Numbers, staggeringly big numbers, get tossed around. They tally projected casualties from a worldwide pandemic of bird flu. Naturally, healthcare experts are scrambling to map out a comprehensive response.
I think, as I watch this story build each day in the news, how invaluable a spiritual component would be in this campaign for preparedness. A spiritual component could favorably reach people in far-flung areas and in ways that no other response does. As long as we're marshalling resources, we don't want to overlook the power of prayer. At its deepest and purest, prayer has a profound impact on the safety, immunity, and ongoing health of the human family.
Think back to the Bible, to an account of healing from the ministry of Christ Jesus. He faced what was believed to be a contagious condition - a man afflicted with leprosy - in a startlingly unorthodox but healing way. According to common practice, everyone, including Jesus, was supposed to give the man a wide berth. What did Jesus do? When the man asked Jesus to heal him, the Bible says, "Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean." And then the Bible adds, "And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed" (Mark 1:41, 42).
Moved with compassion. Think of that. When Jesus was moved with compassion, it wasn't just a nice feeling. That Christly compassion was powerful, decisively transforming. That compassion - which emanated from God, from divine Love - gave the man a new life.
But there's more. The power that healed the patient was also the power that protected Jesus, and anyone with whom Jesus came in contact. He was neither a victim of that illness nor a carrier. All that got transmitted to anyone was Christly compassion, and that was both preventive and curative.
When you look at Scriptural healing as a whole, one of the recurring themes is: Eliminate fear. Those early healers evidently saw a strong link between eliminating fear and eliminating disease, even eliminating the inclination to become ill. But how do you manage to eliminate fear when media messages seemingly designed to generate fear bombard you?
"Perfect love casteth out fear," says the Bible (I John 4:18). Perfect Love - the source of that Christly compassion - that extinguishes fear. As the presence of divine Love becomes more vivid to us, fear has less of a stranglehold on our thinking and outlook. As fear diminishes, so does the proclivity to become ill.
This is a trend we all can forward. We can all take steps to minimize fear because we can redirect our thought more to the awareness of God as divine Love, and divine Love as real and practical and powerfully transforming.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote a brief article on contagion. She said in part: "People believe in infectious and contagious diseases, and that any one is liable to have them under certain predisposing or exciting causes. This mental state prepares one to have any disease whenever there appear the circumstances which he believes produce it....
"If only the people would believe that good is more contagious than evil since God is omnipresence, how much more certain would be the doctor's success, and the clergyman's conversion of sinners."
And she closed by saying, "A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the 'perfect Love' that 'casteth out fear' is a sure defense" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1886," pp. 228-229).
What those alarming numbers signify is not inevitable. The fear-shattering power of divine Love is on the scene. As the fear erodes, and Christly compassion spreads, the health of the whole human family receives a positive impulse. A spiritual component takes its place in the overall response. Your prayers do make a difference.