Yes, it really can. I learned about this power of prayer when I worked at a gift store in a busy shopping mall.
I was scheduled to be the only clerk for an entire Saturday. And it was only my second day on the job! On the bus ride into the city, I prayed - sought a calm sense of God's control right with me. And I gradually gained a feeling of security and peace.
Only then did I open my copy of the employee manual, which described procedures for preventing and reporting robbery. I could see that these steps were a way to protect everyone, including anyone tempted to commit a crime in the store. But I knew the real protection of each individual - including me, the customers, and even would-be thieves - had its source in each one's spiritual nature as God's child.
Despite everything we hear to the contrary, I don't believe our identity is made up of hereditary influences and social or psychological factors that combine into a flawed, needy person - one who exploits others to get what's absent from his or her life. God creates only good individualities. Our heritage is to be complete and perfect. A spiritual identity belongs to each of us, with no exceptions.
A large convention was taking place in the city, and the entire storefront was open to mall traffic. Concerned about being the only employee on duty, I considered that, as God's child, I had from God the alertness, watchfulness, and love - the shepherding qualities - necessary to keep the store safe and functioning.
Because God is the all-knowing Mind, I knew I couldn't lack any practical information that I needed. God gives each of us spiritual intuition, which guides us to take the right steps to bring harmony to our lives. I asked God to help me be responsive in following this intuition (that's another way to pray).
My Saturday started quickly, as visitors poured in to buy gifts. Then an interesting thing happened. Despite the stream of customers, when one man came in I felt immediately - intuitively - that he intended to steal. This intuition wasn't the result of anything about his appearance or manner. Rather, I felt that God had helped me be alert to recognize his motives as he entered the store.
In other situations, I might have brushed this feeling aside. But as I say, I'd been praying. And I recognized this feeling as a very specific spiritual intuition.
So as I served other customers, I prayed another kind of prayer: I prayed to see this man as God's son. To recognize his spiritual identity, completely safe from temptation or harm. I could see that the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" (found in Exodus 20:15) has the power of divine laws behind it. Even though I couldn't be everywhere at once, I was trusting in these laws of God to guide my actions.
My motive wasn't simply to prevent shoplifting. When people steal, they're denying that they're sons and daughters of the divine Spirit - of Truth itself. Speaking about the laws of God, or Christian Science, the Monitor's founder wrote: "In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 63). Preventing crime is important because it helps protect individuals from acting contrary to their God-given, honest nature. So I continued to pray.
Finally, the man asked to see a piece of artwork - an expensive, handcrafted mask. I politely showed it to him, then returned it to its place on the wall behind the counter. As I rang up another customer, I saw out of the corner of my eye that the mask had disappeared. The man was moving toward the door.
With authority that could only have come from my complete trust in the power of Truth, I whirled to face this man and ordered him to give me the mask. He paused and denied knowing what I was talking about. Firmly, I repeated my demand and reached for the telephone. Quietly, he pulled the mask from beneath his coat and handed it to me, his head down. Then he left the store.
Through prayer, a theft had been stopped. I'd learned that, in the words of the Bible, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).