Prayer - a resource in crisis

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Not long ago, we had to devote a full work day to something called a "crisis management exercise." The supervisors of all our divisions - analysis, security, public relations, customer service - plus a good number of middle managers and many from the general labor force, were called to participate, and representatives of the local fire, police, and medical services were also invited.

This highly structured exercise, we were told, was only a game, but it would test our ability to react during a crisis and would highlight resources at hand that we might not have thought of otherwise.

Like students taking a college entrance exam, we were given test booklets and told when to begin. We proceeded through scenario after scenario in an orderly manner, discussing what we would do with the given situation, sometimes loudly disagreeing. Emergencies multiplied, and before the simulation was over, many of our buildings were destroyed in a terrorist attack involving both a bomb and a chemical-biological hazard.

Many people were supposed to have died, among them my wife. Of course, she hadn't; I could see her over on the other side of the room with her department, and she waved cheerily to me. The exercise, however, was real enough to show how one needs to prepare for disaster and to think about the helpful resources at hand.

One resource the crisis management trainers did not include in their scenarios was prayer. At each step in the simulation, I would think, "Well, here I would turn to God for guidance." I've learned that God, being infinite, is all-knowing Mind, my all-knowing Guide.

I love the promise in Isaiah, "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isa. 30:21). In these times when the world seems on the brink of war, when we are faced with terrorist acts at home and abroad, and talk of fear and hatred fill the news, I find it helpful to realize that I can listen to God's Word right where I am - in the middle of an office or in the middle of a frightening situation - saying "this is the way."

The day after the exercise, my wife and I were talking about it, and both of us agreed that prayer was an underused resource. She reminded me of something that had happened years ago when we were first married. We took a trip with my parents to Washington, D.C. That first morning, we came down from our hotel rooms to the coffee shop for breakfast. There was a happy atmosphere that morning, and we were chatting with other hotel guests in the line.

Suddenly, a man rushed in from the street, yelling something. He had a knife, and he stabbed a man in front of us. There was instant pandemonium, and the attacker was able to disappear. A lady next to my mother went into hysteria; people were shouting and screaming. Mom, Dad, my wife, and I had become deep students of the Bible, though, and I'm grateful to say that we immediately turned to prayer. My mother went to the wounded man, sat down with him on the floor, and began to talk to him about how God loved him right then and there.

He responded, talking with gratitude about God's love. Dad was speaking to the hysterical lady about God's ever-presence, and she calmed immediately. My wife and I prayed to feel God's control, no matter what was going on in front of us. The crowd quieted immediately. Other people began praying, too. Very shortly, police and paramedics arrived, and the wounded man had the help he needed. I don't know what happened to him later, but I saw mass panic change into something almost holy as the result of all our prayers.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote of this prayer-power in times of crisis: "Then, in speechless prayer, ask God to enable you to reflect God, to become His own image and likeness, even the calm, clear, radiant reflection of Christ's glory, healing the sick, bringing the sinner to repentance, and raising the spiritually dead in trespasses and sins to life in God" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 150). I'm grateful to know that this resource of prayer is always at hand.

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