Prayer and fighting forest fires
YEARS ago, while living in the south of France, I was shocked one day to see a column of smoke and flames rising furiously just beyond the hill bordering my home. Fire engines were rushing by, and people were gathering excitedly on the flat roofs around me. I realized a forest fire was heading my way, with a heavy mistral wind driving it, and it was obvious that in a matter of perhaps an hour or less the fire could be at my doorstep and devour everything.
With a sense of great urgency (and also expectancy), I opened my Bible to the ninety-first Psalm. These words stood out to me: ``A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.''1 I realized that though the picture before me and my neighbors might be destruction at our ``side'' and ``right hand,'' harm could not truly come nigh anybody.
I prayed to the Father, divine Love, as Christ Jesus taught us to pray, and this prayer of love, I knew, both supported the heroic work the firefighters and volunteers were doing and was a direct, powerful force for good and peace on the entire scene. To the seventy disciples whom the Master had sent out to spread his word, he said, ``Behold, I give unto you power...over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.''2
Deep in my heart, the spiritual truth in Christian Science was clear to me that God, infinite Spirit, Truth, ever-present divine Love, is genuine reality. I knew that He is always with us, loving and caring for us, and that in our true being as His offspring, expressing Him, we are not material and subject to all sorts of evil but are entirely spiritual -- governed by God's law of harmony and by nothing else.
Then these thoughts came to me so simply: This fire is not good; therefore, it is not of God; therefore, it hasn't any true power to perpetuate itself or to advance.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, puts it, ``Christian Science brings to light Truth and its supremacy, universal harmony, the entireness of God, good, and the nothingness of evil.''3 And she also tells us, ``Moral and spiritual might belong to Spirit, who holds the `wind in His fists;' and this teaching accords with Science and harmony.''4
Then I turned to God, praying, ``Father, I love this little place. But I know that the primary purpose of praying is not to save things but to glorify You by proving Your supremacy.''
I knew that God governs all creation, all nature. I realized then that, in reality, all aspects of nature must be expressions of good, not evil. I refused to accept the mesmeric belief of wind and fire on a rampage, of any form of evil giving rise to loss or suffering for anyone.
It was possible then to see that it really wasn't fire or a mistral wind I was dealing with. I was dealing fundamentally with mesmeric assumptions -- about evil's being real and powerful and about nature's not being under God's control. But I knew that God is All and good, and that as God's reflection I could be neither victimized nor mesmerized.
Finally I had my peace. I went out on the porch and glanced across the ridge. The wind had abated and reversed itself. The fire was traveling back across the burned area; it had stopped at the ridge.
According to the next day's newspapers, it had been a major conflagration, but the many homes threatened had all been saved.
I later talked to some neighbors and they said, ``You know, the mistral wind keeps up sometimes for four or five days without stopping. But this time it changed suddenly.''
The lessons learned in this experience? To love others enough that we pray promptly and vigilantly in behalf of areas and individuals threatened by natural catastrophes, instead of leaving the whole burden to the valiant ones working at the scene. And to love God enough to trust our well-being in every sense to His care.
1Psalms 91:7. 2Luke 10:19. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 293. 4Ibid., p. 192.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times....God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Psalms 62:7,8,11