Come to the River of Love

TODAY is the 109th World Day of Prayer. It will be observed by people of all circumstances-from those in rural hamlets to those in highly industrialized cities around the globe. It unites Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christian women-and men-in 170 countries and regions. It unites them in a day of ''informed prayer and prayerful action.''

Each year, the service for World Day of Prayer is written by the people of a specific nation. This year's service, written by women in Haiti, has the theme ''God calls us to respond.'' It includes a hymn that declares: ''My brother for a long time God has been calling you / Each day God calls you saying 'Come to me' / To the great river of love . . . .''

What does it mean to be called by God? Perhaps you have never thought of God's love for you as a ''great river.'' Perhaps you have even thought of God as a harsh judge or cruel parent. But this does not have to continue. By responding to God's call, you can learn to know Him as divine Love, as a God of peace and goodness. You can find that you are His child, under His care forever.

The Bible tells of Christ Jesus, for whom God was the source of everything-the answer to all his questions and all his needs. He taught others to know God as good only. Jesus proved that a life lived in service to God will always have what it needs. The Bible makes this promise to everyone. The book of Psalms, for example, says of the individual who loves God and who does not indulge in evil: ''He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper'' (1:3).

Each of us can know this prosperity-can ''come to the river of love''-through a growing understanding that we are the offspring of God. This means that we each have a unique heritage, given to us by Him. A specific purpose exists for every man and woman, which will bless humankind. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can strive to respond to this purpose. You can begin simply by bringing to your daily life the best sense of spirituality that you have. With the help of prayer, it's possible to greet the day with joy instead of discouragement. To be loving even when there doesn't seem much reason to do so. To look for opportunities to do good even if there isn't a reward in sight.

Such behavior expresses the goodness and love inherent in God's creation. Yet, to stay on the level of doing good simply through human niceness is not to gain the full blessing that is ours. To make ongoing progress and to find stability in life requires a change of perspective on what life is. It requires us to give up the belief that we live at the mercy of a material world filled with competition and strife. We must take seriously the fact that we are spiritual and inseparable from God. Making this change is not merely an intellectual step; it is a change of consciousness that literally transforms our lives.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science in 1866, wrote of such spiritual renewal in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The book includes the following remark: ''The calm, strong currents of true spirituality, the manifestations of which are health, purity, and self-immolation, must deepen human experience, until the beliefs of material existence are seen to be a bald imposition, and sin, disease, and death give everlasting place to the scientific demonstration of divine Spirit and to God's spiritual, perfect man'' (p. 99).

Accomplishing this change may not be easy, but it is possible. Spiritual reality is at the heart of God's creation, and sin, disease, and death were never created by Him. They could not fulfill the purpose of a totally loving and good God. It's by knowing God better that we learn these evils have nothing to do with us or with God's plan. And when anyone responds to God's purpose, she or he helps not just one person, but the entire world.

''Come to the river of love.'' Drink deeply from it. And wherever you are on the globe, take a few moments-or longer-to join others during this World Day of Prayer.

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