In these times of immigration turmoil in countries around the world, many rightfully ask, “What can we do to make things better?” This question came to my thought recently as I pondered the troubling problems at America’s southern border that have received so much publicity. There has to be some resolution, some way forward, some relief from the challenges faced by both immigrants and the citizens of the countries to which they desire to relocate.
At times these problems may seem so complex that we don’t know where or how to begin. However, I’ve found the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, an effective place to start. These can serve as practical spiritual guides during challenging times.
The Bible assures us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, New International Version). I certainly want my prayers to be powerful and effective, and not an empty exercise in wishful thinking, and this Bible verse is stating the condition for that to happen: I need to start with myself and live as righteously as I can. So I begin my prayer by making sure that I am not harboring anger, impatience, resentment, animosity, fear, or any other quality that does not emanate from God. To the extent that we do this, our prayers reflect the power and effectiveness of God that causes them to bring tangible blessings. And this puts us on a firm footing in our desire to help heal larger issues, such as immigration, with the confidence that our prayers will bring to light steps of progress that will be good for all.
I certainly want my prayers to be powerful and effective and not an empty exercise in wishful thinking.
Sometimes this process can challenge deeply held beliefs. For instance, it is commonly believed that when we provide one person with something, there will be less for someone else. Following this logic, if more good is to come into the lives of immigrants in the way of food, jobs, and housing, then there will be less for the current citizens of their new country. Yet the feeding of a crowd of five thousand people that resulted from Christ Jesus’ prayers shows how difficult situations can be handled in a way that leaves no one out. Although the people had only five loaves of bread and two fish collectively—an apparently insignificant amount of food to feed so many—Jesus took the food and blessed it. He then gave it to his disciples to give to the people. Not only was the food enough for everyone, but they had twelve baskets left over (see Matthew 14:14–21).
This inspiring account can encourage us to recognize that God’s power, demonstrated through righteous prayer, has the ability to meet the immediate needs of all without leaving less for anyone. Science and Health explains, “In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes,—Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply” (p. 206). Understanding that Spirit’s, God’s, allness is the context in which we live enables us to see how divine Love provides substantial solutions for all. This frees us from fear of lack or loss, thus opening our thought to divine Love and enabling us to feel spiritual love for whomever our thoughts rest upon. In this way, we position our prayers to be powerful and effective for those our prayers embrace. And these prayers also bless us, as our lives are uplifted by the spiritual qualities we are expressing.
As I pondered whose welfare I should pray for, I felt the impulse to pray for the safety and well-being of immigrants. But there are others we could be led to include in our prayers: family members left behind, or all the citizens of the countries immigrants are fleeing. We can also pray to support those with the job of managing the influx of immigrants. I’ve always found that pondering whom to embrace in my prayers is a matter of feeling divine Love acting upon my heart, first impelling me to act and then guiding me to where and how I can do the most good.
With all of the turmoil associated with this situation, I’ve also found it important to start with the following spiritual facts: We are all God’s beloved children, embraced in God’s loving care and protection; also, God is meeting our every need, leading and guiding all of us, teaching and showing us how to go forward with perfect wisdom. This being the case, I prayed to know that God’s love manifests itself in ways that meet the specific needs of each immigrant. While circumstances and solutions may vary, it seems clear that all are seeking something better in life—a safer and more stable environment in which to live and raise families, productive work activity that meets needs, better educational opportunities, and so on. I realized that these objectives are actually blessings that God bestows on all of us, and therefore it is right for everyone to desire them. Thus it is right for me to pray to know that God will bless them in these ways as well. And it is right to pray in this way for all parties—not just to know that it is true for immigrants and those experiencing an influx of immigrants, but also to see that no one is outside of God’s care.
We can become more effective contributors to the healing of these immigration challenges.
We do not need to predetermine how God’s love will bring right solutions. We can trust that God’s infinite wisdom will meet the needs of each individual case in just the right way, and in a way better than anything we could imagine. As the Bible tells us, “ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:8, 9, NIV). We need the willingness and humility to put our trust in God and let His guidance lead us and others in all ways, even if those ways are not what we might have expected. And God’s ways are always the best ways, blessing all involved with goodness and love.
One way we can put our prayers to the test is by asking whether we have been changed by our prayers—whether we “love our neighbor better because of this asking”—and by ensuring that “selfishness has given place to kindness” (Science and Health, p. 9). If we feel more unselfishness, more love for our neighbor, we are on the right track, and we can be confident that our prayers are accomplishing good. If we don’t feel that unselfishness and love, that’s a sign something in our own thinking needs to change. God will guide us even in that task so that we are able to accomplish His healing purpose and blessing. In this way we can become more effective contributors to the healing of these immigration challenges. And we will fulfill God’s promise that His Word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, NIV).