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A prayer for peace in Ferguson, Missouri—and beyond

From the Christian Science Sentinel - August 25, 2014

This summer my daily prayer has included gratitude for the angel proclamation at the birth of Christ Jesus over 2,000 years ago:  “… on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Prince of Peace was fulfilled (see Isaiah 9:6)! I cherish the message that with the coming of the Christ, God’s promised deliverer, peace, prosperity, tranquility, harmony, and freedom were and are a present reality that can be spiritually discerned, not a future event we have to wait for.

I’ve leaned on this inspiration in recent weeks as news accounts of global hostilities and violence seem to continually increase. One Bible verse in particular brings comfort and peace: “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise” (Isaiah 60:18).

But there have been times when my prayers have been interrupted with the suggestion that this inspiration has no effect. How could a Bible promise make a difference in what is taking place on the other side of the world, or even in my own community? I live in Saint Louis, Missouri, and, as I write this, for more than a week the small suburb of Ferguson has been engulfed by civil unrest and violence after a police officer shot and killed a young man. The majority of folks who live there are sincerely seeking explanations, answers, and assurance that justice will be served. But at times the roar of anger and distrust, fueled by fear from both the protestors and police, has drowned out efforts to communicate in a calm and peaceful manner. Perpetrators, taking advantage of the situation, added fuel to the fire by looting and committing other crimes.

Seeing this scenario unfold, I began struggling again with temptation to doubt the effectiveness of my prayers—to think that the verse in Isaiah assuring freedom from violence was lost to the present situation. But in the same chapter in Isaiah it says: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee” (60:1, 2).

The presence and power of Love is the Christ, bringing the spiritual understanding of man’s oneness, and with it peace and goodwill.

Did things seem dark? Yes. But what does the Word of God tell me? That even though darkness may seem to cover the city—or nations—the light of the Lord is come; His glory is risen. His greatness is not only present but is the only reality of being—the allness of divine Love and its infinite expression, man. The presence and power of Love is the Christ, bringing the spiritual understanding of man’s oneness, and with it peace and goodwill—compassion, tolerance, understanding, collaboration, neighborliness.

What better way to realize the presence of harmony and peace—and freedom from any form of disturbance—than to keep the two great commandments Christ Jesus commended to his followers: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

When we commit to God—acknowledging and loving Him as the Only—we can expect to witness the effect of this understanding. We can expect to see evidence of His unceasing care for us, His children—evidence of “on earth peace, good will toward men.” Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives us an example of the manifestation of God’s peace in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, —whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (p. 340).

As I prayed along these lines I regained confidence in God’s infinite presence, and peace and calm again flooded my thought. Later the evening news reported that previous police tactics in Ferguson had been replaced with a less intimidating and more effective strategy. The new officer in charge was heard to say to the crowd, “I love you,” and the crowd responded, “We love you!” (“Mo. Highway Patrol received well by protesters in Ferguson,” KMOV St. Louis, August 14, 2014). Though the overall situation remained tense, that evening’s demonstrations were calm. I know that untold numbers of others were praying for peace and harmony during this time, too. As of this writing, the search for truth and justice—and peace—continues in Ferguson, indicating the need for further prayer.

How do we pray to support a community—or nations—in its efforts toward peace and justice? My previous experience tells me that the answer begins with me and the degree to which I am discerning in prayer the allness of divine Love and the reality of every individual as the image of Love. Christ Jesus’ second commandment leads the way: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

In Science and Health we read that “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals” (pp. 476–477). The Science Jesus practiced is undergirded by the spiritual fact that God, good, created man in His image and likeness—pure, perfect, complete, good, and with dominion (see Genesis 1:1–31). Justice and peace will reign in my thought when I can see everyone as God has created them. That includes loving everyone, beginning with myself. It also means eliminating disturbing thoughts by refusing to condemn, speculate, entertain human opinions, or blame others. It means advocating for justice by understanding that the presence of God, divine Principle, is manifested in each one; therefore, everyone has the innate ability to feel the power of divine Love and help forward the fulfillment of its promise of comfort, wisdom, justice, and truth.

Goodwill—compassion, kindness, collaboration, loving our neighbors—naturally flourishes as the understanding of God’s supremacy grows, and we recognize the family of man as the very image of God and His goodness.

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