A Christian Science perspective: Prayer on the soccer field sidelines when parents’ emotions run high and shinguards come in handy.
My son made his first foray into team sports the summer after first grade. He had never played soccer before. I quickly saw why shinguards were vital equipment. There was no strategy. Every player on the field huddled around the ball at once, and of course the ball had nowhere to go but to bounce off the nearest shins. The coaches repeatedly explained the concept of each child playing his or her position, but so far, this just hadn’t clicked.
I was grateful that my son’s coach was especially patient and caring. He seemed less concerned about winning games and more concerned about teaching the kids to understand and enjoy the game and to be good sports. The parents, though, were a different matter. On one particular afternoon, several of them stood on the sidelines fuming, yelling corrections at their children, and basically taking the game much too seriously. This was starting to get to me, and I decided to do something about it. I decided to pray.
One thing I find helpful when I pray is to look past the way things seem on the surface, and think about where God is and what God is doing and seeing. “Divine Love is infinite. Therefore all that really exists is in and of God, and manifests His love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340). That’s a passage found in a book written by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, and I find it a powerful thought to dwell on.
I began to think what that concept of Love being infinite, filling all space, meant for these children. If Love truly filled all space, then they were running and playing in an atmosphere saturated with love – with patience, understanding, compassion, affection, acceptance, approval. What a wonderful place to be! There would be no criticism there. No impatience. No pressure. Even if it were possible for the child created by Love to make a mistake, even then, Love’s pure, nurturing care and support would quickly melt away any sense of inadequacy, and would promote confidence and joy – the freedom to move with grace and skill.
So which scene would I accept as real? Short-tempered parents stressing out their kids? Or infinite, divine Love loving each child with tenderness and delight? I chose the latter. Not because it was easy. It wasn’t. It actually took discipline and persistence to insist that divine Love was filling all space in spite of the way things looked and sounded. But I chose it because experience has shown me, time and time again, that our experience responds to our thinking. And when we change our thinking, bring it more in line with the inspired teachings of the Bible and the kind of love that Christ Jesus lived, we experience healing.
I don’t know how long I prayed this way. But when I turned my attention back to the game, the tense atmosphere had eased. The parents had relaxed and backed off. What interested me the most was what happened to the game. This was probably the fourth or fifth game of the season, and that afternoon, for the first time, things began to click. There was less huddling around the ball with its collateral shin-kicking. There was more spacing out around the field, passing the ball, playing positions. No, they didn’t suddenly become great athletes. But their game definitely turned a corner.
Today my son is grown. I still love to think of him and his wife surrounded by God’s tender love and care. And I turn to The Christian Science Monitor to alert me to the needs of other children – needs much more urgent than those that arise during an afternoon soccer game. I pray to understand how powerfully Love shields each one from harm, that divine, ever-present Love is right where they are, assuring them in the depths of their heart of His constant attention and provision for their every need. That, as children of divine Love, dwelling in Love’s ever-presence, they feel Love’s acceptance and strength, know their own worth as the very expression of eternal Love. And I trust that this God-inspired and impelled thinking is opening thought to practical answers to their daily needs.
I may not always see firsthand the effects of these prayers. But I don’t have to. Because I have experienced so many times the healing power that comes from acknowledging and honoring infinite divine Love, I have confidence that my prayers – all our prayers – make a difference in their lives.