Meggen Watt is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the
United States Department of State, where she serves
in the Nonproliferation Bureau. She is currently
part of the U.S. negotiating team for the U.S.-Russian
"plutonium disposition" initiative.
Creating and maintaining solid relationships
is absolutely critical to the success of the negotiating
team and this initiative. During our interview,
Ms. Watt explained how she relies on the Bible
daily for inspiration, practical guidance, and
healing messages to help direct and strengthen
all relationships in her career.
Ms. Watt, could you describe your job as a
Foreign Affairs Officer?
I take care of the logistics for the negotiating
team led by an Ambassador (my boss), lawyers,
advisors, and representatives from U.S. agencies.
I work internationally with counterparts from
a number of countries-primarily countries in the
Group of Eight (Canada, France, Germany, Italy,
Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United
States). Currently, we're working with Russia
on plutonium disposition. [See
her bio for more details.] My days include
a lot of writing, meetings, and talking with people
all over the world.
What are your main responsibilities?
I'm the point of contact for our international
counterparts. I'm one of the people--an executive
officer--who helps to make sure the records are
straight, and who provides coordination of people,
documents, timing, this sort of thing. During
meetings, I listen carefully (we all do!). [Read
more about listening in Hot Topics.]
How has using the Bible helped you in your
The entire Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7)
is great, but the Lord's Prayer in particular
has been helpful for me, especially in negotiations.
We are told to enter into the closet and shut
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy
closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray
to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father
which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
If you take what Christ Jesus says, and affirm,
"I'm not going to react" to whatever
has just happened or has just been said, that
is an immediate and calming help. You may be in
the middle of a crowd, but you can choose to turn
prayerfully to God and shut out, rather than get
caught up in what is going on around you. I think
of prayer as a form of listening to God.
How do you shut out what is going on around
you when you need to stay focused on what is being
Of course you don't ignore what is going on around
you, especially when you are interacting with
people. But you can always quietly pray. To me,
it really means getting myself out the way so
I can listen to God. Here, let's go through the
prayer. Each line is a prayer unto itself.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be
thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day
our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as
we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine
is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever. Amen. Matt. 6:9-13
It starts with "Our." That gets
rid of the "we-they" problem. "Our
Father" is a humbling thought. That's
where self gets out of the way. "Our Father"
is really important to me at the negotiating table
because it reminds me that God sees all of us
as His children, and that it is possible to make
progress on whatever issue we are discussing.
I've had many moments where I've prayed. One
happened when I was in a meeting, and one of our
Russian counterparts stood up to present 3 or
4 overhead charts that had not been translated
into English. I could get the meaning of the words
from our interpreters, but when I looked at the
numbers, it occurred to me that numbers didn't
need translation. With a grin, I thought, at least
we're operating in base 10! I was looking for
an element of universality. It struck my funny
bone that that's where I landed, on the numbers,
because I could understand them. I consider that
thought an inspiration. Sometimes you have to
step back to see what is common and then step
forward to make specific progress, which we did
achieve at that meeting.
The next part is "which art in heaven."
There are a lot of qualities I associate with
heaven. Harmony is one of them. A solution to
a problem, or this "harmony," can't
be a harmony according to me personally. Rather,
harmony is revealed when we start to pray. For
example, let's go back to the negotiating table.
Everyone comes with his or her own instructions,
but you can't say to someone, "I'm right
and you're wrong." You have to have a dialogue;
you have to have a give-and-take. You may have
to wait and be patient. The answer might not come
right away, but you can expect it.
Continuing with the Lord's prayer: "Hallowed
by Thy name" reminds me that God's name
and very nature is holy. When we pray, we acknowledge
that fact. Shouldn't we give the same respect
to each other? When we interact with people, whoever
they may be, it is helpful to recognize and honor
who they are.
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in
earth, as it is in heaven." To me, this
has to do with motives and recognizing God as
organizing and running governing
me, those around me, and everyone. This takes
humility and patience.
The idea of being patient is also in, "Give
us this day our daily bread." It's so
important to be patient. Ideas come when you need
them, day by day or moment by moment, when you
recognize that God is doing the "giving"
of ideas. He is the supply. I think that's so
comforting, especially when the idea I'm looking
for isn't immediately obvious.
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive
our debtors." Working in the field, I
see that people tend not to forget what is said.
But to forgive allows people and/or circumstances
to change, to heal. You cannot harbor what people
say. That's where the forgiveness takes place.
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever." This is how
I understand God's power: you get these wonderful
ideas, and perhaps a word, phrase, or idea occurs
to you. That's God speaking; that's inspiration;
and the solution comes when you get quiet and
How does that relate to power and glory?
Well, when you're working on a team, there's no
one person who can take all the glory. And when
you're listening, when you're humble, and when
you're praying, it's easier to say, "Thank
you God," when things get resolved and progress
And obviously God's word is powerful.
Can you relate any instances when you turned
to the Bible, the Lord's Prayer even, for immediate
help and found it.
Oh yes. I relied upon the Lord's prayer for my
safety when I was studying Spanish in Guatemala
in 1989. I went to a church service in Guatemala
City on Sunday morning. Just as the service finished,
a guy came in and started to threaten us. It turns
out he was a guerrilla. He ordered us all into
one of the church rooms and made us lock the door.
He ordered us not to call for help. If we called
the police, he said he would use the submachine
gun that he was brandishing. He said he had a
grenade in his backpack, too. Needless to say,
it was quite upsetting. We were all startled by
this turn of events. As we all gathered in one
room, I looked at his eyes. I could see a lot
of hatred. I had never seen hatred like that in
It was obviously important to pray right then!
One woman led the conversation with this man.
We all sat in that room in the church and prayed
the Lord's Prayer together, out loud, in Spanish.
As we went through the prayer, and we were praying
in earnest, we could see his demeanor begin to
change, to become less menacing. I don't remember
all the details of the conversation that followed,
but our prayer was vigorous. The look in his eyes
had changed; it was softer. He eventually agreed
to let us go. And I give credit to that prayer
for having turned the situation around and saved
our lives. We all left the church unharmed, untouched
in anyway. We had seen a safe, positive result
Was that your first negotiation experience?
If you want to call it that! I was grateful to
be in a group of people who turned to prayer,
to God, first. This was a case of thinking before
you speak. The wrong word could have produced
a negative reaction. You wanted we needed
to think clearly and quickly. It's in extreme
moments when it's good to be familiar with a prayer
like the Lord's Prayer, because it will come to
you when you need it.
How else is prayer important?
Everyone has access to so much information today,
and you don't always know if the information is
accurate, or copied, especially if it's from the
internet. It makes prayer that much more significant
when you need to discern which is the most
important information to deal with. Prayer helps
you filter through all the information and listen
with the heart.
Thank you, Ms. Watt, for taking the time to
talk about the importance of the Bible.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity. It's
been an honor and a privilege.
Ms. Watt's comment that prayer helps us "listen
with the heart" is central to improving and
maintaining lasting and healthy relationships.
Let's work together this month on listening to
others with our hearts.