“Winter’s Bone,” a film in current release in North America and set in rural Missouri, offers a bleak view of the corruption that methamphetamine labs bring to a community. My home state, Missouri, has been called the meth lab capital of the United States – not a distinction I’m particularly proud of. In fact, just a couple of months ago, a meth lab, hidden in a middle-class community a few blocks away from me, blew up.
Yet I’m learning that I can, and must, do my part to bring a Christly sense of protection and redemption to affected cities and towns. And I believe we can protect our neighborhoods through prayer.
St. Paul, in his famous address to philosophers and intellectuals in Athens, brought the truth of God’s infinite ever-presence to the heartland of classical mythology. The Greeks believed that gods were manlike and could move from place to place, doing good and evil. Paul must have illuminated receptive hearts and minds when he said of God, who is all-good, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Infinite God, filling all space with His presence, ensures that His production of good is universal. With this view, scientifically speaking, we can find safety, even in a dangerous place.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in her major work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” that, during a bleak period in her own life, she found healing when she learned that “Life, Truth, and Love are all-powerful and ever-present...” (p. 108).
Life, Truth, and Love are synonyms for the one indivisible God, words that help us grasp something of the Infinite. So His all-power is ever present, and we can simultaneously feel both God’s ever-presence and His all-power.
A few years ago, after having lived abroad for a while and having rented out our home, we returned to our neighborhood and found it radically changed. Instead of a quiet section of town with retired teachers and middle-class families, we found prostitution and a crack house down the street. When I walked the dog at night, I could hear the sounds of domestic abuse, and one awful evening our daughter witnessed a drug-related stabbing from her bedroom window.
Instead of immediately putting up a “for sale” sign, though, I was led to turn to God in prayer. Every time I took the dog out for a walk, it was a reminder to me that I could be praying for my community, and I enjoyed affirming the ever-presence of God, divine Love, who holds all of us tenderly, seeing us as His own loved children.
Little by little, changes occurred. More and more stable families moved in. The crack house was sold and rehabilitated by an energetic young couple. We no longer saw signs of drug use, and more often than not, evening sounds were of happy families, fathers tossing the football with their children, and kids riding bikes without fear. When we did move from that area some years later, it was done with love for the neighborhood and not relief that we had escaped from a dangerous place.
The divine presence and power are indivisible. Because God fills all space, there is no place where God’s power is attenuated or weak. In God’s sight, there are no risky neighborhoods. In God’s sight, there is nothing but His power and presence. This means the Christ, God’s action of good that reaches the human and uplifts thought, is with us here and now, holding up the standard of perfect God and perfect man. As our thought welcomes in this healing Christ, we live and move in this all-inclusive ambience, and this is effective prayer. It will transform the atmosphere of thought and redeem our neighborhoods.