Can our prayer reduce racial tension?
First appeared as a Web Original on March 9, 2020
Here in South Africa, as in much of the world, people are still experiencing the hatred and divisiveness arising from the ugly specter of racism and racial tension. Daily I pray for healing. Yet I’ve sometimes wondered, “How can prayer—my prayers—contribute to healing this seemingly intractable ill that continues to plague society?"
As I’ve pondered this, it has occurred to me that starting with ourselves and healing our own misconceptions, prejudices, and fears can have a healing effect on the atmosphere of thought in the world as it uplifts our own thought. I’ve found from my study of Christian Science that this means asking myself if I am truly willing to love my neighbor as God does. In other words, am I willing to give up any limited personal sense of my neighbors and see them as God’s sinless, lovable children. This spiritual view of us all as God’s offspring is rooted in the first account of creation in the Bible: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ). Yes, we are made in God’s likeness, which is spiritual—a likeness incapable of being sick or sinful or of having any identity unlike God, good. Christ Jesus’ consciousness of this spiritual individuality lifted from others the labels and limitations of the physical senses and restored health and peace.
When I see conflicts flare during people’s day-to-day interactions, as I do on occasion, I endeavor in my prayers to stick more resolutely to the truth of our spiritual being. I acknowledge that there is one God, who is Mind—the one and only real Mind of us all—and that we reflect this Mind. This is the Mind that Christ Jesus expressed, in which there can be no prejudice, hatred, ignorance, disunity, or fear—only love. While human circumstances may paint a different picture, I’ve found that when I persistently love and uphold in consciousness what is spiritually true, harmonizing adjustments often occur in the human situation.
I recall one incident a few years ago that was a strong illustration to me of how prayer from this spiritual basis contributes to a more peaceful atmosphere. My husband and I had gone to the local police station one Sunday after church to report a theft in our community. As we waited for attention, several black workers entered the station, shouting vociferously about a white young man who had wronged them. The young man then walked in, and the conversation very quickly became even more heated. Everyone was talking at once and demanding attention, restitution, and justice. The more one side shouted, the more the other responded in kind, and it seemed the police officers in charge were powerless to stop the altercation, which was escalating into a full-blown racial confrontation.
My immediate instinct was to pray silently, and I know my husband was praying as well. I mentally turned away from what I was seeing and endeavored to acknowledge that only the image of God—honest, upright, and without hatred, prejudice or fear—was represented in that room. In those moments of silent communion, this is all I saw. I felt only the presence of Christ, Truth—the divine message to all—restoring harmony, and I affirmed that each one of us in that police station felt it, too. I became convinced that this healing message would be heard above all the noise. The clamoring of human thoughts and opinions cannot drown out the still, small voice of God, divine Truth and Love.
Soon, the noise stopped. Everyone was quiet. There were smiles and handshakes between the men who had only minutes earlier wanted to assault one another. One of the men turned to me; he smiled, waved goodbye, and left.
The officer in charge was clearly struck by what had happened. He turned to me and my husband and asked us for any Christian literature we might have to share. He must have noticed the two books we had with us: the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Although we didn’t have any literature with us that we could give to the officer, we returned to the station the next day with a copy of each book, which we left for him at the main desk.
How happily surprised I was to see this dear man in our Christian Science Reading Room the next week! He offered to return the books when he was finished with them, but I told him he could keep them. He seemed relieved—it turned out his daughters had taken his copy of Science and Health and were reading it themselves! I gave him two more.
Whenever I feel as though there’s little I can do to make a difference in the world, this experience is a powerful reminder that every prayer has a healing effect. Seeing the universe and everything in it through the lens of the omnipresence and omnipotence of God, divine Spirit, dissolves the heat of hatred and discord and blesses all mankind in ways we can’t begin to imagine.