IN 1963, during a march on Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech that is not only widely quoted, but also sets a standard for racial progress today. Dr. King stated, ''I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, . . . I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.''
Surely much of the confidence in Dr. King's dream lay in the courage he and his followers had already expressed. The conviction that brotherhood is the inevitable outcome of prayer and hard work had carried them through many trials. Their trust in the Holy Bible's message was firm. Their certainty that God has no favorites, and that He truly is a loving God, had strengthened them in many a dark hour.
The Bible is a book of inspiration that gives practical guidance in the achievement of brotherhood. It shows people how to be more patient with each other.
The teachings of Christ Jesus, fresh in the lives of his disciples, required them to love people they felt were different or inferior even when they had to struggle to do so. Despite the effort involved, these early Christians persisted! The book of Acts tells of a breakthrough the disciple Peter had, when his prayer showed him he needed to love all people-not just those who were Jews like himself. Peter declared, ''Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean'' (10:28).
Peter acted on his insight by going to a Gentile (someone he would formerly have despised) and sharing the message of God's love for humanity that Jesus had taught him. His prayer wasn't just a mental exercise. It required him to change his thinking and then to take steps that responded to what had inspired him.
Whether you're praying for permanent peace in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, or California-you too can pray, and act on the spiritual insights that prayer surely does bring. Such steps are the means by which we can all help change the world for the better, no matter where we are.
Fundamentally, we change the world only by changing ourselves, starting with our own thoughts-by deepening our love for mankind, weeding out prejudices, and growing in spirituality. The Christian Science textbook, which is based on the teachings of the Bible, contains this statement by Mary Baker Eddy: ''Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it. Goodness attains the demonstration of Truth'' (p. 2). Mrs. Eddy, who wrote this book entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, subsequently founded the Christian Science Church.
The change that brings with it the power of God's law comes about through a recognition, or spiritual perception, that we are not mortal beings with certain ethnic or racial characteristics- even though this is how things appear on the surface. Instead, we are spiritual, sons and daughters of one God, who is Love. Goodness is the essence of everyone, and evil or hatred is not. This knowledge actually helps direct attention away from skin color and ethnic background, and toward brotherly love.
Living from this spiritual viewpoint does increase an individual's ability to heal prejudice, whether in one's own thought or the thoughts of others. It purifies human relationships. Recognizing that everyone is the offspring of God starts us off on an equal footing; no one is, after all, more, or less, precious to God.
Perhaps these thoughts are humbling. Perhaps they are even hard to accept. But these thoughts can change us, even if only in small ways at first. We can expect to find more and more evidence that we are indeed united with each other and that this wonderful unity has nothing whatever to do with physical characteristics. It's possible-with God's help-that our efforts will eventually make Dr. King's dream of brotherhood come true.