`SAYS who?'' would ring out when, as children, we were told by one of our peers to do something. Did that person have the authority to tell us what to do? Recently I found myself thinking about what it means to have authority. I was chairperson of a committee made up of volunteers. Some parts of a project we were planning stalled. After doing the reminding and encouraging that seemed appropriate and still seeing no action, I felt frustrated. I recognized I had no real authority to make these people do anything.
Frustration, anger, and fear mushroom when we feel powerless to influence another. What can we do?
I know that prayer can have a healing effect. Prayer that affirms what is true of God, the all-powerful creator, and His perfect government of everything in His creation, can lead to a correction of our situation, as I have seen many times.
While reading the Bible, I found a story that helped me recognize that it is God who has ultimate and supreme authority.The account is of a centurion (a commander in the Roman army) whose servant was sick.1 The centurion sent a message asking Jesus to come and heal his servant. Then he sent a second message, requesting that Jesus just ``say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.'' The centurion recognized the power of a command by one in authority. When Jesus received this message, he journeyed no farther but healed the servant, commending the centurion's faith.
Christ Jesus understood God to be the power behind his work, as the Bible makes clear. After realizing that it is God who always has authority, I began to pray. One line in the Lord's Prayer says, referring to God, ``Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.''2 These words can be seen as an affirmation of fact. The infinite, all-powerful God is certainly very much in command, and the man of His creating is doing as He directs, doing that which pleases Him!
It would appear, of course, that man often acts contrary to God's direction; that he's a sinful mortal living apart from his creator, motivated by a personal will, by evil as well as good impulses. But this isn't the truth of creation. It isn't the reality of man. Our genuine and only selfhood is governed wholly by God. In truth, there is no separate, independent will opposed to the divine government and purpose.
After I had thought deeply about these truths, the worry and feeling of pressure left me. I felt confident of God's wise direction of His offspring. (And I wasn't at the same time thinking, ``This is what God will have this or that person do.'' I completely surrendered my own will about what everyone ought to do.) Further, I knew that these spiritual truths would act as a law to govern the situation.
I went on with other things. Within several days there was forward movement on our project. Ultimately the work was accomplished successfully.
The centurion's second message to Jesus showed respect for authority. Perhaps he glimpsed something of what Jesus knew was the real power behind his work. The Master healed people of severe forms of disease, quieted storms, provided food when there was an insufficiency. Yet he refused personal credit. He said that ``the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.''3 Jesus was obedient to his Father. Obeying God is natural, though it doesn't always seem to be. People are sometimes selfish, willful, disobedient. But again, man is not the material being he appears to be. He is actually the spiritual reflection, or likeness, of God. Therefore God has authority over man. Man does as God directs, and he is good. The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,4 states: ``God creates and governs the universe, including man. The universe is filled with spiritual ideas, which He evolves, and they are obedient to the Mind that makes them.''5
Often the consequences of another's action or inaction are far more significant than in the instance I related. But whatever the situation, whether one of personal safety, morality, government legislation, we are not in the final analysis responsible for governing another. God is. The last words of the Lord's Prayer give a correct assessment: ``For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.''6 God is governing all perfectly. We glimpse this spiritual reality in our prayers. And as we come to feel and know it, we'll see it expressed in our lives.
1See Luke 7:2-10. 2Matthew 6:10. 3John 5:19. 4The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 5Science and Health, p. 295. 6Matthew 6:13. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? Isaiah 14:27