Each news report raises the number - at this writing it's already in the tens of thousands - of those who perished in the terrible tsunami that struck southern Asia Sunday morning.
The tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake beneath the ocean about 155 miles off the coast of Indonesia, wiped out villages, toppled buildings, and left millions homeless in the 10 countries hit. The quake was the worst on the planet in 40 years. Compare it with the 1994 Northridge temblor that caused devastation in southern California and you gain some perspective. The Southern Asia quake was about 200 times as powerful.
Aid workers, of course, are still rushing to the devastated areas, not only to minister to the injured but also to fight against the spread of waterborne diseases like cholera and malaria that many fear may now multiply and wreak further devastation on an already reeling part of the world. Relief agencies such as the American Red Cross and CARE are pouring in resources, and donors can reach them at www.redcross.org and www.care.org.
There is a role, an indispensable one, for prayer - prayer that glimpses the law and love of a caring Creator; prayer that affirms that protecting law and that tender, ministering love of the Almighty to be on hand even before aid workers arrive, and to remain long after those workers eventually depart.
The Psalmist, as if foreseeing the need of today, once wrote, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear ... Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.... There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved" (Ps. 46:1-5).
Is it possible, even at a time of such unimaginable heartache, to think of everyone as an inhabitant of this city of God? Is it possible to recall that the loving Creator didn't initiate laws that destroy but enforces divine laws that heal? These laws apply to every resident of the "city." These divine laws sustain everyone, everywhere.
"God is in the midst of her," says the Psalmist. God, who is Spirit, the Spirit of love so needed right now, is in our midst. God, whose spiritual law of protection and deliverance supersedes the devastating laws of matter, is in the midst of us, vibrating with life. To realize this in prayer, to whatever degree, is to contribute to the stability of the region. It is to add spiritual reinforcement to the relief efforts now going on. It is to help bind up broken hearts. And it is to bring closer the day when prayer will prevent such devastation.
In the meantime, every spiritual insight, on your part and mine, into the nature of God and of His law will help alleviate the worst of what's happened. If nothing else, it's better for us to commit our thoughts to prayer than to cynicism or despair, or worst of all, indifference.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, in her article "Spirit and law" first describes a scene of ruin. "Floods swallow up homes and households; and childhood, age, and manhood go down in the death-dealing wave." But then she lifts the discussion higher: "Whatever appears to be law, but partakes not of the nature of God, is not law, but is what Jesus declared it, 'a liar, and the father of it.' God is the law of Life, not of death; of health, not of sickness; of good, not of evil" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," pages 257, 259).
This is the law we all need to be more conscious of. No, our awareness of the benign law of God does not make it more powerful. But our awareness tends to bring us, and all humanity, more in line with the comforting and healing effect of the law of Spirit, the law of Love. Our awareness of the laws of aerodynamics is not what makes them apply to us. They already and always apply. But by being conscious of them, and conforming to them, we receive more of the benefits that can come from them. The law of God is a bit like that. Prayer reminds us that there is a God of pure Love, unstoppable Life, unchallengeable Spirit. Then we affirm divine law is on hand, wherever we are and also in Asia, bringing comfort, solace, and healing to those who need it most.