Perhaps more than any other city in the world, Jerusalem is the epicenter of the most deeply held human emotions – involving the whole range of issues having to do with individual, religious, and national identity, freedom, and security.
Historically Jerusalem has been a study in contrasts: Its very name means the City of Peace; at the same time, the emotions regarding it have repeatedly become so explosive as to erupt into random acts of violence and war reaching far beyond its borders. It's quite natural, then, that every nation in the world should be vitally interested in the fulfillment of a sustainable peace in Jerusalem.
Today (Dec. 7) European foreign ministers are meeting to discuss the European Union's role in promoting peace in the Middle East. In particular, they will discuss a Swedish push for "the European Union to call for the division of Jerusalem and the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state" – a proposal Israel considers one-sided, and therefore preemptive of useful negotiations (see "Israel rejects European Union plan to divide Jerusalem," The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 1). Perhaps what will best prepare thought on all sides for truly useful negotiations is prayer – in which everyone can freely contribute.
As I've been praying about the issue of peace in Jerusalem, I've endeavored to hit upon an approach that considers the importance of this city to all peoples, and especially to those who belong to three major religions of the world that so deeply identify Jerusalem with their worship of God.
I've thought a lot about a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman about where one should worship. Jesus directed her thought beyond a physical location for worship – be it Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans traditionally worshiped, or Jerusalem where the Jews worshiped. He said, "The time is coming – indeed it's here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23, 24, New English Bible).
To worship God "in spirit and in truth" involves reverencing Him in our individual hearts and thoughts and words and actions – wherever we are. In this prayer of holy communication with God, we can come to understand that we live, with all of God's children, in His presence – in the peace-giving ever-presence of infinite Spirit.
As St. John prayed in this way on the Isle of Patmos, he "saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). This "new Jerusalem" is not a physical place, but a pure and pristine spiritual idea, entirely innocent of a troubled human history of violence and war. It is indeed a mental habitation of peace that is available to all who open their hearts to it.
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy described "New Jerusalem" in this way: "Divine Science; the spiritual facts and harmony of the universe; the kingdom of heaven, or reign of harmony" (p. 592). This "new" Jerusalem is actually the real Jerusalem - "the "spiritual facts and harmony of the universe" that God imparts to every one of His children at all times. All any one of us needs to do is open our heart and mind to God's, Spirit's, view of each of us as His spiritual reflection, living together in harmony with Him and with one another at all times.
As you and I and others pray to have this spiritual view of Jerusalem, we'll find the peace of God growing within ourselves. We reflect this peace – and love – in our relations with others. And when this peace is felt at negotiation tables, it defuses destructive emotions by giving individuals and nations the assurance that respectfully considering the needs of everyone assures the identity and safety of everyone.
At the very least, we can certainly expect from prayer significant breakthroughs leading to a more stable peace in the Middle East and in the world. But perhaps we should broaden our expectations to allow for the possibility of a universal enlightenment of thought that can result in the healing of the nations. This is not impossible to God.