A little while ago a friend asked me why I pray for the world, not just for my own needs and those of my church and community. One obvious answer might be that I have friends in other parts of the world, and I want to help their cities and countries be stable.
There is, however, a deeper reason. In the New Testament, we read that followers of Christ Jesus prayed for their own communities and also for those far away. The writer of First Timothy exhorts the Christians to whom he is writing to pray earnestly for all, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (2:2). The writer goes on to explain, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (2:3, 4). Such prayer stems from a genuine desire for others to know and feel God’s love and care.
My prayers for the world don’t outline what the solution to a particular problem should be. But I can trust that God, whom the Bible defines as Love (see I John 4:8), is a “present help” (Psalms 46:1) for individuals around the world as surely as He is for me and those in my country and community.
God, divine Love, cherishes all of us as His perfect, loved, and loving spiritual children (see Psalms 100:3). No matter what the human situation may be, the spiritual fact remains unchanged that we are actually created by Him. We can affirm this in our prayers for the world and know that God’s children are inherently free from any limiting elements, such as fear, anger, hate, prejudice, and so on.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: “For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings; prayed that all the peoples on earth and the islands of the sea have one God, one Mind; love God supremely, and love their neighbor as themselves” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 286).
Reading the Monitor daily online and in its weekly print edition has given me many opportunities to put this kind of prayer into practice, to “love God supremely” enough to recognize that He is universal good, blessing all. To love my neighbor enough to insist in prayer that divine Love, not envy and hate, is the only real power.
To whatever degree our prayers affirm the spiritual fact that all are precious to God and that He is ever present, they can bless. Long ago, I was struggling with deep depression and a work-related issue that I just couldn’t let go. One day, in an effort to help me find healing and peace, a wonderful friend said something like, “Why don’t you stop focusing on yourself and pray for the world?”
I’m so glad I listened. I came out of my fog long enough to hear of a string of serious crimes that had been taking place in New York City, where I lived, and the authorities had been unable to catch the man responsible. I began to pray about this situation, and included the law enforcement agencies handling the case in my prayers, acknowledging that because we are created by God, qualities such as intelligence and diligence are inherent in us. Like many others, including those who were praying too, I was grateful and relieved when the perpetrator was apprehended.
In this case, it was my prayers for others that lifted me out of my depression. Instead of focusing on what seemed like God’s absence in my own life, I was realizing that God is present for everyone to turn to and feel His loving care, and – while I didn’t fully realize it until later – that included me, too. The trouble I was dealing with at work took a little longer to resolve, but resolution did come. I realized later that those prayers for others marked one of the big turning points in this healing.
Prayer for the world can take many different forms – such as praying for a country other than one’s own, or about a particular situation in the news. Whatever it is, our prayers acknowledging God’s love for His creation can support harmony and healing.