A troubling trend in London and other cities in Britain is the increase in gun- and knife-related gang warfare. You can't help being touched and deeply disturbed by the pictures of the grieving parents of children who were innocent victims of violence.
Underneath the fear of the rise in gun warfare is another major rise – the rise in prayers by all faith and spiritual traditions for communities in Britain.
Two years ago, a church in the east end of London decided they wanted to pray for unity and safety in their community because many in their area were affected by a rise in violent crime. Their church was on a street that was regularly vandalized by youth. They decided to embrace their community in devotional prayers. They went back to the basics of Christian faith – what Jesus often saw for himself and others, that "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). For many of us, this takes its premise from the first chapter of Genesis: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
And the blessing of that goodness and completeness is this promise in the same chapter: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."
The church members decided to love, cherish, and nurture the youth in their community from the basis that man is spiritual and perfect because he is made in the image of God. This may sound like a tall order in the face of vandalism and reported rise in crimes. But it is a most effective way to pray. Knowing that God makes each of us in His own image helps us acknowledge God as the source of our intelligence, strength, and life.
The Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy states, "Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it" (p. 2). Prayer, then, is not for God, but for us. It is not to persuade God, but for us to manifest more of His qualities and nature in our lives. Prayer benefits those who pray; true prayer transforms our consciousness, purifies our desire, enlarges our outlook, and increases our expectation of good. Prayer raises our thought to a higher witness of good – to oneness with God and with all that is Godlike. Prayer explores the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus taught is within us; it unites thought with God. Under the influence of true prayer, goodness thrives, evil passes, and the law of God stands firm. Its ripples bless all in the atmosphere of the thought of the one who prays.
Knowing God as our Father-Mother enables us to see the difference between spiritual man in God's likeness and the limited material man, who counterfeits spiritual man, the perfect creation of a loving God. It helps us discern the counterfeit from the reality of God's perfect creation. This is a solid basis for prayer. The awareness of our spiritual perfection and the uncovering of the material view and beliefs that hide what is true go hand in hand. This prayer opens the way for communities to realize peace, love, and harmony. Looking only for good, we will find it to the exclusion of evil and will be blessed ourselves and will bless others.
That little church of mostly senior citizens has proof of its effective prayers. A year later, they sponsored a lecture in their newly refurbished church to celebrate 90 years of Christian Science in their community. They invited their mayor, a Muslim, who introduced the lecture. And the local police and community workers were also invited, and they attended.
Among those who popped in at the reception before the lecture were the youth from the community. The transformation on church's street was remarkable, and some of the youth attended their services. The vandalism stopped, and drug dealing, which was rife, stopped.
The local newspaper reported: "Crime is falling: Violent crime and murder rates are down compared to last year. Murder is down 42.9 percent and there have also been decreases in robbery and burglary and gun crime" (Waltham Forest Guardian, Feb. 8, 2007).
Prayer is a powerful tool in the face of violence.