As our son prepares for his upcoming deployment in Afghanistan, the future of US and NATO military forces in that country is one of concern in our household. Increased troop levels and the probability of a long-term presence in that country mean that individuals serving in the military may spend multiple tours in harm's way. Already our son has served twice in Iraq, and our son-in-law, currently in Iraq, has done a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Clearly, prayers for our loved ones and for all troops are an important and continuing way to support them and bring them all home when their missions are accomplished.
That prayers make it possible to avoid bloodshed even during wartime is shown in an interesting story in the Bible, found in II Kings, chapter 6. During the time of the prophet Elisha, the nation of Israel was threatened by Syrian aggression, and Elisha's prayers alerted him to the location of the armies so that Israel's king could avoid an ambush.
The Syrian king, frustrated, sent off his army to surround the city of Dothan and capture Elisha. But when Elisha's servant brought him word that they were in danger, the prophet's sense of God's presence was so strong that even the servant could suddenly see "horses and chariots of fire around Elisha." Elisha was able to divert the invading army to another area, from which they finally returned to their home base. In this instance, there were neither casualties nor collateral damage. Both sides of the conflict were protected.
As Elisha put it when comforting his servant, "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." At first I thought of seeing this comment in political-military terms, thinking of battle lines, one side against the other. But perhaps there is a deeper significance that transcends the conventional view.
In praying for the safety of our son and son-in-law, I've come to see that I have a moral imperative to include all individuals in those war zones. Why? I think it's important to recognize that God doesn't take sides. His infinite Love is impartial and includes all humanity.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote forcefully on this theme in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" (p. 340).
Prayer helps me see that God, who is infinite Mind and infinite Love, must be expressed by His creation. This expression can take form in wise decisions made by leaders and insight and flexibility among troops, including individual acts of heroism, wisdom, and mercy.
Divine Love is inexhaustible, and includes soldiers and civilians, combatants and noncombatants, alike. In fact, in God's sight, we as His beloved children are all on the same side – on God's side. What would not be on God's side? Motives and acts of barbarity, terrorism, revenge, and hatred. When God's omnipresence is understood, these devilish thoughts and resultant acts, which are not the product of God, must logically be seen as false concepts. They are not true to anyone's spiritual nature, no matter what his or her nationality or religion.
Our inseparability from God must defend us all from harm. The impartiality of God's love, protecting all parties, can aid in a step-by-step establishment of stability, justice, and, eventually, peace.