Prayerful moments produce positive results
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/04/2022 (359 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CITY council was criticized this week for opening its meetings with a time of prayer. Let’s hope councillors don’t bow to pressure and end the tradition. Winnipeg needs more prayer, not less.
A report by the British Columbia Humanist Association said Winnipeg council is violating the state’s duty of neutrality and the rights of the non-religious who might attend.
Judging by the criticism, it seems likely none of the B.C. humanists actually attended a Winnipeg council session before slagging it. Council has a definition of prayer that is commendably elastic.
The responsibility for council’s prayerful opening rotates among councillors. Some pray through the lens of their personal faith, but others offer secular meditations, poetry, inspirational thoughts or song. According to Mayor Brian Bowman, “It is a moment of unity for council before sometimes we get into very divisive discussions and debates.”
The mayor is right when he says a contemplative moment can be a valuable prelude for divisive discussions. And it’s not just city council that can benefit from joining in inspiration of a higher nature. Manitoba is currently struggling with a province-wide polarization on several issues that could benefit from a prayerful attitude.
Heated disagreements about COVID-19 restrictions, masks, vaccinations and the pandemic performance of the PC government have caused bitter rifts. A Free Press/Probe Research survey released this week showed almost nine in 10 Manitobans believe these public fractures will be long-lasting.
It’s sad to see such rancor, but perhaps healing can be helped if more Manitobans pray about it, whatever form that takes for them as individuals.
The world’s major religions prescribe different styles of prayer, but all agree that — as shown by thousands of years of experience — prayer changes the person who is praying.
When Muslims offer their required five prayers daily, when Jewish people begin their weekly Shabatt with prayers of peace, when Indigenous males visit remote areas to pray in vision quests, when Christians attempt the counterintuitive admonition to pray for their enemies, the practice renews the minds and hearts of the people who are praying.
A disciplined prayer life can act like a remedy for anger and aggression. Rewards can include feelings of peace and tolerance for one’s neighbours, qualities that could help Manitobans bridge the acrimonious divides that have developed.
Are the positive results of prayer an intervention by a metaphysical God in ways that surpass understanding? Or, as atheists suggest, is it a type of self-therapy in which we gain comfort from letting go of our worries and entrusting our lives to a supreme being that is imaginary?
Such questions are explored deeply through the theologies of different faiths, all of which include some form of prayer. And when people learn from first-hand experience how prayer bolsters them, they’re inclined to pray often, especially before important matters.
An example was the widely misunderstood reaction to Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon last November when she was asked about a lengthy medical backlog. She said: “My thoughts and prayers are with you and any family member or friend or relative you have that is experiencing their surgery being postponed.”
She was publicly criticized, even mocked, for saying she was praying for people who are suffering. A typical reaction was: “We don’t want her prayers, we want her to fix the backlog!”
I presume Gordon didn’t intend to suggest prayer as a substitute for action. She didn’t mean she was leaving it up to God to fix the backlog. Personally, I was happy to hear she was praying for backlogged patients, and I hope she still is. Her prayers can increase her compassion toward people who need better health care, which we hope will inspire her to discharge her duties with more success than she has achieved so far.
If we’re looking for optimism that rifts can be healed, the reopening of faith institutions in recent weeks offers hope. Finally, faith families can meet fully in person and resume their sacred rituals, including communal prayer.
Praying together will equip them with calmness and peace that they can carry away from their places of worship and spread throughout the greater community, making them more inclined to view other people with softer hearts and kinder intentions. It’s what Manitoba needs now.
Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.
Senior copy editor
Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.