Awakened to pray

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

It was one of those balmy Hawaiian nights when sleep is deep and restful. Suddenly, in the wee hours, I awoke, startled. Instantly alert, I listened - perhaps a Pacific storm was brewing. But there was only dark stillness and the faint rustle of a gentle breeze.

As soon as my thoughts focused, I began to pray. My husband was thousands of miles away, serving as a Naval officer during the Vietnam War, so I would often turn to God in prayer when I felt uneasy, day or night. I was comforted knowing that he, too, prayed daily to make the right decisions, to keep his crew safe, and to honorably fulfill his orders. But wartime duty is never simple.

A Pearl Harbor survivor, my father had served as an officer on board the USS Indianapolis during World War II. As a child, I learned from him that faith and selfless acts of courage are often common among wartime military personnel.

My brother was a career marine who served in Vietnam in the heat of that conflict - yet one of the gentlest people I know. And now my husband was in the US Navy in a difficult period when friends and even family debated the validity of the war, the meaning of service. In the middle of this turmoil, I sat up on that dark night, certain I had been awakened to pray.

For an hour or more I recalled Scripture and passages from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy that articulated God's protective care. I remembered that book's explanation in the chapter dedicated to the subject of prayer: "In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as 'a very present help in trouble.' Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals" (pages 12-13).

I knew that right in the middle of battle, or any other frightening chaos, divine Mind provides exactly the right ideas for His trusting children, including my husband, to act wisely, safely, and honorably. I affirmed there was no force or power that could invalidate God's sustaining presence. I didn't stop praying until I felt at peace.

Weeks later, I heard from my husband and learned what had happened.

As his ship steamed from one point to another, far out at sea, a violent typhoon struck - one that hadn't been forecast by the Navy's weather service. There wasn't time to change course to evade the storm. The ship took blue water down the stacks as massive swells crashed over the superstructure, risking flooding the engines - losing steerage and foundering.

Furthermore, the waves breaking across the ship made it necessary for the extreme command, "Officers only topside," meaning the danger was so great the crew was ordered to stay below decks.

On his way forward to stand watch, my husband was struck by walls of water, knocking him down, ripping away his clothing, and forcing him to crawl to the bridge, as he clung to the railing. There were frightening periods of zero visibility - only dark water over the bow, making it difficult to know whether the ship was headed out of a swell or toward the ocean floor.

The captain asked my husband to pray for the safety of the ship and the survival of everyone aboard. Of course, he was doing that already.

The fact that I was awakened to pray during that crisis was another proof to us of God's seamless care. No time, distance, or danger interrupted the continuity of our faith.

The typhoon ended with as little warning as when it struck, and was followed by complete calm. Though the ship was battered, it was still afloat, and no one was lost.

Men and women throughout history have turned to God in prayer in the midst of violent danger, trusting their well-being to divine care, no matter what forces raged. The Bible states, "A good man's prayer is powerful and effective" (James 5:16, "The New English Bible"). My husband and I, along with his fellow officers and crew, felt the effectiveness of such prayer.

Years later, two of our sons are now serving our country in the war on terrorism, one as a Marine officer, the other as a Navy officer. Both are men of prayer. Both have already had the privilege of saving lives under threatening circumstances.

Everyone's prayer is needed - day or night - specifically for the safety, wisdom, good judgment, courage, and skill of all those who have chosen to protect and defend the innocent.

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