TODAY, is "Earth Day--an opportunity to consider the many environmental concerns facing our world. While this annual review of conditions on our planet is important, there is something each of us can do every day. We can do it on the way to work, while waiting for the bus, or at the bank, the grocery store, or anywhere else. We can pray daily for the welfare of our planet.
At first that may not sound like much, but that's because people often underestimate the effect of prayer. When we turn to God in genuine, heartfelt prayer, we're doing more than just mouthing words or trying to impress others. True prayer is a form of communion between each of us and God. And God isn't a far-off being--an old man with a beard--but is divine Spirit, Mind, Love. Understanding God's nature and striving to be in accord with His good purpose will help us to purify our environment. The basis for our efforts is the fact that we are God's spiritual offspring--His ideas. In fact, the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible tells us that God created man in His likeness. God then instructs man to "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
This dominion is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as the right to use and abuse the planet. And some environmentalists have unwittingly presented this erroneous perception as having a Biblical basis. Our real answer is the example set by Christ Jesus, who provided a wholly sound and positive example of what such dominion over the earth should be.
For instance, he walked on the water, he was able to calm storms, and he healed sickness and troubles of all kinds. Through his teachings he was able to impart an understanding of divine law that points his followers, including us, to a more intelligent approach to caring for our environment.
We follow in Christ Jesus' footsteps as we strive to express God's qualities such as joy, purity, peace, love. Thus, since God is Mind, He is the source of all intelligence. It follows, then, that as we pray to conduct ourselves as Mind's offspring, we will express intelligence in all we do, including how we treat the environment.
Since God is Love, it is natural for us to express love toward nature, our fellow beings, and our entire planet. In a sense, to love creation and treat it with respect is to love our neighbor in the way Christ Jesus told us to do. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes the point that we can't be truly loving if we are angry at our fellow humans. So prayer that changes thought--that purifies or elevates it to higher, more spiritual goals--demands action, whether the steps we take involve changing our ow n attitudes toward pollution, recycling, and conservation or taking action with a group devoted to environmental causes.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this point about prayer-induced action in her book No and Yes: "True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Even when such prayer leads us into taking human steps that will help the environment, its first result should be to change us--improving our personal environment by making us better people.
As we grow in our appreciation of Christ Jesus' life and ministry and as we understand more fully that the laws he was proving can be brought to bear on today's problems--be they environmental, political, or social--we will find the spiritual answers we are seeking. Daily prayer that rests on love for God and our fellow humans will direct us in progressive ways. It will purify our individual lives and our environment.