A prayer for Cochrane’s newly elected mayor and councillors

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 19, 2017

Grant your servants listening hearts

“Grant your servant a listening heart to govern your people,” Solomon asked of God upon becoming king of ancient Israel, a good prayer for our just-elected leaders who gather around Cochrane’s council fire.
Graphic by Warren Harbeck

There is the tradition among some of Canada’s First Nations for their leaders to gather around a sacred fire while making decisions for the wellbeing of their communities. This was known as the “council fire,” a reference to the sacred importance of such meetings.

In last week’s pun-packed column I threw my support behind Firewood for Cochrane’s town council. No, he didn’t win at the ballot box. But I trust his spirit will certainly be present with those who did win as they come together around Cochrane’s “council fire.”

Firewood’s spirit, as I see it, exemplifies the qualities so beautifully articulated in Rotary’s famous Four-Way Test: 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

But there’s another quality, I believe, that underlies these four, an overarching virtue made famous by a leader widely regarded as the wisest man who ever lived. That man was King Solomon, and the virtue was what he requested of God upon his ascent to the throne of ancient Israel: a listening heart.

As recounted in the biblical book of 1 Kings, chapter 3, God came to Solomon in a dream early in his reign and asked him what he’d like God to give him.

Solomon responded: “O Lord, my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:7-9)

The common English translation, “an understanding mind,” in my opinion, fails to capture the richness of the underlying Hebrew original phrase: lev shome’a, literally “a listening heart.”

God was pleased that Solomon asked for a listening heart. He could have served his own self-interest by asking for long life, riches and revenge against his enemies. But no, he asked for a listening heart in order to serve, not himself, but the wellbeing of his people.

Ah yes, a listening heart, a heart that is sensitive both to the voice of God and to the needs of the people. A heart spiritually and morally informed to carry out the awesome mandate such leadership implies.

This, then, is my prayer for our newly elected town leadership –Jeff Genung, mayor, and Susan Flowers, Tara McFadden, Marni Fedeyko, Morgan Nagel, Alex Reed, and Patrick Wilson, councillors — that God may grant them listening hearts as they, too, seek to govern our community wisely.


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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