EVENTS in the Middle East have captured headlines, thoughts, and hearts around the world. For the first time in many years the so-called regional conflict threatens many nations. Those of us on the sidelines wait, watch -- and, as President Bush requested in his address on Wednesday -- pray. Over the course of history, many leaders -- political and religious -- have asked their people to pray for peace, prosperity, freedom. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded this newspaper, was committed to prayer and believed deeply that informed prayer -- prayer based on an understanding of truth -- was essential to peace among nations.
From her life, it is evident that her worldview was broad. She was much aware of wars and other world events. Yet she was convinced that prayer would enable mankind to solve its problems and to find genuine stability and prosperity. On more than one occasion, she specifically advised her followers to pray for peace. Throughout her writings, she stresses the importance of prayer for leaders and for the world.
Her earnest study of the life of Christ Jesus showed her, however, that peace must begin in our own hearts. As she says in an article called ``Other Ways Than by War,'' published in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, ``The characters and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity, and life of nations.''
In short, our own individual efforts to be loving, peaceable, and pure count toward the overall effort of the world to experience total peace -- everywhere. This occurs because individually, wherever we are, we are part of this world community. So as more and more of us are willing to settle conflict in a Christly way, it is only natural that the impetus toward genuine peace should increase.
It was no accident that Christ Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, ``Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.'' His statement stands not only as a great promise but also as a declaration of an important spiritual fact. Many of us might have heard the phrase ``children of God'' or even been told that we are God's offspring. But the obligation and the power that come with this blessing are frequently overlooked. This statement of our true identity is not just a comforting phrase. It is a declaration that we are fully spiritual and inseparable from the goodness of God. It also brings with it a requirement that we live as though we believe in the spirituality it speaks of and in the goals that it embraces.
These goals include peacemaking, comforting, healing, restoring. They do not include selfishness, resentment, gossip, destruction. Fear and other discordant elements tend to arise because we or others feel that perhaps we will be deprived of good -- of love or of some needed supply, for instance. These argue that we are merely material beings who can be cut off from God, from good.
Understanding our real nature as children of God -- expressing the love, goodness, tenderness, wisdom, and joy that make up God's man -- transforms our sense of who we are and of the options available to us. We begin to see that the material limitations that lead to conflict don't need to govern us or deprive us.
This change occurs as we realize that God, being infinite Love, infinite Mind, cannot include limitation in His goodness. And because He can't be limited good, we, being inseparable from Him, can't be limited either. Gaining this freedom from limitation -- whether it be a limited sense of love, of money, of power -- is what begins to move us from discord to peace.
The stress and strain brought on by fear of not having enough of something are eliminated completely when we understand that we can never be deprived of God, of good. This spiritual fact is practical because it turns our thought away from the material limitations and requires us to think in more creative, spiritual terms.
Sometimes we may think that the only solution to a problem is to gain more materials from a particular source, for instance. But through prayer that recognizes our spirituality and our relationship to God, we may well be inspired to try something new. In another case, we may find that the thing we seemed urgently to need -- and which was not available -- isn't required and that what we do need may be easily obtained.
No matter what actually comes forth as the solution, we will be more likely to see it if we are willing to look beyond the limitations that material life and living seem so ready to put on us. Through understanding our genuine spirituality -- and thus our freedom from the finiteness of materiality -- we will not only be able to be more generous to others ourselves; we will also see that we do not need to react to the threats or fears of those with whom our encounters are less than peaceful.
Gradually we will find our individual character transformed so that we are able to be stronger in the face of temptation and more intelligent in how we respond to others. This change is the type of regeneration that Christ Jesus spoke so much about in his efforts to help people's hearts and minds turn more fully to God.
To know and live as children of God enables us to make a real contribution as peacemakers in our community and our world. As we halt the cycle of action and reaction that so frequently escalates conflict -- even in individual encounters with others -- we will be doing what Christ Jesus said we should do. And when that happens our whole world, not just ourselves, will be blessed.