It was 2:30 a.m. when I was abruptly awakened by a loud buzzing. I staggered out of bed half asleep and, without thinking, pushed the button that unlocked the front door of the apartment building. Because of the high crime rate in the part of the city where I lived, the policy was not to let anyone unknown to us into the building at night. Yet, I suddenly realized, I had done just that.
I stood in the darkened hallway of my apartment, where I lived alone, now fully awake. I watched as the large figure of a man loomed up outside my opaque glass door. The light was on in the hallway outside my apartment, and the individual standing there was clearly visible. There was only a flimsy door between us. Panic started to overtake me.
But a saving thought came to me. I had recently been learning about the power of prayer by reading Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” In it, I’d found an idea that was especially compelling. It said, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man …” (p. 340).
As I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, I thought about what that statement meant for me in that moment. My prayer went something like this: “Because God is my Father and is everyone’s Father, this man is my brother. And because we are brother and sister, he could not want to hurt me any more than I could want to hurt him.” After I spent a few moments praying with this idea, relief flooded over me as I felt its spiritual truth.
Then the man turned and walked away from my door. Soon I heard the front door of the building open and close. I ran to the window and saw him heading down the street. He had what looked like a metal pipe in his hand, which he tossed into the gutter as he walked off. I was so grateful that he left without doing any harm.
Had my prayers protected me? It certainly felt that way to me. What I can say for sure is that I experienced a moment where God’s actual presence was tangible. My prayers paved the way for the power of God’s love to come through and overcome the threat of violence. And because God is ever-present, divine Love itself, His disarming, protecting love is always with each of us, able to lift fear as well as defuse harmful intentions.
In the years since, this experience has profoundly changed how I pray about unsafe or violent situations in the world. What I glimpsed in that moment was a view of everyone’s real, spiritual nature as a child of God. This nature includes only good. And because we all have the same divine Parent, we are linked in brotherhood and sisterhood to everyone, everywhere. This means we’re all included in a universal family that transcends ethnic, tribal, religious, and racial discord – as well as whatever else would cause conflict or inharmony.
That’s not to say it isn’t important to be alert to our surroundings. But what if all of us also prayerfully recognized our unity with God, and therefore with one another, as the spiritual fact, as something that can be consistently demonstrated? We could begin to see our views of others transformed – to see those we know and even those we don’t know more in the light of divine Love.
The natural effect would be for each of us to feel more secure, more at peace, and even to see a lessening of violence in our communities. The promise of the healing power of this brotherly love emanating from infinite, divine Love, is here – and step by step, we can experience it.