Sunday, December 18, 2005

Continuing to Pray for the CPT Hostages

I have been continuing to pray for the Christian Peacemaker Team hostages. I have found it very interesting how hard it is to find information in the U.S. press about the situation. British and Canadian news sources have been more helpful. For this situation, I use the Free the Captives site as my starting point for the latest updates. The links from this site take one to many very interesting (and sometimes disturbing) places.

I pray both for the hostages and for their captors.

What does prayer mean? Does it really do anything? What exactly does it mean, to pray?

I find this almost too personal to write about, but I do feel that it might be helpful if I shared some of my own thoughts on prayer. I do have a very strong sense that prayer is very important, and can make a significant difference.

I also think that prayer cannot be too specific. When I find myself begging God for something really specific, I have to admit to myself that that doesn't really feel like true prayer. Prayer is not about our getting our way. Prayer is not about "convincing" God that we should get what we want. These kinds of moments don't actually feel very powerful -- they don't feel like true prayer.

The most powerful moments of prayer I've had have been very different. They feel more like I become a lens that gathers and focuses light and directs it to where I think it is most needed. I surround those I care about with this light. In that light, I myself seek, gently, and humbly. I seek to understand; I seek to feel what others feel; I look for what they most need, and then try to send light to what they need. I don't presume that I get it right -- but I still try. I look for their pain, their fear, their blocks. I send the light to melt away the fear and release healing, empowering, creative energy to where they most need it.

So, for example, I try to send the hostages strength, courage, a sense of their dignity and value, and creativity to help them keep trying to find effective ways to respond to their predicament from moment to moment. I don't really know what things are like for them, and so there are limits to how vividly I can focus my prayers. But still, I can envelop them in the light of love.

I pray for their captors too. Again, there are limits to how much I can understand them. Prayer is always humble. While I am tempted, here, to resort to a begging kind of prayer: "Let them go!" instead I discipline myself to try to think into the psychology of the captors: their concerns, their motivations, their anger. My prayer for them is that they move beyond their anger into a kind of openness that will allow them to see that of God in those they hold hostage, and come to realize how wrong it would be to kill them. In this, I envelop the captors too in light and love. In the love is a hope that they can be prevented from doing something awful that they might later regret; in the love is a hope that if they responded differently to this situation, they and everyone watching this situation could learn new and more effective ways to address the very real injustices in the world. They have staged a dramatic event. They have captured the attention of many concerned people around the world. They are in a position of power. In such power, there is enormous potential, both for great harm, and for great good. They must realize this. This may be why they pause.

In the suspense, there is great hope. This is the time to pray, and to keep praying. I do very much sense that prayer really can make a difference.

And so most of all my prayer is for everyone concerned to keep trying to discern the best way to proceed: trying to discern with openness and humility; listening carefully at every moment; looking for that of God; looking for the creative response that can release the powers of transformative goodness.

That, most of all, is my prayer.


  1. Thank you so much for your thoughts. As the mother of a toddler who NEVER STOPS MOVING, I find little time to meditate or comtemplate such situations, so to hear the thoughts and experiences of others is a true blessing.

    For me, prayer is about speaking with God and seeking more of what's going on with his heart: asking him to impress my heart with his desires, will, love. I find myself asking not "how can I/you fix this" but rather "what do you want me to learn from this situation?"

    Again: thanks for being willing to share your thoughts, experiences, prayers.

  2. Thank you for your comments! Your reflections on prayer made me think of something else: I agree with you that in prayer we open ourselves to new learning. Because of this, I believe that real prayer always benefits the one who prays. When I pray for others, I feel I am opening up to the world in new ways and expanding my own capacity for compassion.

    And yes, keeping up with a toddler makes quiet contemplative time difficult to find! In one of my courses, we asked our students each to find a peacemaking role she or he was likely to take on in her or his life and do research on that role. One of our students did her project on "being a mother," saying that raising children well is very important peace-related work. She gave a very inspiring presentation to the class about how she hoped to teach her children effective nonviolent ways to resolve their differences, and also hoped to teach them how to find and cultivate inner peace. It was a wonderful presentation!