Breaking through the world’s chains

I have prayed earnestly about peace for as long as I can remember. I grew up in London during the Cold War, the Falklands War, and the paramilitary Irish Republican Army’s terrorist attacks. On one occasion, while I was looking at a bookshop, a neighboring store was bombed by the IRA. In school there was a lot of talk about war, and my grandfather had suffered from a piece of shrapnel lodged in his head while serving during World War I. So when I lay awake at night, I frequently prayed, mostly to overcome my own fears.

Later, I lived and worked in Israel, where conflict was a constant undercurrent. It seemed evident that most people wanted to live in peace. I—along with many others—often prayed for peace and safety.  

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I realized that I needed to pray not just for myself but also for the world.

When the 9/11 attacks happened, my husband and three children and I were living in Australia, and our fourth baby was due the day after. I honestly wondered how I could bring another baby into the world. A few months later, our family had to fly to Sydney. During this trip, I suddenly started experiencing a panic attack. 

Yet ever since my days as a Christian Science Sunday School student, I’d been learning that God is Love, and that “one infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; . . .” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340). And I’d experienced the healing effects of getting to know God as universal Love. 

Staying as calm as possible so as not to disturb my family, I prayed with ideas in that week’s Bible Lesson (published in the Christian Science Quarterly). I also found this verse from a hymn especially helpful:

Everlasting arms of Love
Are beneath, around, above;
God it is who bears us on,
His the arm we lean upon.
(John R. Macduff, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 53, adapt. © CSBD)

The panic subsided for a while. However, it kept returning, including when we were in a restaurant at the top of a tall building, and also on the return flight. This time, I realized that I needed to pray not just for myself but also for the world—specifically, to face down the notion of terrorism as unavoidable and to truly understand that violence has no place in God’s kingdom.  

As I prayed, lines from the ninety-first Psalm came to me: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day,” and “It shall not come nigh thee” (verses 5, 7). I realized that these promises apply not only to me but to everyone. In truth, we all dwell “in the secret place of the most High,” as the psalm also says (verse 1). And in that place—in the truth of our existence as God’s spiritual offspring—we discern God’s protection and love for all.

The most powerful agent for change is an understanding of God and His allness.

This truth isn’t for some far-off time and place; it is the only reality of being, here and now. Embracing this spiritual reality brings hope and strength in troubling times.

As I pondered these ideas, the panic disappeared for good. I was so grateful for a deeper understanding of God’s presence and love for all.

In recent years, I have come to understand that the most powerful agent for change is an understanding of God and His allness. Our part is to consider our own thoughts and to let go of those that are unlike God, good.  

We may feel at times that praying about world events that seem oppressive and threatening is an impossible task. But I always remember something I learned from one of my Sunday School teachers: Every time we pray from the basis of God’s goodness and love, we break a link in the chains that bind the world.

As we nurture within ourselves the wheat of compassion, forgiveness, love, and grace—qualities inherent in everyone as God’s child—they will grow stronger in us, until we can pull up all the weeds of conflict, violence, and hatred, to see only fields of harmony and peace.

To find more articles to support a continuing cycle of shoulder-to-shoulder prayer and shared inspiration during the Israel-Hamas war, please explore a collection called Prayers for peace amid conflict.

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