A recent article in this newspaper reported that "disparate groups of young radicals" are emerging in Britain with little or no links to groups such as Al-Qaeda (Aug. 18).
The article points out the danger of these "wannabes," who are imitating such terrorist groups both in threats and in tactics. It brings again the specter of violence against the innocent down to the neighborhood level, with the possibility of similar incidents not only in Britain, but all over Europe and the United States.
As I take my wife to the local train station every morning for her commute to Washington, D.C., I am grateful for the security measures being taken to ensure everyone's safety. But I also feel the need to find spiritual security and to turn to God in prayer.
One place I go to for a jumping-off point in my prayer is the Bible. The Scriptures provide us with God's inspired Word, assuring us of His protection. Some verses are more than 2,000 years old and date back to the first glimmerings concerning Abraham's revelation of one supreme, universal, and good God.
The Abrahamic tradition, shared by Jew, Christian, and Muslim, grew steadily into an understanding of true monotheism, in which the one God was Truth not just for one particular tribe or ethnic group, but for all humanity. This universal God is above human political factions and doesn't take sides.
The basis for brotherhood and peaceful coexistence, the Bible assures us, is not in hopeful optimism. It is found by putting God, the Father-Mother of all creation, first. As one psalm has it, "All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name" (86:9). By recognizing God as the supreme Maker, we can unite in our worship of Him.
How can this play out in our society today, with more and more restrictions on what we can carry on airplanes, more and more uncertainties about the safety of mass transit systems in our cities, and media stories about the possibilities of terrorists in our own backyard?
In the Bible, I find a clue: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;... I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (I Tim. 2:1, 8). While the counsel is to pray for all humanity, what is significant to me is the addition, "without wrath and doubting."
This Scripture holds a high standard. Following it, I can't find myself holding either resentment against any person (or group) or any doubt as to God's all-power. Either attitude will keep me from uttering an effective prayer. My understanding of the infinite God must help me see that God is the God of all humanity, tenderly embracing each of us, regardless of ethnicity, culture, language, or religion.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote this in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," referring to the universality of God, the Father of all: "Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established" (p. 467).
A few years ago in Jerusalem while my wife and I were returning to our hotel one night, we were suddenly threatened by a group of young men who seemed to regard us as the enemy.
I remember turning immediately to God in prayer, affirming His universal care for all of us. I found an equally immediate response – a real sense of God's unfolding love for all.
The group left within seconds, and we continued to our hotel. The "wrath and doubting" were destroyed by God's tender love. I know that such prayer can help us all feel peace as we go about our day, wherever we are.