PERHAPS all of us, at one time or another, after hearing of another's plight have felt our hearts spontaneously welling up with compassion and a profound yearning to comfort and aid. At such a time, we may intuitively reach out to God in prayer. But how can we be sure our prayer is more than a general hope that things go better, be sure, in fact, prayer is precise, positive, and effective in solving the world's problems and in making whole people's hurts?
Christian Science helps us see that prayer is a wholehearted acknowledgment of the infinite perfection of God and His spiritual image and likeness, man. It starts with the basic truth, as given in the Bible, that God is infinite good and that His universe expresses His perfect goodness and love. This spiritual universe, because it is the outcome of an infinitely good God, could not be prone to conflict, fear, or anything else unlike its creator. This is the only authentic universe. And it is where man, t he spiritual image and likeness of God, lives.
One practical step I've taken that helps me pray more effectively for the world is to value prayer sufficiently to reserve time for it. Specifically scheduling a time for prayer encourages me to have a disciplined approach and helps ensure that nothing will prevent me from actually doing the praying that's needed. I also like to read or listen to the news regularly. Being alert to news reports helps me to stay up to date as a particular community or world challenge evolves. This feeling of working togeth er with the whole world and being able to see the effectiveness of prayer from day to day is very satisfying.
In praying for the world, I often find myself concentrating specifically on leadership in government. Those in positions of public leadership are in a unique position to effect positive change --or to hamper it--through the decisions they make. It may seem that there is little we can do to affect such decisions, particularly when leaders are not elected, but the Bible assures us that prayer is effective in all aspects of our lives. In First Timothy, for instance, we read: "I exhort therefore, that, first
of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
In praying to support our leaders we need to be quite specific. To illustrate this, if we were considering a situation where a despotic, nonelected government was in power we might ask, What is the basic underpinning for this authoritarian government? Perhaps the country has no democratic traditions and the people have never known anything but political oppression. What would be the specific truths about God and man that would counter this?
The truth is that God is infinite Spirit, and His expression, man, must therefore be spiritual. This means that man exists under the reign of God, divine Principle, where all of God's creation knows eternally the fairness and justice of the one perfect, spiritual government. Justice and freedom are not part of certain traditions but absent from others. They are actually eternal attributes of God, everlasting Truth, and are reflected by, and so govern, all God's children.
I had an experience that illustrated to me how prayer can contribute effectively to progress in our world. I was living in an overseas country that was being ruled by a military dictator. Although this particular regime had been in power for several years, democratic elections were scheduled for the end of the year during which I was studying there.
I prayed regularly for the country and its upcoming elections. The country had a history of violence related to politics, and I really focused on understanding that a knowledge of God's law could help people turn the page on this violent behavior. I prayed to see that God governed everyone involved--the members of the different political parties and the military alike. And I know that many others were also praying for harmonious elections--to good effect.
As the elections approached there were political rallies involving several hundred thousand people, but there was no violence at these huge gatherings. When the elections were held, all of the parties accepted the democratic decision, and the new president took office smoothly. Today, several years later, although the country continues to face challenges, it has sucessfully taken an important first step toward meeting these challenges. Moreover, the furthering of democracy in that country has strongly en couraged democracy in neighboring countries.
Of course, for our prayers to be effective, we have to live these spiritual precepts in our own lives. In the same way that a check we've written is accepted because we have funds in our checking account, what backs our prayer is our willingness to live in conformity with the spiritual truths that we affirm. Christ Jesus is the perfect example of what it means to live in accord with one's prayer. His life overflowed with putting prayer into action in the healing works that demonstrated the nature of God and man. The good news of Christianity is that all of us can in some measure follow Jesus in healing.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "The 'still, small voice' of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound. The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, 'as when a lion roareth.' It is heard in the desert and dark places of fear. Specific prayer, based on the infinitude of God and His goodness, is effective; and so, through our prayers, we're free to put our shoulder to th e wheel in helping our neighbors around the world.