WHEN the world went to war in the Persian Gulf, millions of people turned to prayer. Individuals the world over, each in his or her own way, implored God to bring a quick resolution to the conflict and to deliver those involved in it from harm. In the United States, a national day of prayer was called for. Now that hostilities are over, there are many reasons to believe that people's united prayers are effective. Diplomats are now assessing what it will take to establish and maintain lasting peace in the Mideast. Many say the region represents some of the most complex political challenges in the world. Until the underlying issues are finally and fully resolved, the possibility of yet another war in the region will remain, as it has for generations. These are some of the reasons why those who have prayed so earnestly for an end to the war cannot cease now to pray for a lasting solution and cooperative world order .
At the root of wars are conflicts of ideals and values among different groups of people. And usually all sides of a conflict can claim at least some worthy ideals.
It is natural for people to want to defend their ideals. But war isn't where idealistic issues are settled. Who believes that a bullet can destroy the motives or personal ideals that incite conflict? Or that the destruction of an army can destroy the ideals and values that motivated a nation to raise that army? The underlying causes live on in the minds of men until they are corrected on that same level. The real battleground is not the battlefield at all, but rather human consciousness, where thoughts are introduced, evaluated, and nurtured, ultimately to take form in actions. Consciousness is also where strife seems to originate.
What's needed to avert war, then, is an understanding of spiritual values and ideals that can begin to bring unity of principle to all people. Then there would be no conflict. Common sense argues that this is unattainable in a world as diverse as ours. And certainly a bland, homogenized world ``culture'' is not the answer. But prayer exposes the fundamental falsity of the belief that conflict is inevitable. That's why prayerful vigilance is needed now as much as it was in the heat of battle.
If battles originate as conflicts of ideas in world consciousness, then even one individual's thought, imbued with an understanding of God's love and guidance, can decrease the world's warring by that much. This healing consciousness is prayer.
Christ Jesus revealed the limitless possibilities of prayer. He repeatedly showed us how turning thought to God in prayer -- how relinquishing our trust in false beliefs such as those that argue that conflict and violence are inevitable -- brings God's healing influence to mankind. Prayer was no gamble for Jesus. He used it with absolute certainty to meet every challenge he faced, and healing always followed. He also said, as John's Gospel records, ``He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also,'' giving us reason to believe that our prayers can be effective.
Jesus referred to God in what we now call the Lord's Prayer as ``our Father.'' Doesn't this imply that all have, in reality, the same Father -- God -- and must of necessity share the spiritual values and qualities that God imparts? This is a view of things very different from what most of us are accustomed to. Prayer enables us to see and begin to understand this spiritual reality, however. And as our understanding grows more spiritual, we begin to bring a new -- a divinely empowered -- influence to the arena of human consciousness. Then we are waging war on the conflict engendered by false beliefs, and we are replacing these falsehoods with the truth of God's government.
In doing this, we bear witness to Christ, the divine impetus that inspired Jesus' teachings and gave him power to heal. Christ did not disappear with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus but remains for us to demonstrate as he instructed. Christ has always been present to leaven consciousness with the divine understanding that brings permanent peace. It needs only to be understood and demonstrated. Christ Jesus said, ``Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.''
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrestled with many of these issues as she prayed for the peaceful resolution of wars during her own lifetime. Because she had experienced repeated confirmation of the practical effect of prayer on human experience she was able to write in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would co nsist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science.''
We can confidently affirm the universal fatherhood of God, good, in our own prayers -- and have a lasting impact on a new, peaceful world order.
There is one body,
and one Spirit,
even as ye are called
in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who is above all,
and through all,
and in you all.