Prayer That Pulls Down Strongholds
DON'T the changes that have taken place in Europe recently illustrate what Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: ``The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds''? Divine Truth is pulling down the strongholds, as nothing else does. The transforming influence, clearly reflected in the greater freedom many are experiencing, is affording the proof that prayer does work, even in the most discouraging situations. While humanity continues to face formidable challenges, the positive developments we are seeing are certainly the outcome of persistent prayer. What is it that causes prayer to be effective? It is the truth, perceived in prayer, that man can never be separated from the love of God. St. Paul knew this when he wrote centuries ago to the Romans that no circumstance -- ``neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth'' -- co uld ``separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.''
God, Love, is always with us, even in places where tyranny and persecution appear to be. But is a mere request for Love's help enough for us to feel and experience the love of God? Or is there something more required of us to obtain this divine aid; to be able to wield the weapons of God effectively?
It's important that we come to understand the supremacy of Love and bring our lives into accord with that understanding. In this regard we are required, most basically, to love; and most specifically, as Christ Jesus taught, to love our enemies, ``that [we] may be the children of [our] Father which is in heaven.''
Genuine love is from God, from whom we are never separated. His love is always present for us to receive and to express. And because man's true selfhood is God's image, it's possible for us to do that expressing -- to love our fellow beings, including those who appear to be enemies, including those apparently responsible for misery and harsh conditions. In a profound sense, this love is our greatest weapon against evil machinations, because it reflects the unopposable power of God.
How do we love an enemy? Could Jesus realistically expect us to love a cruel despot, to love those who crush innocent victims and inflict unjust treatment?
First of all, what is our enemy, and what are we being asked to love? Isn't it really hate that is our adversary; the hatred and animality of what St. Paul called ``the carnal mind,'' which motivates hostilities and tries to harm? In the final analysis, people are not the enemy; the carnal-mindedness that is motivating them is the true enemy.
Jesus expected us to love our brother, to love his real, spiritual selfhood as God's child, made in the likeness of the one Father, who is divine Love. Cruelty and oppression are not the likeness of Love and no part of anyone's true identity. This is certainly not, then, what Jesus was telling us to love. To love any supposed enemy means to love his or her genuine being, to love God's child, who has no inclination or ability to hate or do evil. Isn't this why Jesus could say on the cross, ``Father, forg ive them; for they know not what they do''?
Of course, Jesus never condoned evil behavior. Recognizing the cause of evil to be impersonal does not excuse those who have embraced it and are perpetrating it or make them unaccountable for their actions. Until an evil-doer himself sees that evil is no part of his real being and forsakes it, he will be punished for his actions. Jesus condemned certain Pharisees and scribes for their sinful ways and did not dismiss their behavior. But he did not hate them; he hated the iniquity.
How can loving the enemy enable us to prevail? By bringing us into agreement with God so that we are conscious of our inseparability from Him; so that we realize that evil and hate are no part of His creation, and therefore no part of us or anyone else. This realization of spiritual reality is powerful prayer. It helps bring our own experience into agreement with divine Love so that hate's influence finds no foothold. And it can help the world as a whole as we apply what we understand of Love's supremac y to the specific challenges we hear about in the news.
Because we can never be separated from Love, we are always able to love and this is true strength. This is what enables us to feel more tangibly the Love from which we cannot be parted, and which triumphs over the enemy. It's what gives our prayers the spiritual power that counteracts evil; that enables us to see beyond appearances to the reality of God's infiniteness and man's safety under His government.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: ``The government of divine Love is supreme. Love rules the universe, and its edict hath gone forth: `Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' and `Love thy neighbor as thyself.'''
The removal of the iron curtain is a living example of the power of Love to pull down strongholds. It encourages us never to give up on prayer or underestimate its effectiveness in the face of any difficulty we, our family, friends, community, nation, or world may be up against.