Praying neighbors

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

"I can't shush these kids any more," I heard myself saying into the telephone. This was a new reaction for me - I usually complied with our neighbor's call to keep the children quiet. I continued, "I have to get our son off for camp in the morning, but the minute he leaves, I'll start looking for another place to live." We had bought our dream house from a retired couple. We had lived there only a few days when I realized that the neighbors on both sides were also retired. Most of our children's lives had been spent in the country where there were no close neighbors, and I knew that we were learning lessons in how to relate to others.

We had often asked our preteen children and their friends to play more quietly, and we all worked hard at keeping the dog from barking. My husband and I shrank at the thought that our family could destroy the peace of people who had lived there, apparently happily, until we moved in. That night, too disturbed to go to bed, I lay on the couch, praying. I finally gained a heartfelt conviction that God, named in the Bible as Love, would bring peace. I saw more clearly than ever before that God was divine Principle, and that everything governed by this Principle was harmonious. I felt that God would guide our move to where we would be a blessing and not a disturbance to others.

The next morning, we were hurrying to get the last nametag sewed on and the trunk closed. Our neighbor, with whom I'd had the conversation the night before, appeared at our open door. "May I come in?" she asked. I felt frantic. I didn't want to offend her, but we were in a hurry to get to the train that would take our son to camp. "I don't have time to talk now," I said. She answered, "This will take but a minute. Unlatch the screen door, for I want to kiss you." She told me that she had been to church, which said to me that she had been praying, as I had. She continued, "I know that we are getting old and fussy. Please don't move."

I was surprised and deeply touched. She wasn't really berating herself in what she had said. Prayer had revealed to her what she could do to clear the atmosphere, and she was doing it. While the words and form that our prayers took may have been quite different because our religions were different, they had worked together to bring peace.

This small experience many years ago inspired me today to think of the Palestinians and Israelis as praying neighbors. And it renewed my hope for peace in the Middle East. The three major religions represented there have clear-cut standards for dealing with neighbors. "Love thy neighbour as thyself" (see Lev. 19:18, Luke 10:27) is found in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Gospel. Mohammed taught his followers to do good to all neighbors (see the Koran, IV.36).

The New Testament recorded that someone, "willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29). Jesus then told the story that has become known as the parable of the good Samaritan. Among the many lessons the story teaches is that a neighbor helps, rather than ignores, the plight of another. According to this description, I am as much a neighbor to the Palestinians and Israelis as they are to one another. Knowing that praying neighbors bring peace, I've renewed my prayers, not only for the Middle East, but also for other areas and situations where help is needed. I know that my prayers, which may be worded differently from those of others, will unite with theirs as a powerful force to bring harmony to our world neighbors.

Mary Baker Eddy, in the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," gives a test for all prayer: "Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking?" (pg. 9). I've found that this question stirs me to enlarge even legitimate prayers for myself to include my neighbors everywhere.

We spent many happy years in our home, living between the retired neighbors. We increasingly learned to respect one another's religions and often participated in each other's church activities. Learning more of their interests, I shared copies of this newspaper, which was founded by Mrs. Eddy, the Founder of my religion.

I'm convinced that as all our prayers become more inclusive, our world will become a more peaceful neighborhood.

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