September 11, 2001, my son, like many other Chicagoans, left work mid-morning. He came over to be with me, just as his father 60 years earlier had come over to the college dorm where I was living December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.
There are not too many similarities in the details of the beginning of these two wars World War II and the war on terrorism but their very essence is the same. It is essentially a battle to find good supreme. And because the earlier battle chronicled the answered prayers for the supremacy of good, we can expect the prayers for victory today also to be answered.
The challenge now, as it was earlier, is to keep praying earnestly and fervently.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, advised at the time of an earlier armed conflict that her fellow citizens "Pray for the prosperity of our country, and for her victory under arms; that justice, mercy, and peace continue to characterize her government, and that they shall rule all nations" ("Christian Science versus Pantheism," pg. 14).
Such prayers are not seeking victory for one nation over another nation, one people over another people, one religion over another religion. This prayer for justice, mercy, and peace to prevail is universal and timeless. It is a good basis for our prayers today. Praying for justice, mercy, and peace to continue flows from recognizing spiritual continuity, and it honors the good already achieved wherever found.
Such general prayer for all nations and peoples may well be followed by specific prayers for their citizens. One of the most effective prayers we can utter is the recognition that God did not create evildoers. Sometimes this is very challenging to do, but separating evil from the divine creation separates it from power and even from creditable presence.
The Gospel according to St. John begins with an inspiring declaration of what Christ is. The writer sees this manifestation of God as light and says: "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). It may call for some stretching to accept that the real selfhood of anyone, and indeed of terrorists, is actually Christlike. But this truth that defines God's creation is a forever fact.
We can call upon the light of Christ, Truth, which is always speaking to the human consciousness the facts of God's allness and goodness. Seeing the nature of God, we find the true nature of ourselves and of all others.
"Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil," wrote Mrs. Eddy ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 571). To me, this self-knowledge has two components: to see myself, as well as all others, in the light that Truth sheds on us; and to include an honest appraisal of my thoughts and actions. This honest view of ourselves keeps us open to the wisdom first before the occasion for a victory over evil. In a way this true self-knowledge is the light that lighteth everyone who "cometh into the world."
We may view this light as both the actual and potential selfhood of everyone. However considered, the fact is that everyone, without exception, whether they know it or not, reflects the light of godliness. Prayers that acknowledge this are sure to bring victory in the battle of good over evil.
During one week recently, a friend of mine recounted having dinner with Japanese friends who were visiting the United States. She commented how much she enjoyed this couple. My son then told me of his plans to attend the wedding of a friend who earlier had moved to Germany and was marrying a citizen of that country. Sixty years ago, Japan and Germany were the enemy. The citizens of these countries were the ones we struggled to see in their true spiritual light. And these nations were ones for which we prayed to see expressing justice, mercy, and peace.
Years from now when we remember and honor September 11, we can expect the heartache of this day to have been assuaged by another victory over evil the victory of answered prayer.