While street living has long been a part of life in large cities such as New York City, according to a New York Times report, shanty towns are popping up around the United States in places such as Nashville, Tenn.; Sacramento, Calif.; Olympia, Wash.; and St. Petersburg, Fla. ("Cities Deal With a Surge of Shanty Towns," March 26).
The article notes that by day these towns for homeless people can seem very peaceful, but at night they can become quite dangerous, especially when drugs are involved.
Prayer for the safety of these individuals and for them to find more permanent housing can help alleviate these conditions, along with the hopelessness that sometimes burdens people. One way to pray is to refuse to accept the view that they are useless, without value, and must accept these unsafe or filthy conditions. In reality, each individual is a spiritual idea of God, and has a right to claim God's care even in this time of trouble. In our prayers, we can see them as spiritual, never cut off from God's goodness, and safe under His care. Each one has a divinely empowered purpose and is able to discern what it is and to follow God's leading.
The 91st Psalm begins, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Each of these individuals – and everyone else – lives in this secret place where God's goodness is tenderly guarding them. Even if they aren't always conscious of it, they are forever the sons and daughters of God.
To recognize this in prayer helps lift off the belief that homelessness and instability are their lot in life. Rather, they are meant to express the fullness of God's idea, which includes food, clothing, and housing. Christ Jesus made this point in his Sermon on the Mount, in which he spoke of God's care for even the small details of His creation, and he affirmed that if God could do those seemingly small and unimportant things, He could also take care of each one of us.
Mary Baker Eddy, who established this newspaper, wrote a poem that speaks of God's protecting care and refers to divine Love as a refuge: "No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;/ No night drops down upon the troubled breast,/ When heaven's aftersmile earth's tear-drops gain,/ And mother finds her home and heav'nly rest" ("The Mother's Evening Prayer," "Poems," page 5).
These words help structure our prayers for the homeless. In Love's refuge, no danger or dangerous person, no disease can enter. No mental darkness can drop down on someone and lead him or her to irrational actions, mental instability, anxiety, or fear. As children of God, each one has the right to protection from any thought of lurking evil.
Such prayers will not only reach out to those in need, but they will also help lift up our thoughts about these individuals so that we see them as real individuals, worthy of God's care. And we can expect results.