nations, in the United States, in Russia, in Syria itself, and wherever your spirit may bless someone to act may end this senseless, shameful, destructive war. Show us the way, we pray, to peace and prosperity, yes, even in Aleppo.
The poet ended his poem with a vision beyond a single moment in ways both bad and good:
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
Dear God, it soothes us to know that we will never have to walk into a shadow, either as a person or as a society, where you will not be standing. Stand where we need you. Lead where we must go. And forever, we pray, keep watch over us. Amen.