Prayer—a game-changer in times of conflict
For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings; prayed that all peoples on earth and the islands of the sea have one God, one Mind; love God supremely, and love their neighbor as themselves.
–Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, p. 286
Today you can look at almost any news website and read about pretty severe conflicts taking place around the world. This isn’t new. If you’ve ever read through the Bible, you’ll have noticed people who faced similar challenges and conflicts. Jacob, Moses, King David, Elijah, Elisha, Christ Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, to name just a few, witnessed and faced such challenges as slavery, war, and persecution within their communities as well as personally. But they were not without help. They turned to God, a presence and a force described in the Bible as “Almighty” and as “Love.” They did something pretty amazing in the face of harshness, brutality, and destruction: They prayed. They drew nearer to divine Love, forgiving unkindness, and in many cases resolving the conflict. This kind of prayer can have a powerful healing effect on any situation. It can be a game-changer.
When you hear about the conflicts and wars in places such as Libya, Afghanistan, Africa, Korea, Israel, Palestine, or Iraq, you don’t have to stand by passively. We each can actively engage in prayer and significantly contribute to the peace, stability, principled progress, and an end to violence in those places. Just like those leaders, peacemakers, and spiritual teachers in biblical times, we can all draw nearer to God through prayer.
We might include in our prayers the fact that God, divine Love, is everywhere; that Love is not only a permanent power, but the only true power; that every man, woman, and child is part of God’s family, with the life purpose of uniquely expressing His qualities. We can firmly acknowledge that Love is specifically present in the area of conflict that is on our mind, protecting each of God’s ideas; and that hatred, extremism, fear, anger, and evil fall, absolutely helpless, before the power of Love—just as easily and quickly as darkness disappears in the presence of light.
Instead of standing by feeling apathetic or helpless to have any positive effect in, let’s say, Libya or Afghanistan, we can take a mental stand and identify the spiritual qualities that belong to everyone in that area, recognizing that each individual is an expression of God, Love. And we can prayerfully peel away from thought any feeling of fear, vulnerability, anger, bitterness, or extremism that might be obscuring our view of the Christly qualities that already exist there. This is the kind of prayer that dethrones evil and enthrones divine Love, and it can have an immediate, transforming effect on any situation. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.
Some years back, while serving in the Army, I attended the Airborne School, learning to jump from an aircraft at low elevation and then parachute safely to the ground. I loved praying before, during, and after those jumps. I thought about how harmony is an active law in operation everywhere—just as natural as the gravity I knew would take me to the ground after I leapt from the plane. I was seeing that God’s laws of harmony were similar to the laws of aeronautics in that they have always existed, even if we haven’t always understood how to apply them.
Prayer can have a powerful healing effect on any situation. It can be a game-changer.
During one of my “mass exit” jumps, after my parachute had successfully deployed and I was making my way to the landing zone, another jumper and I started to drift toward each other faster than we could stop. We were talking to one another, trying as hard as we could to avoid a midair collision, which could have resulted in the chutes collapsing and both of us free falling. Despite my prayers before we left the plane, it seemed inevitable that we would become entangled. However, at the last possible second we separated, as though someone had just pulled us apart. I couldn’t explain how it had happened, physically speaking, but as I floated quietly down the last several hundred feet I gratefully acknowledged God’s love, presence, and protection.
The next time I was able to use the phone, I called my family. As I was describing the events that had taken place, my mom asked what time it had all happened. She then told me that it was at the exact time that she had felt impelled to pray for me and all the soldiers in Airborne School with me. It was no surprise to me that her timing was right on, and I am sure that her prayers from across the country, as well as mine, helped turn that situation around and resulted in a safe and successful jump.
This type of experience convinced me that as we pray for our brothers and sisters around the world, acknowledging God’s loving care in each situation, we are actually bringing into operation the specific laws of God that can change and heal any predicament. It might be rare to receive a clear verification of the effectiveness of these laws in the way my mom and I did, but we can trust the effectiveness and application of divine law as surely as we trust that gravity will hold us down when we step forward, or that the principles of lift will hold us up when our plane takes off.
On another occasion—with prayer still an integral part of my daily routine—I saw a dangerous situation nullified in a war zone. I was leading my platoon on a patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. When we stopped, a large group of young Iraqi kids came up to us and started asking for candy and practicing their English on us. There was lots of happy laughter. Before this particular mission, I’d been praying with the idea that God was present every step of the way and that the presence of this divine Love was a protection to everyone there, including the local civilians and kids. I felt it was important to include in my prayers the idea that God’s love is universal and that any notion of being in the wrong place at the wrong time was illegitimate if God’s protection is constant and includes all mankind.
While some of our men were interacting with the kids, I was radioing up a few situation reports, and the thought came to me very strongly that we needed to send the kids away. As I walked over to give the order to one of our sergeants, I felt at peace, knowing in my heart that Love was present. However, before I was able to reach the sergeant and give the order, a car drove by and fired a long burst with an automatic rifle at us at close range, even though there were Iraqi kids all around us. But not a single bullet found its target. It seemed utterly impossible, and yet it happened—a really tangible, clear example of protection.
As I’ve looked back on that experience, I’ve sometimes puzzled over what really happened. But as I’ve thought about my confident prayers that day relating to God’s power, presence, and protection, and remembering all the folks around the world who were praying about this conflict, it’s become clear to me that this was just another example of the effectiveness of prayer in silencing the screams of discord, and revealing divine law and order. And no one has been bolder in calling for action to end such discord than Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science: “Let discord of every name and nature be heard no more, and let the harmonious and true sense of Life and being take possession of human consciousness” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 355 ). In a very clear way, Eddy’s book has helped me unpack many of the spiritual lessons contained in the Bible and persuaded me to start applying those lessons (and laws) through prayer in a practical and scientific way.
So, when we hear about conflicts sparking up in areas around the world—and sometimes nearer home—we can take a moment to cherish the fact that God is present right in that area of trouble, and that His laws are bright enough to outshine any sense of darkness or evil. Take a moment to identify and love the healing qualities that God is forever expressing, while peeling away any suggestions of fear, doubt, or vulnerability. Take a moment to pray—and expect harmonious change!