Prayer of the earnest and unceasing kind is powerful in times of crisis. A man named Peter benefited from the ceaseless prayers of his fellow Christians (see Acts 12:1-11). The Bible tells us that Peter was being held in prison and was soon to be executed by order of Herod, the king, who'd already had one other prominent church leader killed. Peter's survival looked impossible. He was bound in chains, with four squads of soldiers guarding him around the clock. Under such conditions, the idea that people's prayers could turn things around might seem as unlikely as toppling a building by having a group of people take a breath and blow.
Still, the church prayed to God non-stop. What this action accomplished is described in the Bible this way: "And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands." Peter walked out of prison unharmed.
The prayers triumphed. Chains fell away. Doors opened. An innocent man was set free.
Imagine the advice those early Christians might have for people today who are asking what can be done to stay safe when trouble looms, and to be of most help to their neighbors: Pray. Keep praying.
A contributor to the international magazine The Herald of Christian Science told what happened to her last year in Indonesia.
She had been staying with her oldest daughter in an area of Jakarta where a lot of burning of homes and businesses was done. It was 2 o'clock in the morning, and neither she nor her daughter had been able to sleep. Smoke could be seen everywhere. They each prayed, and they phoned a friend to pray with them.
The next morning they were informed that during the night there had been two truckloads of people near their complex, ready to destroy it. But some workers in the area who knew the mother and daughter decided to speak up, and said to the rioters, "Don't do that. The people who live here are loving people." The trucks left, and no harm came to the two of them or to the complex.
Prayer can remove mountains. Mountains of hatred. Of indifference to evil. The power of God, of good, is enough to change the landscape of the human scene in every way, to break any kind of chains, to overrule any form of evil. The possibilities are as limitless as God is.
To realize those possibilities, there's a need to give God undivided attention. Prayer includes leaning humbly on the divine Spirit; listening to God; acting on the spiritual thoughts He gives; rejecting thoughts that couldn't possibly have divine Truth and Love as their source.
That rejection is important. Willingness to crack down on evil at its roots, to destroy the false belief of a power opposed to God, moves prayer forward to become a practical help. Without this crackdown, we don't completely awaken to see that God is All-in-all and that as His spiritual image we are under no other law or power than good.
There's a tremendous resource for people who want to pray in this way for themselves and others. It's the inspired message of the Bible and the book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (written by Mary Baker Eddy). From these books, readers will discover a fresh and vastly expanded view of prayer and of what they can accomplish with God's help.
Prayer to God is indeed powerful stuff. A person or a community in trouble doesn't have to go on being troubled. There's a spiritual answer. Everything that's needed is in place. There are you and me and others who, like Peter's supporters, are capable of rising to the occasion, of praying steadfastly until the trouble is dissolved.
Now is the time, then, to act.
And when Peter was come to
himself, he said, Now I know of
a surety, that the Lord hath
sent his angel, and hath
delivered me out of the hand
of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society