My most recent visit spent in a medium security prison just 15 miles from the Ferguson, Mo., police station lasted less than two hours. But even in that short time frame I left there feeling profoundly changed and grateful for being able to spend time with some of the incarcerated women.
I was invited to speak, in particular, about the meaning of the line from the prayer given by Christ Jesus, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, which asks God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matthew 6:13). But my prayers had been embracing these women long before I arrived at the jail.
My prayers as a Christian Scientist are based on an understanding of God as unchangeable Love, always present to help and heal. This concept of God is brought out through the inspired healing experiences in the Bible, and is consummately proved by the life and teachings of Christ Jesus. It is this spiritual view of God as Love, and of us as God’s loved children, that helped me gain a new perspective on whom I was going to speak with.
You see, through prayer I was discovering even deeper ways to acknowledge God as the loving Father-Mother, who is always revealing to us our true nature as His children – whole, loving, honest, and good. I could understand that within this infinite Love, no one is excluded; no one is marginalized; no one is more valued than another. Instead, everyone’s life matters equally to the Father of all.
In prayer, I was reminded of what Jesus said in speaking about the value and worth of each one of us: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6, 7). By this, I could recognize that to marginalize anyone or to accept being marginalized goes against God’s purpose. As Jesus makes clear, the importance of each individual must be understood and appreciated.
It’s not surprising then that my first words to these women were that I had been praying to God to hear what He wanted me to share with them and that I received this answer: “Remember your dignity as daughters of God.” What God had brought to my attention was the value of each one of His children, and this truth inspired our entire time together. We began to understand that to devalue ourselves or anyone is a temptation, or evil, that would lead us into destructive thoughts and behaviors. We began to feel some surety that God leads us out of evil and into the knowledge that “the kingdom of God is within” us (Luke 17:21) – motivating us to do only good. All of us in that room were moved to tears as we contemplated together the message of our true value, which Christ Jesus shared with the world.
Through her discovery of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy explains that redemption and healing are found through what Christ Jesus embodied, taught, and proved of man’s eternal relationship to God. Mrs. Eddy brings out the effect of understanding this relationship: “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love. If you maintain this position, who or what can cause you to sin or suffer?” (“Pulpit and Press,” p. 3). For me, this meant that these women could know and feel the power and inspiration from God to do good and not evil. These women could reject the marginalization of their lives and its destructive effects and instead prove their heritage as daughters of Love. They shared with me how they wanted to sincerely love others more, even right where they were, in order to help bring out the good in others.
We ended our time praying the Lord’s Prayer together, and felt a clearer, firmer, and yes, even louder acceptance of the power of God to deliver us from evil. At that moment our prayer was a shout of joy that we are all included in proving our heritage as daughters (or sons) of our Father in heaven, to whom every one of us matters.