Can our prayers prevent violence?

We might feel helpless when we see disturbing news reports of violent confrontation. But we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of heartfelt prayer, based on an understanding of God’s all-power.

As a child I turned to prayer to cope with bullying. It was overwhelming to me at the time to be confronted with what seemed like a united front of unreasoning hatred. One day on the playground, a group of my tormentors assured me that they would beat me up the next day after school. That night I began praying the Lord’s Prayer, which I had learned in the Christian Science Sunday School was a “prayer which covers all human needs,” as Mary Baker Eddy states in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (p. 16).

The first words of the prayer stopped me: “Our Father.” It occurred to me that this meant that the God I was appealing to was also the Father of the kids who had threatened me. Just as God loved me, He loved them and maintained in them all the spiritual qualities associated with God’s nature as divine Love. It was a calming revelation.

The next day my fear was gone, and I went to school with a clear sense of being cared for and that all was well. Not a word was said about the previous day’s threat, and from then on there was no more bullying. I was awed and grateful that God’s truth was so pervasive that the mere recognition of it in my thought could change the behavior of a group of people so completely.

This is a small demonstration of the power of scientific prayer, which begins with a recognition of God’s presence and control of His entire creation. The spiritual idea of this divine presence and power is Christ, and Christ Jesus showed how this same power can help and heal more daunting claims against humanity’s God-given unity and concord, such as angry crowds. I have found this helpful to remember when news flashes are reporting peaceful protests marred by violence, including burning vehicles, injured protesters, and injured police.

For example, there were scribes and Pharisees (religious leaders) who had gathered with the intent of stoning a woman (see John 8:2-11), a crowd who picked up stones to kill Jesus himself (see John 10:23-39), and a mob who tried to drag him to a hilltop and throw him off (see Luke 4:16-30). In all these cases, abiding in the Love which Jesus knew to be the only Father-Mother of us all, he averted and avoided violence. And he told his followers, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).

We should take Jesus at his word, because he lived what he taught. We can understand that the Christ is not absent or powerless. When we think of unrest taking place, we can affirm what Jesus taught, and what Mrs. Eddy explained in Science and Health: “Man is the family name for all ideas, – the sons and daughters of God. All that God imparts moves in accord with Him, reflecting goodness and power. ...

“The substance, Life, intelligence, Truth, and Love, which constitute Deity, are reflected by His creation; and when we subordinate the false testimony of the corporeal senses to the facts of Science, we shall see this true likeness and reflection everywhere” (pp. 515, 516).

Jesus’ understanding of God’s presence and the omnipotence of divine good enabled him to provide, through healing, the tangible evidence of this divine presence, which he said is always with us. The material conditions Jesus encountered, including the appearance of lawless and hateful behavior, were seen, again and again, to give way to the divine Principle that he taught is supreme. In the Mind of Christ, God’s goodness is the reality, not bad intentions that appear to be driving people. Jesus saw beyond the angry crowd to the deeper truth of a God-governed existence – substantial, palpable, and encompassing everyone.

Wherever we may be, we can recognize the supremacy of God’s government, rebuke in our own thought the seeming evidence that any other influence can hold sway, and trust the Christly understanding of man’s inseparability from God to prevail. Each thought that is backed with divine Truth will have a practical impact.

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