MOST of us have heard about missing children -- the ones whose pictures appear on milk cartons or on the backs of trucks. Occasionally, if a missing child is from our area, there might be an article in the local newspaper. During the last five years, some 22,827 cases of missing children were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of these, well over half, or 13,310 children, have been found. A spokeswoman at the National Center says that if she could tell people just one thing to do to help, it would be to be alert and to be willing to get involved in helping the children who are still missing.
There are many ways to get involved, either through national organizations devoted to helping parents and their children or in local groups. Another way is through prayer. Such prayer wouldn't keep us from helping children in other ways too. But very often prayer will help to lift our hopes and show us the most effective ways to strengthen others in times of challenge.
Most of the people mentioned in the Bible are adults. But interestingly enough, children play key roles at certain crucial points. Abraham, Hagar, Hannah, the Shunammite woman, and others learn about God's love through their children.
Christ Jesus loved little children -- much to the surprise of his disciples, who tried to shoo them away. The Master knew how important it was for us to respect children's innocence, purity, and openness to God, to good. Through his teachings, he also brought out the point that each child is precious to the Father, to God.
Besides their obvious role as citizens of the future, children also serve as reminders to us of our own nature as children of God. In that sense, we are all children, all members of this one divine family. This is a family where God, Love, is always present and where no one can be separated from good.
Humanly speaking, of course, we may need to do quite a bit of praying to see that this fact is relevant to our lives and the lives of missing children. But as we at least start to think of ourselves as totally spiritual, made in God's likeness, we also begin to understand that we are inseparable from Him.
In fact, another term for God is Principle. And when we think of Love in terms of Principle, we begin to see that such Love would have to be pure and based on divine law. There is no happenstance in this Love, no neglect, no impulsive cruelty, no painful separation. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Spiritual man is the image or idea of God, an idea which cannot be lost nor separated from its divine Principle.''1
Devoting ourselves to this spiritual expression of love gives us stability in times of trouble and enables us to prove that all are under God's care. As we rely on divine Love and live in accord with it, we are beginning to see that God, being a God of law, brings peace and order to the world. We can appeal to this law wherever and whenever we need it.
The answer to our appeal comes to us through Christ, the true idea of God. Christ speaks to all of us even if we do not think of ourselves as particularly religious. The guidance may come as the inspiration that will give us a new idea about how to get out of a jam or how to give up wrong behavior. We may hear the voice of Christ as a warning, helping us to avoid trouble. This Christ is our deepest spiritual nature, and it is present with everyone -- every child, every man, and every woman.
In our prayers for missing children, then, we can know that God is present with them and that His saving Christ is guiding and helping them. We can also pray to express more of the spiritual love that is constant, steady, and reliable. Such love has a healing influence on us and on those around us. We can also pray to be alert to the voice of the Christ, guiding us. That way if an opportunity arises in which we can help a missing child, we will know how to do so. If we are actively praying to see that Love is present, we are appealing to the highest power we know.
Such earnest prayer was surely what James was talking about when he said, ``The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.''2 And we can't practice such prayer without being changed ourselves, without becoming more Christlike and more loving toward the children we know and meet.
1Science and Health, p. 303. 2James 5:16. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.
BIBLE VERSE: And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days.... They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
Isaiah 65:19, 20, 22