“Haiti has moved to the centre of the world’s thoughts and the world’s compassion,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week (The Scotsman, Jan. 14). Edwidge Danticat, an award-winning Haitian-American author, said, “Life is already so fragile in Haiti, and to have this [earthquake] on such a massive scale, it’s unimaginable how the country will be able to recover from this” (Buffalo News, Jan.14). And Dr. Louis-Gerard Gilles, a former Haitian senator, said, as he helped survivors, “Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together” (The Daily Press, Jan. 13).
At such a time, those outside Haiti may well feel helpless and ask, What is the point of praying? How can it do any good? How can it help Haiti right now?
Prayer reminds us that God’s comfort and help are already present, even as rescue workers help mount the enormous relief effort. Prayer for the safety of the rescuers, and for intelligence in planning and executing their tasks, can support their efforts.
A knowledge of God’s nearness, power, and love – even, or especially, in the face of pain and devastation – can relieve hopelessness and frustration as people with desperate human needs wait for supplies and equipment. Jesus’ life and resurrection proved that disaster and calamity do not have the last word. That something greater and far more positive must have the final say. The crucifixion did not end his story. Instead, it led to life on a larger, more vibrant and durable basis than ever before.
Prayer awakens thought to God’s preservation and restoration of humanity, from Bible times to the present, and in our own experience. We can look at the story of Noah and the flood and the salvation of human- and animal-kind that ensued; at the power of God’s “still small voice" of safety despite earthquake, wind, fire, and a determined despot; at the absolute and benign dominion over nature that was demonstrated by Jesus in walking on the water, stilling storms, and feeding thousands – these all show that the record of prayer’s power is vast and enduring, and point to God’s trustworthiness now.
Prayer begins with a heartfelt turning to God for guidance, light, hope – and a childlike willingness to trust Him and to love our neighbor, in Haiti as well as next door. We can affirm in consciousness that physicality or matter is not the essence of ourselves or of our earth, but that God, Spirit, is our Maker and maintainer. His power is all-good, all the time. Such spiritual truths, known and accepted, emit inspiration into human thought and help those in Haiti, whether residents or rescuer, to see possibilities, solutions, even healing, and to have the strength and clarity to act in useful ways.
Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote this of spiritually scientific prayer: “The ‘still, small voice’ of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe’s remotest bound. The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, ‘as when a lion roareth.’ It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear.... Then is the power of Truth demonstrated, – made manifest in the destruction of error” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 559).
Prayer will help us see and believe that all that can be destroyed in the end is a mistaken, mortal sense of earth and its inhabitants; neither humanity, nor good of any kind, can ever perish. It will also enable us to comfort the grieving in ways that will give them courage to go on with their lives. Prayer, in fact, will open the way for communities and nations to forecast and even help prevent future catastrophic events, even as it helps show the way to recovery now.