For a number of years, I volunteered with social service organizations in California to improve conditions for poor people. The needs I saw caused me to think a lot about the link between prayer and compassionate action in the face of poverty. I loved the work, even though I often felt frustrated that we were providing bandaids instead of lasting solutions. The reason I later entered the field of spiritual healing was that the best solutions I'd found to struggles of my own had come through a consciousness of God.
People's ideas about God have a tremendous impact on their hope and courage - and their ability to survive hard times. Spiritual starvation can be as heart-rending as literal gauntness. I've never forgotten an interview with an Ethiopian man I heard during the drought and famine there in the 1980s. "You see," he explained through a translator, "the spirits who cared for us have died, and now we are dying also."
I wanted to reach right through the TV screen and say to him, No! It isn't true. Cultures as ancient as his - people of the Bible - knew an eternal Spirit whose love and care never failed, and their trust in it sustained them through wars and drought and famine. This divine Spirit wasn't a mythical figure for them. It was presence and power that they communed with and looked to for aid of all kinds. I have felt God's guidance countless times myself. So in addition to financially supporting projects that alleviate hunger globally and locally, I'm also committed to helping people see that they are fully worthy spiritual beings, sons and daughters of God supported by the Principle of all life.
I had such an opportunity one morning when a couple I knew called me to ask for my help as a Christian Science practitioner. They had a preschool-age child, and hadn't been able to find work for some time. That day they were out of food and money. They were asking for my prayers.
I told them I would pray, but when I hung up the phone, I couldn't. All I could think about was that I should give them money for food. But something held me back. They hadn't asked for money; they'd asked for prayer. As I argued with myself, I realized that the real issue was one of faith. They had trust in God's help. Did I?
And so I began to pray the way Jesus taught. Go into a closet, he said. Shut the door. Pray to God in secret. The great spiritual healer and teacher, Mary Baker Eddy, described the closet as a spiritual sanctuary, a consciousness in which the material sense of life is completely shut out (see "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 15). Life isn't billions of material beings with inadequate support systems, scurrying to survive. Life is God - the one eternal Life sustaining its spiritual creation - always.
In the sanctuary of spiritual vision, I finally stopped struggling with the urge to fix a problem. God was being Life. Principle was supporting its creation. I can't remember now if it was that same evening or the next day when I heard from the couple again, but I do remember the awe in the wife's voice when she told me that her husband had been offered a job that day in a way they'd never expected. They had food. Even more wonderful, they'd felt God at work in their lives. This wasn't a bandaid. All three of us had seen the power of God in action. And, in fact, this family's financial situation improved steadily and stabilized.
The divine Spirit that cares for creation can't fail. Charitable giving is a natural way for people to express this care to other people. And for those who long to do more, there's the opportunity to develop the spiritual vision that has incomparable power to feed hunger of all kinds.
Oh that men would praise
the Lord for his goodness, and
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth
the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalms 107:8, 9
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor