This year forest fires and church burnings in the United States, and bombings throughout the world, have all pointed up the need for greater safety and protection. Families, homes, and places of worship, all aspects of our environment, need the benefits of prayer for peace. What is our individual part in helping to snuff out the fires of fear and the threat of destruction, particularly by combustion?
Ignorance and fear often ignite and fan the flames of hatred and persecution. But neither is a power in the face of calm, steadfast trust in God. The Bible tells in the book of Daniel how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found that their prayer-their hearts' love for and unwavering faith in God-was their protection from death by burning (see chap. 3). They stepped out of a furnace unsinged, unharmed. "Neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them," the Bible adds (verse 27). Such protection is just as possible today, through prayer.
St. Paul would ask the church at Corinth centuries later, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16) It is essential today that we gain the understanding of God in our own hearts. The consciousness of God's all-presence is still a mighty power to douse the flames of fear and protect people from pain and destruction.
One summer afternoon our son and a friend ignored warnings they'd been given about playing with fire and experimented with lighting firecrackers. In a sudden explosion, our son's fingers on one hand were severely burned. He was in great pain. As Christian Scientists, we immediately turned to God. We also contacted a Christian Science nurse, who came and bandaged the hand. As we prayed, the child's pain ended completely.
He was very sorry about playing with fire. It was tempting at first for me to think that the injury was punishment for his disobedience. But that would mean that suffering, something opposite to good and therefore unlike God, had power. If such were the case, God, who is all-good, would not be all-power. I returned to my prayer.
Christian Science had shown me that our son was naturally pure and good-God's child. With this, the thought came clearly, "What was burned? The tares or the wheat?" The question referred to my familiarity with a parable of Christ Jesus (see Matthew 13:24-30), which illustrates how goodness is protected, and evil thoroughly destroyed, by fire. Briefly, an enemy sowed tares (weeds) in the wheat field of a landowner. Rather than uproot them when they first appeared, thereby uprooting the wheat as well, the master told his servants to wait until the harvesttime, at which point the tares would be burned and the wheat stored. With tremendous gratitude, I suddenly realized that all that could be "burned" or destroyed in this incident was evil-the temptation for our son to do wrong. This temptation was an evil suggestion contrary to anything God had created. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, asked a question about temptation, a problem so old it is central in the allegory of Adam and Eve: "Whence comes a talking, lying serpent to tempt the children of divine Love?" (p. 529) With great conviction and joy, I understood clearly that our son, as a child created by God, was held intact, always protected through God's love for him. Only a temptation to commit wrong could be burned and destroyed.
A few days later new skin was clearly evident. Within a week our son had normal use of his hand and fingers. There is now no evidence of his having had that injury. Nor has there ever again been a temptation for him to play with fire. That healing is an example of how prayer can bring to the world practical solutions to destructive fires and injuries.
When the news reports that storms of fear and hatred are raging, and there are threats or incidents of destruction by fire and explosion, how vital it is that we retreat to safety in the sanctuary of prayer. Communing with God brings us into a place of strength. This is all that can ever truly still the pain and passion of evil, by binding it and burning it.