How I’m praying after the Michigan State shooting

I said to my son, “Let’s pray,” which is something I’ve consistently found helpful in troubling or tragic situations.

Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, February 15, 2023.

One of my sons is a freshman at Michigan State University, where a mass shooting took place on Monday night. He called me that night at my home in New York and said, “Dad, there’s a shooting and people have been killed here, but I’m OK.”

I was grateful to hear from him, and my heart went out to this community and everyone affected. So I said to my son, “Let’s pray,” which is something I’ve consistently found helpful in troubling or tragic situations.

We talked about embracing the entire campus and community in our prayers, and that included praying about our view of the alleged gunman. Why include this in one’s prayers when someone has done such a terrible thing, and in a location that put a loved one at risk? Simply put, because such prayer keeps us from succumbing to the temptation to look for and expect the worst in others in the future. It provides protection, comfort, and healing. And I’ve learned through experience and through studying the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, that the most effective prayer embraces all.

“Love your enemies,” Jesus says in the Bible, “do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27, 28).

This doesn’t mean loving, or even tolerating, wrongdoing. It’s about recognizing that God doesn’t see good people and bad people. God sees us precisely and only as the way He created us: not as mortals defined by mental darkness or dangerous tendencies, but as spiritual ideas filled with pure goodness, reflecting His infinite good.

Getting even a tiny glimpse of that spiritual reality in one’s heart can be life-changing.

Years ago, a group of young men attacked me one evening on a sidewalk in New York City. They jumped on me, and as I lay on the bottom of the pile of men punching and kicking me, I prayed. Though the men weren’t behaving in such a manner at that moment, I knew that at their core they too were God’s children, made to be loving and to be loved. Their genuine identity was spiritual, God-filled, pure, and innocent. As I prayed, I shouted repeatedly, “You are God’s loving children. You are loved and loving.”

Prayer keeps us from succumbing to the temptation to look for and expect the worst in others in the future.

Quickly, a phalanx of police arrived. They removed the attackers. I was fully alert, and except for a couple of tiny scratches and cuts, I was unscathed. One of the EMTs at the scene said, “It’s a miracle. They could have easily killed you.”

This experience has inspired my ongoing prayers for the Michigan State community. God’s redeeming, reforming, and comforting love is here to embrace all in tangible ways­—helping us realize that in the face of infinite Love, darkness, destruction, and even death don’t have the last word.

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