Turning to the Divine is a natural and – since ancient times – very common response to both tragedy and moments of great fear. Prayer is a response that can comfort those who feel victimized and lift them out of victimization. It can even transform the thinking of those who have perpetrated violent events, reform their lives, and, in this way, thwart repeated acts of violence.
Through my study and practice of Christian Science, I have come to understand prayer as especially effective when it is an affirmation of the supremacy and complete goodness of God, and of the natural goodness of man as God’s image and likeness, as stated in the first chapter of Genesis. While this view of man challenges what we all tend to see to the contrary, I have come to see that a spiritual view of ourselves and others lifts us up and inspires us to do good.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, explains: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, – a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 1). It is, therefore, not unreasonable to trust our prayers in seemingly desperate situations. Mrs. Eddy continues later on in the same book: “The history of Christianity furnishes sublime proofs of the supporting influence and protecting power bestowed on man by his heavenly Father, omnipotent Mind, who gives man faith and understanding whereby to defend himself, not only from temptation, but from bodily suffering” (p. 387).
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” states the Psalmist in Psalms 46:1. This divine help comes to our consciousness in the form of ideas – spiritual ideas from God that meet our need right where we are, even in the face of apparent danger.
A friend of mine experienced proof of this after a late-night dinner at a restaurant. As he walked to his car in the dimly lit parking lot behind the restaurant, a man approached him and pointed a handgun at his head. He told him to give him his wallet or he would shoot. My friend immediately affirmed in silent prayer that, despite appearances, this man was truly made to be good, like God, and that he was naturally made to be receptive to God’s goodness. He looked the man confronting him straight in the eye and said, “You are a good man; you don’t want to do this.” The man’s expression changed, he lowered his gun, and walked away.
That’s prayer in action. And it shows, too, that God, omnipotent Mind, gives us the precise thoughts we need when we need them.
Even those who feel strongly justified in doing something hateful or harmful can experience spiritual awakening and redemption. Accounts of persons who have turned from self-will, revenge, hatred, etc., to carve out admirable lives grounded in love, peace, kindness, good deeds, and spiritual progress are proverbial. Such individuals uphold and contribute good in virtually every community.
As we become more alert to what we are nurturing in our consciousness about our fellow men and women, recognizing and choosing the Godlike model becomes a game changer; it brings reformation to us and others, blessing everyone.
Originally published in the Christian Science Monitor, @csmonitor