'Hey, lady, were you afraid to come here?" The young inmate flashed a grin, friendly, but discerning. To tell the truth, I had been a bit nervous as the time approached to meet about 20 boys confined in a detention center for committing serious crimes. I wasn't sure how they'd respond to a woman coming to talk to them about how God could make a difference in their lives.
For one thing, why should they listen to me, someone so apparently unlike them? For another, there was the insistent feeling that it might be too late. Most of them already faced prison sentences. In some cases, a few senseless moments had changed the course of their lives, not to mention the lives of their victims - apparently irreversibly.
Yet in the weeks since I'd been invited to come, my prayers had assured me of one thing. God had not abandoned them. The divine Mind and Love that originates and includes all identities had a purpose for each one of them. There was hope for these boys - to learn, repent, and lead productive lives of service, even within prison walls.
But how could I convince them of that? It's a question most of us have asked - how to reach those who need help and yet seem so remote from our lives, or so lost in despair that they've apparently stopped listening or trying. Here's where it helps to understand something about the power of a right desire - such as my desire to help these boys. "Desire is prayer," wrote Mary Baker Eddy (who discovered Christian Science in 1866), "and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 1).
A genuine desire to help has unlimited potential because its actual origin is divine, infinite Love, God. In fact, a right desire is evidence that we are in truth the manifestation of infinite Love. Love is the primal and universal cause continuously acting on human thought in life-changing ways, just as the light and warmth of the sun develop seeds into plants. Understanding that our desire to help is the effect of divine Love itself, gives us the authority to act and to trust God with the results.
As I faced those boys that day, their body language varied from curious to impassive. A small group had their backs turned to me, engrossed in a card game. But as I began to speak, I felt a conviction of God's active presence. I knew He was giving me specific ideas to make His message of healing relevant to these boys.
The card game stopped; all the boys listened intently. We spoke of how reform and self-respect come from understanding our true status as sons of God. The Bible promises: "God's children cannot keep on being sinful. His life-giving power lives in them and makes them his children, so that they cannot keep on sinning" (I John 3:9, Contemporary English Version).
Several boys spoke with a maturity that surprised me about how they were glad to be in confinement because they knew they needed to learn how to live better before they went back out. Here was their prayer of right desire, I thought, the evidence of their unlosable identity as sons of God. Divine Love's guidance doesn't stop when a crime has been committed. It's actively present to comfort and heal the victim, to awaken and reform the criminal.
It's never too late for anyone to respond to the life-giving love of God. The warm and thoughtful expressions of thanks I received from those boys that day convinced me of that.
Deliver me, O Lord,
from mine enemies:
I flee unto thee to hide me.
Teach me to do thy will;
for thou art my God:
thy spirit is good;
lead me into the land
Psalms 143:9, 10