For some, prayer may not play a big part in their life until a life-threatening situation arises. That was certainly borne out recently when hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck the mainland United States. There were millions of prayer requests on Google.
But is prayer just a shot in the dark or a last resort when all else fails? As a Christian Scientist, I’ve come to see prayer as that which opens my eyes to the ever-presence and power of God — not “a God who is presumed on occasion to set aside laws of nature,” but “a God who is infinite Love acting through immutable spiritual law.” (1)
Former Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, resident Joanne Ivy Stankievich didn’t hesitate to pray during Hurricane Irma. She was confident that turning to God would bring safety and protection.
When she and her husband had moved to their lakeside home in Naples, Florida, three years earlier from New Jersey, neighbors had told them they probably wouldn’t need the hurricane shutters most of the surrounding homes had. So they had planned, should they ever need protection, to board up their windows with plywood.
What they hadn’t anticipated, when Hurricane Irma approached, was how quickly all basic supplies such as plywood would be sold out. Events escalated so fast that by the time it was obvious they should leave their home, all shelters were full, airports had been shut down, and all escape routes were clogged with traffic.
By that time, Irma had advanced to a Category 5 hurricane and was expected to directly hit Naples. So the couple sought refuge at a friend’s house, and they all prayed together during the storm. Joanne, a Christian Scientist, has seen in her own life that God can be depended upon to provide protection even in extreme circumstances. “Nothing is impossible to God….I prayed to know that, for everyone involved, divine Mind was right there with them, directing right decisions and actions. Each one could be led to a safe haven.” When the hurricane reached Naples it had been downgraded to a Category 3 and the sea surge reduced.
This prayer brought calm to the small group, despite the howling wind, clanking metal eaves and a palm tree that fell against the house. Several Bible verses assured Joanne of their safety, including two verses from the 91st Psalm: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty . . . . For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” And Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
After the brunt of the storm had passed, Joanne and her husband made their way home amid debris, flooded streets, and damaged porches and roofs on neighboring houses. But their home stood untouched with only a demolished lawn. The nearby lake had crested and flooded, but the water had stopped a foot from their house. She also learned that her son, who had just moved to Cape Coral, Florida, was also safe and his home undamaged.
One major news source reported that “across Florida, the dreaded storm surge from Hurricane Irma. . . was not as bad as forecast. . . .The bit of good fortune was the product of some meteorological luck.” Others, like Joanne, would not call it luck. They’d say that all the prayers that had recognized and relied on the power of God had weakened the power of the hurricane.
What about the people who prayed but did not fare well? Did God play favorites and only answer some prayers? That’s a legitimate question asked throughout the ages. It calls on those who believe in the power of prayer to — more than anything — practice what we profess, act to help others, and humbly seek to understand better that no one, no matter their creed or country, their beliefs or unbelief, is left out of God’s love. But we might also consider how we think about God’s nature.
Some believe God is responsible for natural disasters, perhaps using them to punish His children. But this would undermine the very basis of a prayer that doesn’t seek to plead with a God in the sky, but to bear witness to a greater sense of the power and presence of divine Love. St. John said, “God is love,” and “Perfect love [God] casteth out fear.” Love does not create chaos and disaster. Christ Jesus illustrated this when he stilled the stormy sea. Knowing God as divine Love quiets fear and brings the mental stillness that allows us to hear His messages — messages that bring the needed help. I often contemplate the implications of the collective power of prayer along these lines, and this motivates me to be an active, eager participant in my church.
Why wait until the big problems come up to pray? Divine Love is always at hand to help. Turning to God on a regular basis, gives one grace and poise to face the day-to-day issues that would try to overwhelm us. Prayer that affirms the supreme power of divine Love brings calm, dissolves fear, and enables us to find practical healing solutions.
Like the Psalmist we can say, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (2)
Valerie Minard writes regularly on the connection between consciousness, spirituality, and health. She is a Christian Science Committee on Publication for New Jersey. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @valerieminard.
- Robert Peel, Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age, Harper & Row, 1987.
- Psalms 121:1, 2