Prayer and peacemaking
A Christian Science perspective: A response to the Monitor’s View editorial ‘Oregon shooting: Is it time for national peacemaking?’
The recent fatal shootings at college campuses in Oregon, Arizona, and Texas have revived the discussion in the United States about guns, the laws regulating them, and the ongoing challenges to preserve individual safety. And the Monitor’s editorial board has extended that discussion to the subject of peacemaking; it wrote recently, “In the history of peacemaking, de-weaponization is a favored tactic. One reason such an approach has been inadequate over the past century is that it is based on a concept of peace as merely the absence of conflict.... ‘At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love,’ stated Martin Luther King Jr.” It added, further on: “the best antidote to violence [is] peacemaking, in all its active forms” (“Oregon shooting: Is it time for national peacemaking?” CSMonitor.com).
As a Christian Scientist, I’ve learned that it is possible to pray about how peace can be nurtured in human consciousness as a means for preventing and stopping violence. This statement in Scripture offers an encouraging view of what’s possible when we turn to prayer for solutions: “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:18).
Prayer enables us to challenge the ingrained expectation that peace can be absent at times – that there is something more powerful than God, good, that can overpower good and erupt in violence. Prayer deepens our understanding of the order and harmony bestowed and maintained by God, divine Spirit, and brings the peace of His government to light in our own lives and the lives of others.
Each day, wherever we are, we can help defuse fear, anger, and hatred by praying for an understanding that God is actually always present and supreme – and therefore peace is present and is within human recognition. As the image and likeness of divine Love (see Genesis 1:26), we all naturally express God and His harmonious, loving nature. We perceive these facts through spiritual sense – spiritual intuition and understanding – which we all have and can cultivate by turning in prayer to God.
What is spiritual sense? The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, describes it as “a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 209). Through spiritual perception we can see beyond material appearances to perceive the reality of God and His spiritual image, man, including the real nature of everyone. This perception enables us to be peacemakers in the world by recognizing that evil is not the solid reality or power it seems to be, since in God, the divine Mind, who is good only, evil can have no place. And therefore evil cannot truly be part of the individuality of any of God’s offspring.
Armed with that kind of spiritual understanding, we can more clearly recognize peace as the norm, rather than the exception, and our prayers for peace will be more effective – at home, on campus, and everywhere. The true power of this peacemaking lies in the fact that it is both a spiritual and practical response, because it has the capacity to transform human experience and human consciousness. It shows that the real path to peace is in disarming evil in human thought through the influence and power of divine Love lived.
As we magnify in our hearts the reality of good, and strongly face down the concept that evil can motivate the children of God, we become stronger spiritually but also more loving, tender, and kind – an example to others, really, in inspiring the powerful, yet tender, grace of spiritual character. By living our daily lives with more lovingkindness toward others – and with the assurance and moral courage that come of spiritual sense – we help inspire peace wherever we are.
Making divine Love our starting point, we begin to understand peace as not merely the absence of violence, but as the natural outcome of our loving relationship to God.