The peril and the promise
THE officers in charge were warned that setting sail then would result in hardship and loss, but they took passage anyway, hoping to reach a larger port where they could winter more conveniently. Then it happened. A violent storm arose. Days passed without respite from the storm. The crew could not see the sky. More days passed, and with them went the vestiges of hope for survival. Only one man did not despair. He told the others that God had promised to preserve the lives of all on board. As he had foretold, at last the crew was able to run the ship aground, and everyone escaped safely to shore.
The man who listened during the storm so trustingly to God's message was the same one who earlier had warned against sailing. His name was Paul, and this story is recorded in the Bible.1
Though the events occurred centuries ago, the message of God's care and protection is vital to our own time. We yearn to free ourselves and others from the grip of fear and to avert catastrophe. And how encouraging it is to know that we are not helpless. Like Paul we can turn in prayer to the Father, to God, and trustingly depend on His guidance and loving care.
The Bible tells us that there were two hundred seventy-six men on board that ship; yet the earnest prayer of one man, Paul, brought deliverance to them all. One individual's prayer really is effective on a large scale, especially when we remember that what we hear when we listen to God in prayer is from God Himself and is enforced by His power.
Through prayer we perceive God's promise. Christian Science teaches that this promise is perpetual. It's always present. It doesn't come at human call but is the Father's continuous assurance that He loves and cares for us as His children. The Bible represents God as saying, ``Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.''2
God's promise may seem distant in the face of a day's news reports, and our acceptance of it may not come easily. But we can make a start. We can at least begin to glimpse, through prayer, God's goodness and the unassailable nature of His creation, including man. God, Spirit, has made man in His image--spiritual, eternal, indestructible. And He preserves all that He has made in perfect harmony.
Certainly what Paul perceived through prayer contradicted everything he saw and heard going on around him at the time. It is the nature of prayer to challenge whatever is ungodlike. By lifting our thought to understand more of God's presence, purpose, and perfect love, our prayer will move us to reject the false assumption that humanity is hopelessly separated from God; that disaster is inevitable; that we are helpless pawns of forces beyond our control. Right where chaos and danger seem strongest, prayer reveals the power of God to heal and deliver.
It's not God's will that humanity suffer. God, divine Love, doesn't send destruction and loss of life. Christ Jesus, in fulfillment of the Father's plan, healed sufferers. His life and works prove that God's will for humanity is salvation, not annihilation.
And through our own efforts to pray for the world, and to express in our thought and lives the brotherly love, justice, and peace that we want to have expressed on the world scene, we follow, in increasing measure, Christ Jesus' example. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ``Your influence for good depends upon the weight you throw into the right scale. The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable. Evil is not power. It is a mockery of strength, which erelong betrays its weakness and falls, never to rise.''3
There is hope for our world. We're not on an irreversible course to disaster. In the face of perilous conditions we can discern in prayer God's promise. And because God is as surely present to deliver today as He was on that day centuries ago, even one individual's prayer can make a difference.
1See Acts, chap. 27. 2Isaiah 41:10. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 192. The Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine, contains more articles about God's power to heal. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2