News stories of animal abuse, loss, or neglect are often heart-wrenching. A recent report in my region told of a dog that had barely survived being stranded for five weeks along a busy highway, unable to cross to safety or to be easily picked up. Eventually, the dog was collected and brought to sustenance and shelter. Other such stories don’t always end so well and leave us wondering what we can do to help.
I find Christ Jesus’ teachings on prayer particularly helpful. In what is now known as his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised his listeners to begin prayer by entering into the closet and shutting the door (see Matthew 6:6). I’ve found that this simple act of mentally closing the door on our fears is something we can do anytime and anyplace, whether or not we are near a scene of need. It calms our hearts and minds and helps us open up to God and His healing ideas.
In this calmer state, we can lift thought to “Our Father” as Jesus instructs, and affirm our creator’s eternal presence and power as well as God’s nature as infinite Love, Spirit, or light – to use some of the biblical descriptions of God. From this higher standpoint we can also more clearly see God’s creation – including all people as well as all other creatures – as good, pure, loving, and spiritual, rather than abusive or abused, neglectful or neglected. This God-centered consciousness is where healing happens as I’ve discovered in my own experience.
In one particular incident, one of my cats, who had never before wandered from home, had been missing for two days, and I was quite concerned as we then lived on a busy boulevard. At work, I found myself worrying as to what might have happened to her, but suddenly remembered I could pray right then and there. So closing the mental door on my anxiety, I turned to God. Within a few minutes I realized that while the cat seemed lost to me, she could never be outside of God’s kingdom or loving care since God is infinite, as the Bible and the teachings of Christian Science bring out. My fear vanished as I felt a strong intuition that the cat was safe. When I returned home from work, I found her at the door, in one piece and ready for her dinner.
As I continue to pray, not just for my own pets, but for the well-being of all, I also find it helpful to follow Jesus’ guidance to pray that God’s “will be done, in earth as it is in heaven,” and for “daily bread” (see Matthew 6:10, 11). So when I’m answering the phone as a volunteer for an animal shelter, for example, I pray that each need be met, here and now, just as it was for my own cat. I pray that God’s love be manifested, and I acknowledge its presence in the expressions of caring concern on the part of the callers and the other volunteers.
In her writings on prayer, Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor’s founder, notes: “The closet typifies the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love.... The Master’s injunction is, that we pray in secret and let our lives attest our sincerity” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 15).
To me, this explains how we can all pray to help and heal situations of animal abuse, loss, or neglect – as well as other concerns – as I saw in the case of my cat. By turning to God in prayer we close the door on discouragement and enter the “sanctuary of Spirit,” a greater awareness of God’s immediate and eternal presence. Then we hear Love’s healing ideas, and can live them in our lives as a “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) as Jesus said in his sermon. So whether we’re feeding a feral cat, providing water for wildlife, educating zoo visitors, or stopping along a busy highway to rescue a lost dog, we’ll have the inspiration and assurance derived from our prayers to express and experience God’s care and protection for all creation.