Gathering spiritually, calming pandemic fears

Around the world, public gatherings have been restricted as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus. But as one man found when he fell ill in a remote area some years ago, even when we’re all alone, there’s another kind of “gathering” we can participate in – one that brings safety and healing.

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There’s a growing list of restrictions around gathering publicly right now, and that’s understandable. And it’s natural and right to support efforts to contain the coronavirus.

But there’s another kind of gathering that’s essential to healing fear, especially during a pandemic. Christ Jesus described it this way: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

This kind of gathering can take place even when we can’t meet in person. It’s a coming together in thought, an openness to the spiritual view of life that Jesus taught. And it’s one of the most practical, health-giving things we can do.

Collective prayer is a powerful way to come together, and billions on our planet unite in a simple prayer Jesus taught: the Lord’s Prayer. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, once spoke of the Lord’s Prayer as a “bond of unity” and a “point of convergence” for all Christians (see “Pulpit and Press,” p. 22). Its ideas are universally true, a prayer that people of all backgrounds can “gather around.”

In her book about spiritual healing, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Eddy gives a spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. It begins, “Our Father which art in heaven, Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious” (p. 16).

I’ve experienced healing in my life again and again by treasuring that idea of one universal Father-Mother God governing all creation in total harmony. Once, while in a remote part of Africa, I felt a fever drain from my body as the sense of our Father impelled me to include everyone around me in my prayer, even the mosquitoes. My prayers affirmed that we are all part of one all-harmonious, spiritual creation. As it says in the Bible, “God blessed them” (Genesis 1:22, 28). Everything our good and loving God creates is made to bless, not to harm. So the divine creation certainly doesn’t include or cause disease. This spiritual outlook enabled Jesus to heal, and it’s at the heart of his prayer.

As I prayed in this way, the fear gripping me was replaced by what felt like a flood of love, God’s love, for me and everything around me, and the fever just melted away. I was well. (You can read more about this healing here.)

That experience and many others have given me tangible proof of the healing power of prayer. I’ve also glimpsed what it really means to gather “in my name” as Jesus taught. It’s about gathering not around a human personality but around the universal idea of Christ, or Truth, that Jesus lived and taught. Christ means anointed or divinely inspired. I like to think of it as our divine creator’s “communication link” to everyone, everywhere.

Opening our hearts to the Christ enlightens our whole way of thinking, giving us a spiritual view of life and health as governed by God, rather than a battle for survival in a dangerous world. Christ is an irresistible power bringing us all together, enlightening our perspective of everything, helping us see our common bond as children of one infinite God. This is what makes gathering in prayer so powerful. And so healing!

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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