Prayer That Brings People Home
SHORTLY after a period of war a friend of mine was so moved by the plight of the displaced people that she left her university position to work with an international relief organization. For two years she was an administrator in a refugee camp.She befriended and counseled hundreds of people, became their liaison with sponsors and employers in other countries, and helped them put their lives back together. My friend was a woman who prayed, realizing the presence of God, good. In her letters she often spoke of being inspired by the trust in God that she discovered again and again among the displaced people. In spite of the horrors they had endured, many held a steady conviction that God and His love were the center of their lives and would continue to bring them through. The integrity of such trust was quite moving and seemed to me to be confirmation of Biblical truth. We read in the book of Jeremiah, "Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. I always admired those who, like my friend, confirmed their love for people through devotion to specific humanitarian work. Yet however much I wanted to, it never seemed appropriate for me to leave my family responsibilities in order to do the same. At one point, however, I began to realize that there was nothing at all preventing me from living and praying in a way that would help others, either far away or close by. If displaced people in a refugee camp could speak of the very practical help they received from trusting God, then prayer was not merely an abstract concept nor was it simply wishful thinking. It could be a corrective to the human condition. Praying was, after all, what Christ Jesus did. His life illustrated that the sick and sinning can be healed through a better understanding of God's presence and power. And when Jesus prayed, when he restored health and demonstrated the spiritual power of divine T ruth in meeting needs, he wasn't always in the same house, or even the same city, as those he helped. For instance, Matthew's Gospel tells of a servant, "grievously tormented, who remained at home while his master, a centurion, went to Capernaum where he said to Jesus: "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Jesus was touched by the man's great faith, saying, "Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. The servant recovered right away. At that point my study of Christian Science began to show me that true prayer brings a readiness to recognize God's presence everywhere, and to see man's inseparable relationship to Him. Prayer trusts our hopes and moments to spiritual authority. It brings us to the conviction that lack, sickness, sin, have no actual power to overwhelm us, because God, good, is supreme. As I have thought more along these lines through the years, I've begun to see that Jesus' life and teachings were based on the certainty of man's unity with God. "I and my Father are one, he said. Referring to this truth, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "The scientific unity which exists between God and man must be wrought out in life-practice, and God's will must be universally done. In order to do God's will we need to deny, through prayer, the validity of a limited, material sense of existence and look instead to man's actual spiritual identity in God's image. Thus prayer, whether touching the needs of displaced people or of a household member who is ill, is not a matter of simply wishing for an apartment to turn up or for symptoms of disease to disappear. Effective prayer affirms that man--the real, spiritual man of God's creating--is already complete and well, and that this is everyone's true and only selfhood. Then we can't help benefiting others, whether they're near or far. A certain renewal comes with the desire to realize man's oneness with God, and we find despair, apathy, lack, falling away, replaced with evidence of what is good and normal. As the multitude on the shore of Galilee was fed by Jesus with actual fish and bread, so the meeting of basic needs--home, work, health--is natural, and we can expect it to be more evident through our steady prayer for humanity. It has been many years since my friend's letters came from the refugee camp, prompting my deeper search into the value of prayer. To the degree that I have been willing meekly to pray with some understanding that God's will for His offspring includes every good thing, wonderful answers have come in my life. There have been serious challenges, but the need for home, safety, and provision has always been cared for. Even more satisfying is the way in which this reliance on divine Love has shown me prac tical, far-reaching ways to help others seeking health and home.
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BIBLE VERSE And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.... Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Mark 11:22,24