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Joining hearts and hands in prayer

A Christian Science perspective: Reflections on the way forward after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.

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As American officials strive to find answers to the problem of gun violence, my thoughts stray back to the night I heard about the shooting in Newtown, Conn. I was in Australia watching the news at my friends’ house when the report burst onto the screen. I was deeply shaken, and was grateful when the host asked that we join hands in prayer. I could feel my friends’ loving desire to comfort not only my friend and me, but also the affected parents and children.

Later we went to an evening prayer service with Christmas carols at an Anglican Church. During the part of the service when the minister makes requests for intercessory prayer, the first topic on his list was the school shooting in Connecticut.

His choice reinforced even more the feeling of hands reaching out across the globe in help and prayer, offering thoughts that would comfort and strengthen the affected families and others involved. The deep peace of the silent prayer that followed was a healing balm.

Later, when I thanked him, he mentioned a violent incident that had happened in his own country and said that the great need in preventing such crimes was to reach people’s hearts and to change them. 

Since then, I’ve pondered the power of both hands and hearts reaching out in prayer in order to bring healing to a horrific situation, and to forestall such events. For healing to occur, love needs to be at the helm of thought.

Jesus’ statement, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12) is a perfect guide. No matter whom Jesus met – violent people thought to be possessed by devils, the sick, the blind, the corrupt – his healing word made them new.

In today’s hectic times, it’s not always easy to sense if someone is feeling isolated, mocked, or rejected. Yet individually, each of us can pray for our local institutions (and beyond), recognizing that the love of God is a present protecting power. Divine Love is infinitely intelligent. It gives strength and discernment to those responsible for safety.

Divine Love embraces all aspects of its creation and rejoices in each one, whether it is the teen in the corner whom kids consider nerdy, or the brilliant student who always has the right answer. Teachers, students, employees, town officials – all people – can be seen as under God’s care. They cannot be cut off from the loving influence of Christ.

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The Christ is the spirit of divine Love that Jesus taught to his disciples, and which has been passed along to us today through Christian Science. Mary Baker Eddy writes that Christ “is the divine image and likeness, dispelling the illusions of the senses;... healing the sick and casting out evils, destroying sin, disease, and death” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 332).

Christ enables us to understand that all people can be free from mental illusions that would lead them into darkness, and enables us to see that they are children of light. This insistence on inescapable good has healing power. It supports right efforts to find help or to give help when it is needed, as in the case of the teacher and campus supervisor who were able to disarm a student last week at Taft High School in California. Sometimes this care shows up through a persistent effort to do right or possibly through the discovery of a special program that can help a troubled individual through hard times.

Divine Love has a unique purpose for each of its children, each facet of its creation. Sometimes that unique purpose is obscured by neglect or by some event or condition that would darken thought, and lead it away from helping hands. But we can call on Christ, the divine Shepherd, to seek out each one. As the prophet Ezekiel, speaking of God’s commitment to His people, put it, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick” (Ezekiel 34:16).

All who join hands and hearts in prayer can ensure that the lost can be found, the broken can be made whole, and the sick can be healed and strengthened. Solutions can be found that will make everyone safer, and the loneliness of loss can be driven away. The answers may not come all at once, but as hands and hearts become ever more united, true freedom for all will come.

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