The captors of Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter who was kidnapped 12 days ago while on assignment in Baghdad - issued a demand and a threat on her life on Wednesday. News organizations and government organizations in Iraq continue to pursue every possible avenue for her safe release.
I ask myself, What will I - an avid consumer of news and a newly minted fan of Jill's work, but far from the scene of events - do with these remaining hours and minutes? I resolve: I will not squander them. I will not give these moments over to fear, to despair, and definitely not over to anger or vengeance. But can I consecrate these moments to prayer? Yes, I can.
Prayer has too often proved to be too powerful in my own life for me to neglect it now. I can pray, I do pray for every hostage, for their protection while in captivity, and for their safe and speedy release.
I turn to the Scriptures. One dimension of the Almighty's nature suddenly stands out boldly. He is a deliverer. Times without number, it seems, He delivers His children from famine to plenty, from captivity to freedom, from illness to well-being, from harm to safety. He is a deliverer.
Both the Old and the New Testaments spill over with accounts illustrating this. He does not turn His back. He does not forsake some for the sake of others. He does not arrive too late. He delivers to safety. As I ponder this, I intuitively sense the need is not for Him to become what He already is, but for me to become more deeply aware of Him.
I know that as I understand more of His power and presence, that understanding will fuel my prayers. That understanding will help me not squander moments on despair. It will help me throw my mental weight on the side of solutions, on the side where I glimpse a bit more of the great deliverer at work today. And every prayerful glimpse tells.
St. Paul certainly faced this kind of challenge. You perhaps recall his story from the Scriptures. Paul, a prayerful man if ever there was one, was a captive traveling with other captives, aboard a ship headed to Italy.
The seas were heavy, the winds tempestuous, the ship in peril. A kind of double peril faced Paul and his fellow captives, though. In addition to the storm clouds, ominous orders hung over them. "The soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape," say the Scriptures. Then they add, "But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose..." (Acts 27:42, 43). And they all made it safely to land.
What was at work forwarding Paul's deliverance? God's love for His offspring delivered them - delivers us - from hate. His benevolence delivers from evil. His mercy from injustice. Wonderful news doesn't make these already-true facts true. Terrible news doesn't unmake them. My task is to hew to these facts in prayer. Then these facts, these spiritual truths, reshape events for the better.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote: "The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 224). I seize this in prayer.
It brings me reassurance because as I pray along these lines, I realize that this delivering power is at work at this moment not only on behalf of Ms. Carroll but on behalf of every hostage, on behalf of every Iraqi that is living through this violence every day. The Lord does indeed bring deliverance to every captive. Right now is a very good time to realize that.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.