A constant theme in world news - one that Monitor readers know well - is the repression of individual rights and freedoms by authoritarian, corrupt, or despotic regimes.
In scores of countries, governments maintain power by denying basic rights and freedoms to their citizens. This despotism takes many forms - extorting bribes, censoring and propagandizing the news, perverting legal systems, disenfranchising groups and individuals, stealing elections, and jailing and executing dissidents.
These tactics cause harm in countless ways. Perhaps worst of all, they crush individual aspirations and squander human potential. This is the very capital that nations need to build better lives, happier families, healthier communities, and stronger economies.
Seeing so much of humanity shackled in so many ways, a caring person wonders, "What can I do?"
Agencies and charities are hard at work on many kinds of human suffering, from hunger to AIDS. A caring person can volunteer, or at least send a donation. But where do you send money to end corrupt government? It is a plague so huge, so entrenched in history and human behavior, that it seems only time - if that - can heal it.
Against these odds, what can an individual do?
There's prayer. For centuries, it has been humanity's chief weapon in the battle for human rights.
We need to pray in a way that affirms the rights of man and reveals them as not playthings of human governments, but eternal laws of an all-powerful God.
A platform for prayer
Here is a spiritual platform for this kind of prayer:
"God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience."
This statement from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, declares the very root of human rights: God, who is Truth, Principle, infinite power, and who made all.
It also declares the divine right, responsibility, and capacity of every man and woman to choose between doing right and doing wrong - an inner compass given to every individual that unfailingly points to what is good.
The individual possessing this inner compass is the basic building block from which are built all human systems, organizations, and governments. Systems that trust in these fundamental human traits give men and women free rein to exercise them. Systems that do not trust in these traits build cruel structures to contain them.
Dissolving cruel structures
Recognizing this, we can pray in a way that dissolves those structures.
To begin our prayer with God, the divine and omnipotent cause, is to begin to understand the way things truly are - spiritual and perfect. Prayer that begins this way, with the universal, all-powerful principle of justice, mercy, and progress, is potent.
Then our prayers can affirm what's true in the face of all that argues against God's omnipotence. From this affirmation flows the fact that His creation, the individual man or woman, must necessarily be fully endowed with the powers of self-government, reason, and conscience.
This prayer of affirmation turns resolutely away from the sad picture of humanity we so often see. Instead, we behold the only possible outcome of this divine creation - a magnificent world peopled with self-governing, reasoning, conscience-guided beings, whose actions and decisions always move toward the best outcomes for each one and for all. We revel in a world more beautiful than we might have dared imagine, with human systems and organizations framed by justice, mercy, wisdom, and love.
But what about that other world - the one with despotic regimes and squandered human potential? The beauty of prayer by affirmation is that, as we glimpse and absorb its implications, it reveals the flimsiness of mortal systems and structures. And it leaves to God, the all-powerful, the means to dissolve the evil conditions that once seemed so real.
In the light of this prayer, it is apparent that all governments and systems built on denying the individual rights of self-government, reason, and conscience are ridiculously contrary to the very laws of nature. Built on faulty assumptions, they are doomed to fall by their own weight.
This kind of prayer is a journey any individual can take, no matter where he or she may be. It leaves one in a different place - a place where the weight of his or her conviction is applied in unison with God's own nature and divine power.
This prayer, based on a higher political science, reinforces the rights of humanity, and changes the world.