Prayer’s immediate impact
Is prayer effective in the face of conflict? A military veteran explores how acknowledging everyone’s God-given ability to value and do good can make a real difference in hostile situations.
History has certainly included a lot of conflict and war. At the same time, there have also always been individuals, groups, and nations advocating for peace and diplomacy, as well as greater understanding and patience regarding national and international differences.
How can we pray effectively when we’re right in the middle of a conflict – be it as big as a war visible the world over or smaller and more personal?
Behind every human conflict are individuals with viewpoints that are at odds. But one idea I’ve found so helpful is that regardless of what side of a conflict anyone is on, everyone has an innate spiritual sense and an unbreakable unity with God, good.
Christian Science teaches that God is the Principle of all goodness. If we accept that, then we also will accept that the ideas of this divine Principle (meaning all of us as God’s children) are completely at one with it. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, states, “Principle and its idea is one, and this one is God, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Being, and His reflection is man and the universe” (pp. 465-466). The idea is not the Principle, but it can never be separated from its source in thought or action. The Bible illustrates this point throughout. It also emphasizes that man, God’s idea, has a heritage that is spiritual and incorruptible (see I Peter 1:3, 4).
The influence of this divine Principle, Love, is reaching every consciousness. Because each of us has an innate spiritual sense, we have the capacity to discern what is right, real, and true. This awareness can have an immediate impact, transforming character and heart, sometimes in an instant. It can also inspire in someone’s thoughts a right decision and sudden action that bring safety and peace to that moment.
Prayer based on this premise isn’t about trying to bring someone into alignment with how we see things; instead, it recognizes that every heart is actually naturally receptive to and oriented toward God, good, because we are each the expression of God. This kind of prayer can specifically challenge and break down the false concept that a person or a group of people has fallen into mental darkness and cannot help but strike out. The light of Truth, divine Love, reaches every consciousness.
In the early 2000s, I was serving in the military in the midst of a tumultuous war. I know that many people around the world were praying in a powerful way for peace and for an end to all the turmoil. But I also personally know a handful of people (and I’m certain there were many more) who were tirelessly and specifically at their “prayer post” each day to support on-the-spot safety and well-being for everyone touched by the hostilities. Cherishing man’s uninterrupted capacity to discern and value good was at the core of those prayers.
During my time in that conflict, I was leading soldiers and often had to make quick and informed decisions. Each morning I’d acknowledge in prayer that my highest duty was to be receptive to the influence of divine Love, God, and to respond right away to that higher spiritual impulse.
In one instance, after we had come under a precise and acute surprise attack, my initial thoughts were impulsive, and I gave bad directions to my platoon. But a moment later, I felt a stillness and clarity wipe away the mental fog. I knew that that stillness came from God. I immediately gave a countermand that was measured and safe for all. Instead of the situation escalating, it quickly de-escalated, to the great benefit of bystanders as well as those directly involved.
I can recall many instances where a safe and more peaceful path appeared right in the midst of a tactical operation. And I think for many of us, there was a growing awareness of a higher way through what sometimes felt like “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalms 23:4). To me, this higher way was what Christ Jesus pointed his followers to – a profound awareness of the omnipotence of Spirit, God, that could lift all above the waves of fear and conflict.
Your specific support of the spiritual sense of each individual – whether aggressor or victim – is a powerful and direct help. In this kind of prayer watch, no one is left out; it reaches every level of combatant from rank-and-file to leader as Christ brings every thought into conformity with Truth.
Adapted from an article published on sentinel.christianscience.com, March 9, 2022.