Last year, credit-card debt in the US reached $937 billion, according to The Institute for American Values report, "For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture" (The New York Times, David Brooks, "The Great Seduction," June 10, 2008).
When people pray to God to find answers to debt problems, God's tender care and gentle guidance are at hand. Many have found insight into this divine care in the book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper. Science and Health helps explain many Bible passages, including this line from the Lord's Prayer: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). Mrs. Eddy interpreted that line in this way: "And Love is reflected in love" (p. 17).
Praying with these lines isn't a superficial petitioning to God to make debt go away. Instead, it's opening one's heart to understand Love's presence and power and supreme peace. This wipes out the fear, worry, and limited thinking that close the door to Love's infinite possibilities for good. Starting with a clearer sense of God as unfailing Love, we can pray to feel more deeply that Love is right here with each of us, no matter how difficult the situation. Love, God, is abundantly supplying us with courage and strength.
Because man, the universal term that includes both men and women, is created in Love's own likeness, we can pray to feel the fullness of God's love at the center of our existence. Being the image of Love means being without burden, resentment, threat, or guilt. Praying to live from the spiritual standpoint of Love's own likeness is fulfilling our first obligation as God's children.
As this becomes clearer, it's natural to willingly and gratefully look for, magnify, and trust Love's goodness all around us, however small it may appear to be. As we pray about resolving debts, we can continue to love our neighbors by identifying them with Love, which keeps us from conflicts and mistakes that could end up with us owing or being owed forgiveness. And it keeps us from thinking someone owes us our honor or dignity.
Seeing ourselves and others as the children of Love is the kind of praying that awakens the heart to the fact that there isn't a moment when Love isn't giving of its full measure of goodness. This takes patience, but it brings the understanding that Love owes nothing, because there is nothing missing in Love; that Love is never without, because Love includes all; that Love is never trapped, because Love is infinite, so fear must lose its grip.
We can feel Love's continuous giving of inexhaustible ideas that we possess as God's creation. These ideas light the path, supplying confidence and direction. Fear says God is absent and therefore good is absent. It's not Love's nature to punish, but to bless.
These ideas were proved practical by a couple threatened with inheriting a debt of back taxes on their home. Because the former owner sincerely wanted to pay the debt, the couple wasn't too concerned. But the bill wasn't paid after a few reminders, and, finally, after written requests, it looked as if they were going to have to pay it themselves. The wife felt resentful, but she and her husband prayed together to know that only Love was governing this situation and was guiding each one to make decisions that would benefit all. In this action, there was no delay or fear that could hide Love's present goodness for everyone involved.
One day, the wife felt her thought shift in a more peaceful direction. The thought of an emptiness that needed to be filled was replaced by an understanding that if Love included all good, there was no corner of Love that needed to be replaced. She cherished everyone in that Love. The fear vanished, and her heart was at peace. Shortly after that, the money was paid, and the friendship with the former owner was restored.
We may not know how God will help us with debts, but we can turn to Him as Love, to identify ourselves and live as Love's own likeness. This equips us to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors, and meets our needs related to any debts we owe or that are owed to us.