“This is complicated!”
That was about all I could think when I was confronted with a family situation not long ago that seemed so complex as to defy any direct and effective way of working it out for the good of everyone involved.
Later, I thought of how similar the situation was to many humanitarian needs that exist in our world today. In many cases, there is often help available. But there are so many actors involved – and so many political-religious-social-geographic variables – that aid has to twist its way through a maze of circumstances.
It took me right to one of the healing incidents in Jesus’ lifework.
In the account of the feeding of the multitude (see John 6:5-14), there certainly appeared to be some difficult circumstances. There was a multitude – thousands of people. They were no doubt quite hungry since they had been out in “a desert place” all day. There was only a small amount of food on hand. And last, Jesus’ own disciples appeared quite skeptical that all those gathered could be fed. So what did Jesus do?
He doesn’t appear to have spent any time weighing the circumstances to see if he could really feed all those folks. There is no evidence of his gauging the available quantities of food, or of shifting his glance back and forth between the food and the multitude, hurriedly doing the mental math. The Bible says, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.”
Jesus gave thanks to God; that is, he looked to God and to God alone. It seems reasonable to assume that to Jesus, the loaves and fishes – which were provided, John says, not by the disciples, but by a young lad – were there not as a quantity, but as evidence of God’s presence. That evidence was all that was needed; that precious small part proved the presence of the whole.
To me, this story has always stood as a lesson in prayer. We can and should look instantly to God in any circumstance or situation where there is a need for resolution. Though God’s love certainly supplies everyone’s need abundantly, His power does not need to dodge its way through the human scene. It can and does lift us above that scene, a scene which can include many apparent conflicts and intricacies.
Humble, sincere prayer connects us at once to the love that God holds for each one of His children. We can think of prayer as a simple asking or seeking. We can also think of it as the recognition of, and gratitude for, what God has already done. In either of these two forms, prayer can be for ourselves, others close to us, or all humanity.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, makes a simple statement about God’s love: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 13). Four aspects of this statement stand out to me: First, God’s love is impartial – it flows to everyone fully, regardless of the complexity of the human circumstances. Second, it is universal. It does not matter whether a need is geographically far removed from you or me. God’s love is immediate to meet the need and to comfort whoever is feeling that need.
Third, God’s love is adaptable without any limits. This divine adaptability is well able to slice right through apparent complexity. And finally, God’s love is a bestowal, a gift. God is not waiting around until you or I “earn” His love. In the case of the feeding of the multitude, the need was met right there, right then.
My family need, which had seemed so complex, was ultimately solved with prayer. The experience taught me that God was not about to wait until all the circumstances were favorable. Someone in the family had a need, and God was actually at work then to meet it. His action was immediate, and it was up to me and others to see what He was doing.
If you are moved to pray about national and world situations – and we all have probably felt this inclination – then you can be assured that your prayer does not have to wind its way through a maze of human complexities to reach God, the all-knowing Mind. Prayer goes straight up.