THE LAST few years I've found myself increasingly aware of the problems of war and poverty facing people on Earth. I've also been wondering about how a guy like me on the West Coast of the United States, can make a difference.
It's easy to forget about life-and-death struggles going on thousands of miles away when I'm trying to choose whether to head out for a film, go to dinner with friends, or attend a sporting event in town. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that. It's just that I've begun to feel a responsibility to help other people on the planet. The terrible things they're going through in countries far away have nothing specific to do with my life—and yet, as Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it" (Science and Health, p. 57). So I figure that if I'm yearning to help folks halfway around the world, even if I can't be with them, the first place I can start would be in my own thinking.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christian church at Rome, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2). When I've pause to consider what it must be like for the people suffering through wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, or through ecological catastrophes like the Gulf Coast oil spill, and troubles elsewhere, I've wondered if I've been lulled into just wanting to make things better for me and mine. But recently I've had some new light on the subject of prayer for others.
While traveling through neighborhoods of Seattle, I'd sometimes catch myself mentally complaining about a tense circumstance that I observed unfolding as I went past, maybe even worrying that I could be threatened in some manner.
In the Manual of The Mother Church, one of the By-Laws that Mrs. Eddy published states that "the prayers in Christian Science churches shall be offered for the congregations collectively and exclusively" (p. 42). I realized one day that when I'm walking through one part of town or the other, I can turn my thoughts into prayers for everyone in the neighborhood, right then and there. Why not pray "collectively and exclusively" for each neighborhood I'm going through?
WE, AS GOD'S DEARLY LOVED CHILDREN, HAVE THE ABILITY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS THE WORLD IS FACING.
I find it so meaningful to pray vigorously with an understanding that right now God is loving each and every person, that indeed God is blessing all who are in the neighborhood. And I've seen indications that it works. Once while I was watching a street parade, some guys approached and stood right next to me. They yelled obscenities and taunted each other. I was concerned, and turned to prayer, knowing that God was actively blessing everyone at the parade. My anxiety dissipated, and they walked off. Having a "giving" thought has better prepared me to contend with situations that have arisen that, had I allowed a glum attitude to dominate my thinking, might well have degenerated into something unpleasant and regrettable. Encounters with passing strangers quickly turned into a smile, a wave, and sometimes even a "hello," instead of a gruff, uncaring sharing of the sidewalk.
We, as God's dearly loved children, have the ability to help solve the problems the world is facing. Christ Jesus promised, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12). Mrs. Eddy wrote, "Jesus said: "These signs shall follow them that believe; ... they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.' Who believes him? He was addressing his disciples, yet he did not say, "These signs shall follow you,' but them—'them that believe' in all time to come" (Science and Health, p. 38).
Helping humanity, even people thousands of miles away, isn't really as hard as it might seem, especially when we embrace that first step of earnestly praying for everybody everywhere. It takes willingness to love, and a willingness to back up that love with day-in, day-out prayer. But the effort isn't in vain. It opens up a whole new way of looking at neighbors and people on the other side of the planet, a way that doesn't include suspicion, sarcasm, contempt, or competition.
So when I find myself wondering how a guy like me living amidst the evergreen trees of the Pacific Northwest can do something to help lighten the load of someone grappling with the excruciating circumstances of war and poverty, I realize it all begins with thought. It all starts with a longing to bless, an eagerness to pray, a willingness to share the mellowing, comforting breeze of spiritual lovingkindness.
Tom Hundley works as a personal assistant and community activist in Seattle, Washington.
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