When families are struck by tragedy, especially prominent ones, there are sometimes calls for prayer from political and religious figures, or from the families themselves.
But people may wonder just how to pray. When my brother was missing, I prayed. His roommate had called my parents to report that he hadn't been home in two days, which was quite unlike him. His girlfriend had no idea where he was. My parents filed a missing person's report with the police.
When I heard the news, I found it difficult to pray for him because I was distracted by worry. I sat down at the piano and started playing and singing hymns. I flipped through a hymnal at random, and eventually sang:
I know no life divided, O Lord of life, from Thee; In Thee is life provided For all mankind and me: I know no death, O Father, Because I live in Thee; Thy life it is that frees us From death eternally. Christian Science Hymnal, No. 135
At first, my fear for my brother's welfare seemed overwhelming. But by the time I had completed this verse, I was absolutely convinced that, no matter what the circumstances were of my brother's disappearance, he was always with God. He could not be separated from God, his Father and his Mother. And, since God is divine Life, he could not be separated from life, not for a moment.
Later that night, the police informed my family that my brother had committed suicide. Even though I was deeply sorry, what I relied on at that moment was the knowledge that my brother was safe in divine Love.
Christ Jesus proved that life is deathless. I felt I could accept that fact for my brother. I also felt, deeply and confidently, that he knew he was loved - by me and my family, and by his Father-Mother God. I felt I didn't need to tell him; he knew.
In turning to God, I was at peace about my brother's well-being. But what about my own self? Could I bear such a loss? I turned wholeheartedly to God for an answer. My prayer led me to a poem I'd copied down once. It was titled "My Brother" and spoke of one woman's healing of grief at the loss of her brother.
The sentiment in that poem expressed the facts about my own brother that I needed. It awakened me to the fact that both he and I were members of the larger family - God's family. That we're all brothers and sisters under one Parent, infinite Love. All the things I loved about my brother were the qualities of God he expressed. These were his identity. I could never be without them. Intelligence, beauty, joy, love - such spiritual qualities are always here and don't end. They're expressed by all God's creation. Just as I had seen that my brother could never be separated from God, from good, I knew it was equally true that I could never be separated from that same infinite good.
And furthermore, my brother and I would be forever together in this goodness of God.
This trust allowed me to help other family members through this time. The experience has also enabled me to help others since then. St. Paul spoke of "the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (II Cor. 1:3, 4). These words have certainly been proved true for me.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (pg. 69): "Spiritually to understand that there is but one creator, God, unfolds all creation, confirms the Scriptures, brings the sweet assurance of no parting, no pain, and of man deathless and perfect and eternal."
Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord. Philemon 1:20
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society