Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

I recently enjoyed reading TV newsman Chris Wallace’s book 1945, which chronicles the events marking the creation and use of the first atomic bomb.  Along the way, the author gives us insights into the ways of the various characters involved. Singular attention is given to the controversial decision of President Harry S. Truman to use the awful weapon against Japan, which was at the time our sworn enemy. How different today with our roads traversed by Honda, Toyota and Nissan cars.

As we know, the president’s decision changed history, and its propriety is still the subject of debate. But we learn as well of Truman’s troubling internal quandary beforehand and the various positions of his trusted advisers. Yours truly was only three years of age at the time, so the book shed light on what went on then.

At this early day in a brand new year, most of us already know that we will be making all kinds of decisions in the months ahead.  Some will be delightful; others daunting. May I propose what Jesus did before every major decision in His life as our model? It was prayer. Our Lord prayed at the moment of His baptism, when God the Father and the Holy Spirit manifested their approval of Him as He began His public ministry. A few short years later Jesus would pray as He begins to close His ministry in the garden of Gethsemane.

Prayer before decision-making.  It makes perfect sense on one level. It demonstrates faith on another.  Why then is it so often neglected even by believers?  I put the blame squarely on that pragmatism embedded in our American psyche.  It’s the same notion that promotes rugged individualism as the ideal way to live.  So, it is better to be known as an independent than a
dependent. Leave religion and God out of it.

That’s sad not only for relegating God to the sidelines, but also for denying the way we are “hard wired” as creatures for God. You could not ask for a more independent-minded person than Jesus.  Note how little He cared for the opinions of others.  But oh!  Did He ever pray!

The Psalms of Scripture are unique because Jesus prayed them. You could say they were His prayer book of David’s poems. Other poets over time have extolled prayer as well.  I have always liked this one from George Herbert, the 17th century Anglican priest, who gives us images that make us pause:

“Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.”

God love you and give you His peace.