No, I don’t climb down ladders into sewer tunnels in steel-toed boots and a hard hat or spend hours planting bulbs in municipal flowerbeds. And I certainly don’t wear a suit and punch a clock at city hall. But I feel I do work for the city in the sense that I pray for it every day. That prayer can take the form of being quiet, alone with God. But it can also take the shape of actively expressing divine Love in affection and goodwill toward fellow citizens.
In my prayers for our urban area, I don’t start with its problems, but with God. The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gave the world begins by affirming that God is the Father of all and His kingdom is readily available. It then goes on to relate His government to human needs and finishes with an insistence of God’s supreme control by declaring, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (see Matthew 6:9-13).
But how can you affirm the good and harmonious government of God when the physical evidence may seem so contrary? Well, beyond the physical senses, there’s a spiritual view that recognizes the value of each of our fellow community members. Seen in this light, the individual, rather than being fragile, vulnerable, or aggressive, shines as God’s own image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27) – spiritual, perfect, eternal, and free. Beyond human ups and downs, our prayer can help us see how God steadfastly maintains His own image and likeness. And we can turn to this unchanging fact of our spirituality to bring healing.
Prayer, which can be as simple – and yet demanding – as holding in thought that God is divine Love and that each individual is His reflection, calms our thinking and makes us receptive to new possibilities. I’ve found it can build and harmonize relationships, correct wrongs, and bring progress. And when we do this as citizens we are harmonizing the atmosphere of our city.
I felt that’s what happened when I prayed for a relationship with a neighbor that had grown unsettled and remained that way when he and his wife moved to another country. Whenever I ran past the tennis courts where he used to play, I prayed about the relationship. Often my prayer was just having gratitude for the good work that I knew he was doing and wishing him well.
But last summer one of my upper thighs became painful whenever I ran. Although the pain would often subside, there was one early morning when the pain was so intense that I had to stop running.
At first I alternated walking and running, prayerfully insisting that I was God’s free image and likeness. Then I saw another runner coming, and I thought that my running at that point might in some small way help inspire the other runner.
As I ran, I saw that the other runner was actually our former neighbor! We ran together and I learned he and his wife had moved back, but to a different neighborhood. We shared news about our families and renewed the relationship. I returned home rejoicing. And the pain that had stopped me up short went away after that run and hasn’t reappeared in the many times I’ve gone running since.
I felt my wanting to bless the other runner, though I didn’t yet know who he was, confirmed our relationship and helped banish the pain. To me, this healing revealed, in a small way, the present harmony of God in our city. It showed me that the spirit of love, generosity, and compassion that inspires our prayers for the city begins by transforming the one praying.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this publication, writes: “The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer?” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 9).
So as we actively pray for harmony, we ourselves become more respectful and thoughtful toward our neighbors. As we pray about integrity in government, we begin by committing ourselves to being scrupulously honest.
Whatever form your “working” for the city might take, living consistently with our prayers in this way makes a genuine contribution to the life of the city we love.