DISASTERS such as the floods along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in the United States have swept away crops, buildings, a lifetime of mementos, and even loved ones. Suddenly all one's efforts to establish a decent home and an orderly life seem to be in vain. Despite the goodness of strangers--and there are many news reports of such kindnesses --those affected by the tragedy have to put their lives back together.
Our prayers can help them and others around the world who are suffering from such conditions. In the New Testament of the Bible, James writes, ``The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much'' (5:16). And the life of Christ Jesus, who was James's example as well as being our own, brings this point out through the many healings he accomplished even under conditions where restoration seemed impossible.
We, too, have the ability to heal suffering in our own and others' lives as we follow in the way that Christ Jesus pointed out. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, explains the Master's priorities in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes of him, ``First in the list of Christian duties, he taught his followers the healing power of Truth and Love'' (p. 31).
Prayer that reaches out to God, to Truth and Love, is turning to omnipotent, ever-loving Mind, the ultimate intelligence of the universe and of man. The government of this Mind produces unshakable harmony, because Mind, God, knows man to be fully spiritual and inseparable from His own goodness. Under Mind's care, man can never be cut off from good or be deprived of what is rightfully his.
As we acknowledge in our prayers the presence of Mind throughout creation--including the flood areas--we are turning to wisdom that points out the way to establish harmony on the human scene as well. By bringing our thoughts into accord with Mind, we find greater freedom from fear or hopelessness at the loss of homes and livelihoods. In fact, we begin to gain strength to persevere in the rebuilding process and to see even small evidences of good as signs of the full restoration to come.
It can be difficult, to put it mildly, when one has apparently lost everything--whether this be a business or personal belongings. Yet even here, resorting to God's power does help, as I learned many years ago.
At the time, I was the head of a small department at a university and was responsible for publishing two of the college bulletins. These bulletins were each several hundred pages long and represented the bulk of our budget.
Our contract with the printer required us to adhere to strict deadlines. A few days before one of these deadlines, the office caught fire while my assistant and I were at lunch. When I returned, the room was full of black smoke, and I could not get inside to save the bulletin manuscripts.
I cleared the building of people and also saw to it that the fire department was called. Even while I was doing this, however, I was praying to understand that divine intelligence was governing and that hopeless as it seemed, we would have whatever we needed in order to finish our task and meet the deadline. Since this material had been generated by about thirty-two departments and had already gone through our editorial process, we needed to have the finished manuscript. We could not rely on others to re produce it for us in the few days before the deadline.
This necessity gave added fervor to my prayers! But my efforts were not pleading with God to perform a miracle. I was really relying on Mind as divine Principle, the essential law of the universe that leads us always to harmony, never to evil. The operation of this Principle counteracts evil-- whether in the form of a burning office or a flooding river. The omnipresence of Principle, when recognized, shows us that evil has no place to operate in our lives or in God's kingdom. Principle's law governs abso lutely, and it wipes out destructive forces as we turn to it in prayer. Such prayer recognizes man to be spiritual, the idea of God, or Mind, and willingly accepts God's government in individual life. Divine Love never sends evil. As we understand that God is not the source of evil, we realize that we don't need to accept it or justify it. Nothing in God's plan includes evil. Rejecting evil in this way can be a major spiritual step in our progress toward ``the effectual fervent prayer'' of which James spoke
in the Bible.
And that prayer was certainly rewarded the day my office burned. When we were able to return to the office, we learned that the fire had started on my assistant's desk--where the bulk of the manuscript was located. Yet somehow a large portion of the manuscript had fallen off the desk and was scattered around the room. Only one very small portion was missing, and one of the deans we worked with had a copy of it. Some pages were soot-spattered and water-stained, but we used them and we met our deadline. In
addition, as I continued to pray I saw the total restoration of our office, with better work conditions than before.
Our individual determination to see life in spiritual terms and to live accordingly may be challenged from time to time. And floods are one way that this occurs. But even in the darkest times, divine Love is with us, leading us to the solutions to our problems and giving us the strength we need to restore whatever has been destroyed. This Love is available to each of us, not some time in the future, but right now. And turning to it will make all the difference.