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Prayer in the aftermath of disaster

From the December 2016 issue of The Christian Science Journal


I was at the 2013 Boston Marathon when it was brutally interrupted by two successive explosions. As smoke and screams of terror clouded the scene, my heart sank with fear, but in that very instant the words of a beloved psalm poured into my thought and brought me a sense of calm and comfort. 

The words were from the first verse of Psalm 91: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” I couldn’t remember what came next, but that one thought was enough. Holding on to and trusting the truth in that verse, I found courage and the ability to think clearly. Soon, I was able to help comfort those around me and to usher them away from the area so that first responders could attend to the scene.

What has struck me about this experience is just how immediately the presence of God became apparent right when I most needed it. The simple thought that God, good, is present and powerful penetrated through the darkness, awakening me from fear to love, and enabling me to pray for those in need. As a hymn says:

One thought I have, my ample creed,
   So deep it is and broad,
And equal to my every need,—
   It is the thought of God. 

(Frederick L. Hosmer, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 260)

The impulse to pray for others in times of need is actually quite normal. As children of one God, who is Love itself, we all naturally express love for one another. And this love is very powerfully fulfilled through our prayers for others, even when we are not on the scene.

Over the years, I’ve yearned to see how I, as one individual, can do my part to pray to ease the pain and fear of those affected by tragedy, even if they are thousands of miles away. We all need the compassionate presence of God to lean on. 

Mary Baker Eddy’s poem “Satisfied” is a comforting antidote to fear and has helped me pray for those who are suffering. When I’ve read it slowly and taken in the message, it’s given me courage and Christian encouragement to help me lift my thought above a sense of loss and pain, not to ignore tragedy, but humbly to recognize, in some degree, the supreme power of Love that guides our prayers and heals. 

The first two verses of this poem read:

It matters not what be thy lot,
   So Love doth guide;
For storm or shine, pure peace is thine,
   Whate’er betide.

And of these stones, or tyrants’ thrones,
   God able is
To raise up seed—in thought and 
   deed—
To faithful His.

(Poems, p. 79)

It is so important as we pray that we lean on divine Love in order to unite lovingly with others and defuse the divisive thoughts and physical forces that would bring destruction.

I reached out to God in prayer to understand how I could better love my neighbors who were oceans away from me.

In the aftermath of severe earthquakes in Nepal, I reached out to God in prayer to understand how I could better love my neighbors who were oceans away from me, so that their pain and sorrow might be replaced with comfort and peace. I saw the need to begin my prayer by establishing in my own consciousness that God, good, is the only real power. I became still and silenced fearful thoughts in order to be clear about the all-power of God, the divine Principle, Love. 

Here’s a phrase I’ve always loved and leaned on: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). I prayed to understand that fear had no power to hypnotize me into feelings of helplessness and desperation, and that I could feel God and His Christ—an overarching spiritual love and care from the all-knowing divine Mind.

Christ Jesus’ life and teachings clearly exemplify his oneness with God. He plainly spoke of his unity with God, Spirit, when he said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). He healed so many, showing them that their identity was not physical, but spiritual, holy, whole, complete, and indestructible. 

The teachings of Christian Science help us understand that, as the reflection of God, we are at one with God, a unity that comes to light through the Christ, which is defined in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as “the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 583). 

This divine manifestation of God reaches the human consciousness in a way we can understand. It uplifts our thoughts, gives us hope, and helps us become aware that we are linked to a divine power that is so much larger than ourselves—that is infinite and everywhere—and that we can lean on this power, the divine government of God. 

As I began to lean on this power, my heart lightened, and I felt a certain degree of hope and peace. Then I was instinctively led to visit a Nepalese restaurant near where I lived, where I connected with someone whose family was affected by the earthquakes in Nepal. As we talked, I offered this individual some measure of comfort and care. This was a humble but inspiring example of how our prayers can help us support one another through compassion and the Spirit of God.

When we pray with an understanding of spiritual truth, we are able to discern God’s presence and love. And we recognize that everyone’s substance and identity are spiritual, that we are all God’s expression, the reflection of infinite good, and that no one can be separated from God’s goodness. Then God’s allness comes into clear focus in our hearts. 

The Christ impels me to continue to silently claim man’s oneness with God even in the face of extreme adversity. On this spiritual basis of our oneness with God, we can become increasingly conscious of God’s ever-present, all-embracing, spiritual love, and we can trust in this love to care for us—and for everyone, universally. As we do, we discover that our unity with God sustains us and gives us confidence and hope in the promise of healing and regeneration.

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