Cultivating spiritual alertness that prevents and protects
I wanted to feel the presence of good that could not be invaded by evil
Many years ago, I served as an Army chaplain assigned to an engineer battalion in Vietnam. At one point, our equipment began to disappear. Measures were taken to stop the thefts, but they continued. It was ominous. There was a feeling of an unseen evil force over which we had no control. Our commander faced the prospect of being relieved of his command, and I was on my way to comfort him when I realized I needed to do something else first. I went to my office and shut the door.
That day I began sustained periods of communing with God. I wanted to feel the presence of good that could not be invaded by evil. After the second or third day, it all came together in my mind. Several pieces of information, none of which had previously seemed connected to our problem, took on new meaning. I knew what was happening, who was involved, and where the situation was headed. The equipment was being sold for money to start a drug ring. I focused my praying on this new insight, and then shared my intuition with the commander. He acted on it, and the thefts stopped.
I’ve found that most people who pray have experienced some form of spiritual intuition that, when acted on, proved to be protective. It may have diverted an accident; or perhaps it roused an individual to stop and pray for a family member—and to find out later that there was something menacing that the family member had been saved from. Often, these intuitions come as a feeling that something undefined is imminent, and then through praying we experience God’s care. How important, especially in chaotic times, to cultivate this once-in-a-while occurrence into something more consistent in the service of God for the protection of humanity.
In describing a time of great upheaval, not terribly unlike the year we have just experienced, Jesus said to his disciples, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37).
On another occasion Jesus said, “If the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43).
On the basis of these two passages, you might say that watching includes staying alert to the times, in the light of Jesus’ teachings, in order to be ready for service. And this service includes
elements of foreknowing in order to forestall threatening events. Is it possible to do this?
Foreseeing and forestalling negative events through prayer is a natural result of consistent communion with God.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, learned in her own life and taught through her writings that foreseeing and forestalling negative events through prayer is a natural result of consistent communion with God. And it’s a natural outcome of living close to God, divine Spirit. She even devoted this magazine to cultivating this spiritual perception. But it takes effort to commune with Spirit, because the material senses must be silenced. That’s not always easy to do. What we see, hear, and feel physically seems so compelling and definitive that it tends to shut out spiritual awareness and its possibilities.
Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door” (Matthew 6:6, Revised Standard Version). In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy explains this action as silencing the material senses (see p. 15). And later in the same work, she says, “Spirit, God, is heard when the senses are silent” (p. 89).
This communion is what we need. It is feeling a little more of the divine presence. It is knowing God, not just knowing about God. It’s a thing of the heart as well as the head. It is being humble and becoming a little more God-centered than me-centered. Communion can include gratitude, praise, hymns, trust, self-surrender, petition, yearning, stillness, listening. It helps us become aware that we are never alone, and that in every stressful circumstance the battle is not ours, but God’s. As we maintain this spiritual awareness in our lives, we may feel intuitively that something needs attention—that perhaps something hidden needs to be exposed and prayed about.
When spiritual intuitions come, although we may not always know what the threat is, we can know that the will of God, good, governs all and is a divinely enforced law of annihilation to anything unlike itself. For instance, God’s law of good exposes and punishes efforts to secretly trespass upon man’s God-given right of self-government. It defuses explosive situations. This divine intelligence removes the worst in human character, replaces it with the best, and improves our institutions.
During this time of intense human will and its many expressions, it is important to silence the material sense of things and, through communion with God, cultivate spiritual perception and its striking capacities to prevent and defend from evil. If all of this seems new, and you don’t know how to start communing with God, you might think about an inspiring thought or a favorite hymn, or express gratitude for the good in your life—something that touches your heart. Then, thinking deeply about the nature of God, praising and worshiping God, will naturally carry you forward.
Remember, you are working toward a sustainable discipline. It might begin with communing with God two or three days a week for fifteen minutes or so, or maybe on a daily basis for short periods. It just takes being very still and acknowledging the presence of God. Intuitions that come from this sustained spiritual awareness of what is good and true not only expose hidden evil, but also assure us of its destruction.
Probably the most dramatic illustration of watching is when Jesus and his disciples were in Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, and he asked them to watch with him as he prayerfully stood guard over Christianity and the world. His disciples failed on that occasion. But they soon witnessed in Jesus’ resurrection the complete inability of evil to prevent what God was doing. That changed everything. They regained their spiritual footing and faithfully watched during the perilous formation of the early Church, God working with them.
The redemption and consequent upheaval that God inaugurated through Jesus is still going on today. Like the disciples, we have a role to play. Our responsibility is not so much to watch out for evil, but, through communion with God, to become witnesses that God is always at work and that evil is impotent to prevent what God is doing.