THE evening news showed hunger-striking Chinese students on Tienanmen Square. From my time teaching in China, I had come to know many students. I fretted for my friends' ability to survive their courageous stand for what they are calling democracy. I fretted, but I also prayed -- for their safety and for their spiritual yearning. Turning to the Bible for inspiration -- especially as I thought of those on hunger strike -- I read about a distraught father who importuned Christ Jesus to heal his seriously ill son. Jesus replied with the firm reassurance ``Go thy way; thy son liveth.''1 And the man's son was healed.
How could Jesus have been so sure that the very evidence of illness and discord would be changed? Wasn't it his certainty that God's power could bring the needed freedom? Of course these spiritual issues go far beyond political considerations, which in themselves can be full of contradictions. But human events of every kind can urge us to look deeper than even the critical issues of current news. And this is essential to all of us.
Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science.''2
I endeavored in my prayer to understand more of man as already free under God's government. And can't we see that the human rights and political freedoms called for by those young students hint at the spiritual nature of freedom that is man's birthright? ``I was free born,''3 the Apostle Paul told the Caesarean captain. Each of us can carry in his heart the same conviction of his innate spiritual freedom.
The recognition of God-bestowed spirituality and freedom can bring into our view protection and adjustments in unexpected ways. It was in China, as a matter of fact, that I had such an experience. My teaching colleagues and I received a summons from our American Consulate one day, urging us to come for immediate inoculation against encephalitis. An epidemic of this potentially fatal, mosquito-borne disease was expected. I silently insisted in prayer on man's God-maintained protection from disease. Though I decided not to have the inoculation, I remained free of the disease. Each morning my co-workers came to breakfast displaying many bites, despite screens on windows and doors. Although I heard mosquitoes buzzing around me at night, I realized that my not having even one mosquito bite from then until I left China was not simply accidental.
As I continued to pray about recent events in Beijing it became clear to me that God's spiritual law was certainly able to protect those young students just as surely as He had protected me during the epidemic. The demand on us as concerned onlookers, however, is to maintain in thought the fact that the God of peace is continuously present and can motivate both the demonstrators and the government. Our supportive prayer doesn't need to ``take sides''; rather, we can know that God, divine Mind, uplifts thought to understand His will. Such prayer will neutralize the fear, impatience, perversion of power, or uncertain leadership that would mar or destroy the good already achieved. And our prayer can alert us to the compassion and resourceful caring so necessary to mankind's developing cry for freedom.
Deep yearning for spiritual freedom is surfacing in many parts of the globe. Just as prayer for individuals can emancipate humanity from harmful threats, so it can support innovative, responsible actions of governments as well. Leaders in many nations are faced with entirely new demands. We support the right responses of governments to these demands when we open thought to the wonderful freedom that God is constantly providing to all His creation.
A modest example of what can happen as citizens of the world support governments' actions through prayer came to my attention. I had read that the People's Republic of China had sent teams of young botanists to the Gobi Desert to experiment with plants that might hold back the sand and minimize the spread of the desert. They were successful in developing a grass that does this. I proposed in an article that in a couple of decades the Chinese might use this development to help Africans to hold back the Sahara. Although this particular portion of the article wasn't published, after only three years I was delighted to learn that, indeed, Chinese botanists are now in Cameroun, engaged in that very project. I feel sure that the worldwide atmosphere of prayer is paving the way for nations to assist one another with this and countless other useful ideas.
Although my young Chinese friends' hopes for political freedom and human rights will not be met in a day, man's God-given freedom is already a spiritual fact. Our continuing prayer can help bring to light God's tender love for the man He has made. And His love ensures that the blessings of freedom will ultimately be perceived by each individual.
1John 4:50. 2Science and Health, p. 475. 3Acts 22:28.
BIBLE VERSE: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.... For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty.... Galatians 5:1, 13