Realism, prayer, and peace in the Middle East and beyond

A Christian Science perspective: Prayer has its eyes wide open to the human need, but then looks beyond it – deep into the spiritual reality of one infinite God.

Readers of the The Christian Science Monitor know that its reporting is realistic – that it digs deep into the facts on the ground and presents them clearly to readers. At the same time, it aims to help readers see that practical solutions to gritty problems are possible, and how they can play an important role in finding them.

This approach is clearly illustrated in Editor at Large John Yemma’s opening comments in the July 24 issue of the Monitor’s Daily News Briefing. Following a brief, vivid outline of the many tangled conflicts in the Middle East, he concluded: “Each conflict is a tragedy for families caught in hostilities. But more weapons, money, or diplomacy are unlikely to make the Middle East a better place. That leaves only one thing that might: prayer.” In those sentences, Mr. Yemma struck a chord of deep concern in individual hearts – the safety of innocents, including children. And then he pointed to an action individuals can take – prayer.

Realism in prayer recognizes the great need that must be met – the tragic toll war plays in the lives of innocent adults and children. But it deals with that need by recognizing the reality of being that materialism doesn’t disclose – the fact that we are all children of one God.

Realistic reporting that gives readers a clear picture of what people are going through causes the human heart to yearn for peaceful solutions that will end the human suffering caused by war. Practical answers can be found only by facing the facts. And prayer can engage us in facing the facts of our common spiritual origin – a healing kind of realism that is much larger and more powerful than any human conflict, because it turns out to be not a different reality, but the only reality. The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, directed attention to this when she wrote, “We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 129).

Prayer has its eyes wide open to the human need, but then looks beyond it – deep into the spiritual reality of one infinite God as our common source of intelligence, wisdom, and love. Becoming more conscious of this unity – and realizing that it is the present fact – can open thought to possibilities for peace that have been hidden by long-held prejudices and fears.

What is needed is prayer that can keep people safe by removing those prejudices and fears – the real enemy – rather than increasing them through conflict after conflict.

What came to mind as I was praying was this experience of Moses that’s told in the Bible: “An angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but it was not burning up. ‘This is strange!’ he said to himself. ‘I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.’ When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, ‘Here I am.’ God replied, ‘Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals – the ground where you are standing is holy” (Exodus 3:2-5, Contemporary English Version).

Taking off one’s shoes while worshiping is considered by some to be symbolic of showing reverence for God, a recognition that we stand on the holy ground of God’s presence and power. But the reverence that brings healing involves putting aside our personal feelings and reverently acknowledging that we – and all people – are always enveloped in God’s, divine Love’s, presence and power.

Christ Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth” (John 4:24, CEV). Christian Science encourages one to worship on the basis of the truth, or spiritual reality, that God is infinite Spirit, and that man (every individual) is actually spiritual, the image and likeness of Spirit, not matter. A deep realization of this fact opens thought to the fact that no one’s real identity includes elements that can be either destructive to others or destroyed by others. The purifying fire of Spirit, illuminating thought in prayer, reveals that prejudices and fears can be destroyed without harming people. In this way, everyone involved can feel the calming presence of God, which allows one to feel safe, and to communicate with one another in ways that lead to peace instead of war.

Our individual prayers, looking reverently into the realism of our common spiritual identity as children of God, have an influence far beyond our individual lives – because they lead to the understanding of Spirit, or divine Mind, which destroys evil in human thought, while it lovingly and wisely embraces and cares for everyone. On this basis, peace is indeed achievable. That’s realistic!

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