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Countering hopelessness when violence looms

Today’s contributor explains how prayer brought hope rather than fear when she heard about a potentially violent confrontation.

When emergency situations arise, whether in the news or close to home, it can be tempting to feel a sense of hopelessness or helplessness. How can we think more constructively about things when faced with a disturbing picture?

Recently, while sitting at a traffic light, my husband and I noticed a number of police cars across the street. Officers were standing next to their cars with weapons drawn. Then the back of a van opened up, and a heavily armed SWAT team emerged. The light turned green and we needed to move forward with the traffic, but by checking the news on my cell phone, I learned that an armed individual had threatened neighbors there and was now barricaded in an apartment.

It can certainly seem logical to react to such a situation with resignation and a feeling of helplessness or to dread that it could only end tragically. But based on my study of Christian Science, I felt I had a different option. In her writings, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, urges those who practice Christian Science to assist in holding crime in check (see, for instance, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 96-97). That would include taking practical steps if we are in a position to do so. But this is also a call to respond to potentially difficult and dangerous situations through prayer, by acknowledging that God, good, is present – and seeing that such prayer can make a difference.

When thinking about the power of God to hold crime in check, I find encouragement in the Bible, particularly Christ Jesus’ teachings. For instance, there’s an account of Jesus once walking unharmed through an angry crowd that intended to throw him off a cliff (see Luke 4:28-30). He also peacefully stopped an angry mob of men intent on stoning a woman (see John 8:1-11). Jesus’ profound knowledge of his divine sonship and oneness with God equipped him to overcome these situations and prevent them from ending tragically.

What did Jesus know about the power and presence of God that made such a difference in these situations, and that we can turn to today when faced with emergencies? As we drove away from that apartment building, I responded by acknowledging what Jesus proved of God’s care for each of us, made in God’s spiritual image and likeness.

I’ve come to see that the power of prayer isn’t in a particular technique but in feeling and recognizing that God is present at every moment to enforce good. In this case, I considered God as divine Love (see I John 4:8), a tender, loving God who cherishes all His children. I’d felt many times before that God’s love is a tangible, practical, protecting presence, so I prayed for that love to be known, experienced, and expressed in this situation.

Another name I’ve learned for God is the one, all-powerful divine Mind. Because we are created by this one Mind, everyone has an inherent capacity to be receptive and obedient to divine inspiration that brings solutions. From this I reasoned that calm could prevail, with individuals responding appropriately in a way that prevented harm.

I continued praying along these lines as we drove to an activity that kept us out of cell service for four hours. Later we learned that the standoff had been resolved peacefully without harm to anyone. I was grateful for the efforts of the emergency personnel on site and for the many other people who may have been praying in support of a successful and harmonious resolution. And I was grateful to have a way to respond that was hopeful rather than fearful.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, it says that Jesus’ “humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth, – of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love” (p. 12). And he taught that unity with God, divine Truth and Love, is the true nature of all men and women of all races, whatever their religious convictions.

When faced with disturbing circumstances, we too can mentally and conscientiously protest, affirming everyone’s relation to God, who cares for all of us. This kind of prayer helps counter an atmosphere of fear, hate, and hopelessness with love. And we can trust that in this way God’s love will be felt, benefiting not only ourselves, but also all those whom our prayers rest on.

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