I HEARD a news broadcast that said a much-prayed-for cease-fire in one particular country was not holding at that moment. I thought I should pray about it. But how? The United Nations had requested the world's prayers for peace there. I felt sure that those prayers had brought the warring factions as far as they had already come toward a settlement. Continued prayer, I was-and still am-sure, can lead to resolution of conflict there and in other so-called hot-spots of the world.
In this case, it came to me that there wasn't a kingdom of heaven and another country; in other words, there wasn't someplace left outside of God. I began thinking of the many parables, or stories, that Christ Jesus told to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. He taught that the kingdom includes everything true and real. And that repentance and forgiveness are components of the kingdom of heaven. But ingratitude, revenge, self-righteousness, and the like have no place in the universe that God created.
The Founder of the Christian Science Church wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal, because sin is not there and man is found having no righteousness of his own, but in possession of 'the mind of the Lord,' as the Scripture says" (p. 291). These are the words of Mary Baker Eddy.
This kingdom of heaven can, and must, eventually be reflected in all the war zones of the world. No sin or hate can interfere with the process of peace.
One of Jesus' parables says, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matthew 13:45-46). Your prayer and my prayer will help others, especially those who have glimpsed a peace that is more than just absence of gunfire. Prayer will enable warring factions to make the necessary sacrifices to gain peace. Purely ethnic goals and vengeful motives must give way, in the light of this higher goal of peace. Evil has no place in the kingdom of heaven. The true government of Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, your city, and my household, is in God alone.
The disciples of Jesus were so impressed with his life and healings-with the effectiveness of his prayers-that they asked him to teach them how to pray. He gave them, and all who follow his teachings in all times, a short prayer that he saw, not as a formula, but as the manner in which to pray. The prayer begins with a confirmation that heaven is the habitation of God, whose kingdom is also on earth: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (see Matthew 6:9-13).
All those who are praying for peace in the world's battle areas, when they pray in the manner of the Lord's Prayer, are literally praying that God's will be done. The sincere desire that makes up this prayer helps bring harmony. We may never know how this prayer comes or who receives the benefit from it. But it does contribute to peace. Harmony is the relationship of identities controlled by an overriding principle. Readers of the Koran and both testaments of the Bible know God to be the supreme Lawgiver, or divine Principle. Control by this Principle must be harmonious because harmony is the nature of the Principle.
Each man, woman, and child has his or her spiritual identity. Knowing this brings a joy that improves human conditions and even lightens the burdens imposed by war. This comes individually as a present reality, and not an abstraction. There is no need to wait for anything to happen first. Religious sentiment is enough to bring light here and now.
Even if news is discouraging, even if the peace process seems terribly slow, we need to regard each setback or discouragement as a call for strengthened prayer.