I live in a city in the United States close to the Mexican border where immigration has long been a part of daily community life. I’ve benefited from the influx of business resulting from international trade and have enjoyed friendships with those who have come from other countries. But I’ve also been saddened by the tragedies that have occurred, the illegal drug runners flying unmarked planes low over pastures, and the increasing divisiveness the immigration issue has engendered.
This issue and other world problems call for prayers that make a difference. At first, praying about the immigration crisis just seemed too complex to me. But the urgency of the situation was brought home to me when violence took the lives of innocent people in El Paso, Texas, where I also have family. I knew I needed to pray about the crisis, but where to start?
To help me glimpse a more spiritual perspective on immigration, I turned to the Bible – which in a sense can be seen as one long immigration story of a people moved by their search to understand God. In their quest for a homeland, the children of Israel initially searched for a physical place. Centuries later, Christ Jesus revealed that the true “promised land” of God wasn’t a piece of real estate but a heavenly concept. He said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21).
Everyone has equal ability to enter into this promised land, which includes peace, harmony, freedom, and fulfillment. No one is left out. It’s not a change in location but a change in thought that ushers us into God’s kingdom. An understanding of the abundance and ever-presence of God’s goodness helps to open thought to inspiration that can be acted upon to meet every human need.
After college, I worked at an emergency shelter for teens in crisis. One evening when I got to work, I found that a young woman from Mexico had been placed in our care until relatives could be located. Staff had tried since early in the day to console her, but she would not talk to anyone or stop crying.
I prayed to recognize that God, divine Love, was present and could meet this young woman’s need for comfort. Later, when I was supervising the girls at bedtime, the young woman motioned for me to come over and asked if I would pray with her. She knew the Lord’s Prayer, so we began to pray in her native language, “Nuestro Padre ...” – “Our Father ...” (Matthew 6:9). The prayer was an acknowledgment that her heavenly Parent, who transcends borders and languages, was wrapping her in divine Love.
That was the end of the crying and a turning point in enabling this young woman to feel happy and welcome at the shelter.
Jesus taught that, more than anything else, it is divine Love that brings us into the promised land and enables us to feel at home and experience this freedom wherever we may find ourselves. It’s not people but evil thoughts – hatred, anger, racism, and divisiveness – that are denied entrance into the kingdom of God. Clearing these out of our thinking enables us to discern Christlike intuitions that alert us to danger and bring safety.
“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy explains how to do this: “Stand porter at the door of thought” (p. 392). We all have the ability to overcome fearful, hateful thoughts. The Bible assures us, “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).
How prayer plays out practically in human experience can’t be outlined. For some, it may open doors to a new experience in a new country. For others, it may mean finding new purpose, strength, and safety right where they are.
Strongly held convictions about the immigration crisis can polarize and divide people. But prayer that seeks God’s answers doesn’t promote one political agenda over another. Instead, it brings less stridency and more listening. It enables intelligence rather than emotion to guide us so wise and balanced solutions can be found. And prayer that lifts thought from fear to love fosters a world that is increasingly moved by Love, not fear. We can join the writer of Ephesians in declaring, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (2:19).
Adapted from an editorial published in the Oct. 7, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.