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Prayer in response to terror

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

A few days before the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., I had seen the movie "Himalaya," a visually stunning as well as moving story about a tribe of Tibetan salt traders. As I sought peace and direction about how to think and how to help in the aftermath of Tuesday's tragedy, one of the lines from the film came back to me.

It was spoken by a Buddhist monk, a young man who had been sent away to a monastery at the age of five and had never known anything but the contemplative life. When he's an adult, his father - whom he hasn't seen for years - asks him to help lead a caravan on a dangerous trip through the mountains.

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The monk has no physical training or experience for such a journey, but after first saying no, he changes his mind and goes. At one point his father asks him why he decided to come. He answers that one of his masters told him that when two paths are open before you, you should always choose the more difficult one.

As I prayed on Tuesday, my natural inclination was to seek comfort for the loss of life. And I did work hard at that, remembering Jesus' promise and proof that life is eternal. I clung faithfully to the fact that death isn't the finality it appears to be. That every person is actually the spiritual creation of God, who loves us always, and that we continuously live in the divine Spirit, before, during, and after the span we call human life. I also thanked God that all the victims, their families, and everyone everywhere who was reaching for comfort, could feel His love in a way they could understand.

But I began to see a more difficult prayer-path open before me, too. It was the path Jesus laid out when he said to love and pray for your enemies (see Matt 5:44). I've heard it said that this particular instruction of Jesus is so totally opposed to human logic that it could only have come from divine wisdom itself.

On Tuesday, no one was sure who was responsible for the attack, but the idea that came clearly to me was that whoever it was, the only way to bring an end to terrorism is to reform human thinking. In my own life and the lives of family and friends I know well, the most effective method of reform has been prayer. I've seen tremendous anger turn into forgiveness. I've seen the desire to get even become a desire to help the person that hurt you. Retaliation doesn't reform people. It doesn't heal them of their mistakes, resentments, delusions. Only the right understanding of God does that. The understanding that God is all-powerful and just and good at the same time, and that love is the only way to draw closer to God and bring more justice to earth.

So, I'm praying for the attackers. I'm witnessing to the spiritual fact that the sons and daughters of God, which is everyone's true identity, have innate intuition to guide them to see God as Love. This divine intuition cannot be conditioned or silenced by human history and cultural values. Spiritual intuitions, operating as divine will in human consciousness, arrest evil intentions, frustrate attempts to harm, and expose as a lie the notion that terrorism can accomplish good.

God is the giver of all life, with no destructive designs. Violence isn't a natural act for anyone because it's unknown to our universal source. God's creation is designed by Love, for love. Love is the unifying force of the universe, and there's no power that can defy the divine nature or steer anyone in an opposite direction. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "No power can withstand divine Love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 224).

Praying for the "enemy" may seem like the most difficult path to take, but I'm convinced it's the greatest contribution anyone can make to ending terrorism.