President Bush's $7.1 billion plan to defend Americans against a possible avian influenza epidemic underscores the seriousness with which many nations are treating the threat.
Already, some wire services are using the word "panic" to describe the public's fear of a possible epidemic. At the same time, a number of health officials are cautioning that people should not overreact to this threat - while simultaneously emphasizing the need for precautions. It seems that public health officials, hospital administrators, and physicians are striving to curb a spirit of fear that is trying to engulf American society and other countries around the world.
As I read the news reports, it occurred to me that prayer to Spirit, one of the biblical names for God, would be an antidote not only to the public spirit of fear, but also to the appearance of disease itself. A Bible verse gave me a clue about how to start such a prayer.
The Hebrew Scriptures, in Second Chronicles, narrate how, in a time of national threat, King Jehoshaphat stood in Jerusalem before the temple and prayed. The Bible gives us the substance of his prayer in the words, "If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help" (II Chron. 20:9).
This verse indicates to me that in the face of any threat, it is important to stand in God's presence. I think that this means more than just a bland assertion that God is everywhere; we need to stand firmly and know that God is supreme, all-power, infinitely present.
This prayer of affirmation of the awesome power of God should lift us into a greater awareness of His omnipotence. This kind of prayer is not a mere recital of words; it confronts the specter of fear in our thinking and destroys it. It calls upon the mighty power of God to confront and annul our affliction, whether it be violence, disease, or famine.
When we are consciously in God's presence, this acts as both a preventative and a curative agent. We get there through prayer, and this mental activity opens our thinking to the infinite possibilities of an all-powerful Spirit, or God, which always acts to counteract any threat of disease. We are the beloved offspring of this Spirit, always protected and governed.
Many years ago, the local media were full of reports of a flu outbreak in my area, and articles expressed apprehension that the local medical facilities might be overwhelmed. When I awoke one morning with all the symptoms of flu, I turned my thinking to God. I prayed to know that God, Spirit, was indeed the All-power and not some beautiful abstraction removed from the here-and-now of my life.
I remember that a feeling of confident well-being swept over me. This prayer of affirmation quieted my fear; the symptoms disappeared right then, and I went about the rest of the day - and week - in perfect health. This experience has acted as a landmark for me and given me confidence through the years that God's presence is not far from me, but immediate, and that it brings healing.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Spirit acts through the Science of Mind, never causing man to till the ground, but making him superior to the soil. Knowledge of this lifts man above the sod, above earth and its environments, to conscious spiritual harmony and eternal being" (pp. 520-521).
Spirit, God, makes me superior to fears of epidemics and to the very appearance of disease, because it shows me that I am above earth and its environments - not controlled by fear or disease itself - and that I am truly immune. This isn't pie in the sky; it's effective prayer firmly grounded in the all-power of God.