Despite some progress, many of the world's people are still struggling for freedom from oppression. Some are literally slaves. For others, it is life under government repression, where one can disappear and, perhaps, never be seen again.
There are degrees and variations of these conditions, but at the bottom of all of them is fear. And often this fear seems justified, since resistance to oppression can indeed lead to death. So the amount of courage it takes to resist mental and physical enslavement is very great.
Those in countries where freedom has been won for all or most of the people can do much to support efforts toward humanity's liberation from the many forms of slavery. Even though we may not be able to make a difference through physical participation, our metaphysical contribution does have power.
In the words of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper: "The 'still, small voice' of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound.... It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 559). This "scientific thought" is what prayer is. It is based on understanding God to be divine Love, wholly good and omnipotent.
An example of the liberating power of prayer is given in the book of Acts in the Bible (see 12:1-17). Back then, the early Christians were subject to oppression from both religious and political authorities. Death at the hands of tyrants was always a possibility. During the rule of a particularly wicked king named Herod, Peter - one of the disciples of Jesus Christ - was thrown into prison.
The Bible explains that when the Christians knew Peter had been captured, "prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." We don't know exactly what form that prayer took. But we do know it was effective. An angel - a messenger from God - came to Peter and literally led him out of the prison by night.
The early Christians' trust in God helped Peter gain his freedom. Science and Health explains: "The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love.... Whatever enslaves man is opposed to the divine government. Truth makes man free" (Pgs. 224-225).
This same divine Love is what you and I can turn to in our prayers for humanity's freedom. The fact that Love is both irresistible and liberating can serve as the basis for our prayers. Since God is omnipresent, we can reason that His love and truth are everywhere, even in the prison cell. As a means of praying, we can affirm this to be true. Right now, Love is nurturing, and communicating directly to, all of its creation. No one - not even the oppressors - can be cut off from the redeeming touch of this Love.
Does this mean a cruel tyrant will have a change of heart? It's possible. Our job isn't so much to outline how freedom will come. It is to pray, trusting that God will inspire and direct its course.
This prayer affirms that the true nature of every man, woman, and child actually is spiritual - of God. Cruelty, jealousy, hatred, have no place in God, and have no reality in what God created. Since God is all power and is solely good, evil, whatever form it takes, is truly powerless. When we remember this fact in prayer for humanity, we're striking a major blow against the fear and the other weapons that oppressors use against innocent people.
Does this prayer really make a difference? Many years ago when South Africa was still in the throes of apartheid, I attended a talk given by a South African minister. He had been falsely imprisoned and had been held incommunicado for some time.
There in his cell, alone and unable to summon help, he had turned to God. And the thought that had come to him was this: Because there were different time zones around the world, someone, somewhere, would be praying every hour of the day. With that thought he felt united with prayerful people everywhere. From a seemingly helpless situation, his heart was lifted to unity with humanity and with God. This brought him mental freedom that day. And ultimately he was released from prison.
That's just one example. Our prayers, joining with others around the globe, will free today's captives also.