When tragedies such as the most recent attacks in Beirut, Lebanon, and Paris occur, what can we do? Across the world, there have been calls to pray for these cities and their people. To pray for peace. And certainly our prayers are needed.
In addition to embracing all those affected by terrorism in my prayers, I have been grappling with how to extend my prayers to prevent future devastation.
In a world that seems constantly at the mercy of terrorism and random evil, it might appear naive to think that we can have any kind of preemptive impact. But through my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned that prayer that yearns to feel and understand the allness of God – of divine Love itself – is like turning on a light: Where light is, darkness simply can’t exist. The light of ever-present Love, expressed, leaves no place for the evils of hatred, fear, cruelty, or pain.
I’ve wondered how praying like this can really make a difference. Then, earlier this year, I heard that a friend of mine from another city was in a frightening situation: A family member with a criminal past and an ax to grind had made some alarming statements.
Because I’d heard about the situation secondhand and had no details to notify authorities, my only hope was to pray – but I was terrorized by the fear of what might happen.
Later that same day, I witnessed a near-collision between a cyclist and a car. Although the cyclist biked away unscathed, I was startled by the question that popped into my head: “If there had been a collision, how would you have prayed?”
I knew I would have responded immediately to the need and wouldn’t have indulged a moment of fear. I would have affirmed the fundamental fact illuminated by Christian Science Founder Mary Baker Eddy that “God is infinite, therefore ever present, and there is no other power nor presence” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 471). The very nature of God as infinite, all, and omnipotent Love leaves no room for its opposite – hatred, fear, evil. No corner of the universe where anything could exist to oppose Love.
“So,” came the next thought, “why aren’t you facing down your friend’s threat of terror in the same way?”
I realized that it didn’t matter whether evil seemed like a present danger or a far-off threat. God was, as the Bible promises, “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). To me this was a reassurance that God was right with me, and right with my friend. His comfort and safety were tangible – enveloping us in the life-preserving love of God, which can’t be penetrated.
Yes, this idea was radical. But as I stayed with it, allowing the recognition of Love’s absolute power to fill my thought, the fear of terror broke. I sensed that my friend was completely safe in God’s care.
Just a few hours later, I got word that the entire situation had shifted. He was whole and safe – and has remained so.
To me, this was a small but compelling example of the way understanding God’s power and allness really can have a preventive impact. And not just for my friend, but for anyone. Our prayers may seem modest, but divine Love has no bounds. I love the way the book of Revelation in the Bible envisions a world transformed by this understanding: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21:3, 4).
Each of us is precious to God. Being His children means that we are connected to Love, one with Love. As I saw so tangibly, there is sublime safety inherent in that unbreakable connection.
The world needs our daily, prayerful conviction of this fact: that our oneness with Love is the defining and life-preserving truth of existence. These prayers will not only bring comfort to broken hearts. They’ll also help lessen the hatred and fear that fuel terrorism, showing us that these “former things” must inevitably “pass away.”