Completely overwhelmed. That’s how I felt when I watched the news.
I tried to pray because that’s what I’ve done for most of my life when faced with something troubling. And I’ve found over and over again that prayer doesn’t just make me feel better. It helps me understand more about God and even experience healing.
When I prayed this time, I remembered something that happened to me a few years back. It didn’t seem connected, but it was.
We’d had a rash of burglaries in my neighborhood for about six months. I hadn’t paid much attention until someone walked off with my laptop and some other valuables.
The detectives who came told me that I was the 22nd burglary in less than two miles during this half-year period. They even told me they were keeping tabs on a particular suspect who had a unique-looking backpack that he carried around – but they didn’t have proof.
Instead of being overwhelmed and thinking it was hopeless, I immediately thought about something Mary Baker Eddy wrote about in her book on Christian Science: “… those who discern Christian Science will hold crime in check” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 97). Here she was stating that those who understand Christian Science – which is actually the law of God – and who open themselves up to understanding and complying with that law through prayer, do make a difference.
I knew I couldn’t just pray about myself and my stuff. I needed to embrace my whole community, and even include the person who broke into my apartment – to see him the way Christ Jesus saw others.
Science and Health states on pages 476 and 477: “When speaking of God’s children, not the children of men, Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is within you;’ that is, Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God’s image is unfallen and eternal. Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy.”
How could I see the perfect man in a criminal? I found that I had to get to know God better. I focused on God and what I’d been learning about His nature through the study of Christian Science. I thought about the fact that what God creates is perfect, principled, and honorable. God’s creation reflects what He is. I was starting to see that what is real and true and lasting is God’s perfect creation, not the imperfect man that we may see with our eyes and hear with our ears.
Soon after, I was at our local diner. I looked over at the counter from the booth I was sitting in and saw the young man the police had described. Now he may not have been involved in taking my stuff, but he’d been given the label of thief by the police even though they didn’t have proof for a search warrant and couldn’t arrest him. But I’d started to see God’s man more clearly in everyone I dealt with, so seeing him didn’t startle me. I could see him a little like God sees him, as the spiritual – and perfect – idea that He created. I can honestly say that I didn’t see a possible criminal, but a fellow brother in Christ. It was a holy moment that left me with a sense of gratitude.
Over the course of several months when I read our local newspaper, the same paper that had reported these crimes in the preceding weeks, I noticed that no new reports were published of breaking and entering. My apartment appeared to have been the last one to be unlawfully entered in that crime spree. I felt that prayer had made a difference.
What does this experience have to do with news that can be so oppressive? Only that it reminded me that prayer is effective. And this memory galvanized me to continue on.
With all of the violence and ugliness in our world, it’s a tall order to sign up to defend man’s right as God’s own child to be free from crime and violence. There’s no lack of work to be done, but prayer is a help to the world and our healing experiences encourage us to continue.