Millions of people in the midwestern United States were awakened by an earthquake last Friday morning. The quake, which registered 5.2 on seismic scales, shook high-rise buildings in Chicago, far away from the epicenter in southern Illinois, but no loss of life or serious property damage was reported.
Even when there's little damage, an earthquake brings out the vastness of the forces at work and can make one feel small, insignificant, and at the mercy of plates that shift under pressure along fault lines billions of years old. Such an awareness builds compassion for people who live in earthquake-prone areas of the world.
Often scientists can predict an upcoming quake. Those predictions may be frightening, but they can also compel us to pray – to turn to God for guidance about what steps to take if we live in the affected area. They can also encourage everyone – including those outside the zone – to pray in support of those who are near it. Such prayer is most effective when it rests on an affirmation that the spiritual laws of the universe are constantly, tenderly, and unerringly holding all of God's creation – including us – in perfect alignment, order, and harmony.
The Bible tells about those laws and gives examples of their ability to supersede the laws of the physical universe. For instance, when Elijah was discouraged about his effectiveness as a spiritual leader, and turned wholeheartedly to God, he learned more about these laws. While standing on a mountaintop, he was confronted by three fearsome forces of nature. First, "a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice" (I Kings 19:11, 12).
Elijah was safe despite the natural violence, and this led him to see more clearly that God, omnipotent goodness, doesn't produce destruction. Instead, he found God in the still small voice or tender assurances of divine goodness. He learned that an awareness of this divine presence protects from even the most devastating material forces. But how can some words – even God's words – do that?
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, offered an explanation of the Word of God or Logos and its power in the textbook of Christian Science: "The true Logos is demonstrably Christian Science, the natural law of harmony which overcomes discord, – not because this Science is supernatural or preternatural, nor because it is an infraction of divine law, but because it is the immutable law of God, good. Jesus said: 'I knew that Thou hearest me always;' and he raised Lazarus from the dead, stilled the tempest, healed the sick, walked on water. There is divine authority for believing in the superiority of spiritual power over material resistance" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 134).
The authority that supports our prayers for people's safety in any disaster – including earthquakes – is that "the natural law of harmony ... overcomes discord." Such prayer can often forestall disaster. But this natural law is in effect even in the face of discord. It can provide wisdom to those in trouble so that they know how to get out of danger. It will strengthen the endurance and sharpen the alertness of rescue personnel. It will help speed assistance in whatever form is needed. This "natural law of harmony" operates in all our lives.
It can seem overwhelming to pray about immense earth forces, but in the face of human helplessness, it's comforting to realize that there is something even bigger, more powerful than such earth forces – the omnipresent omnipotence of God, good.
When we feel helpless, overwhelmed by forecasts of disaster, we can turn to this higher power and see more of the protection and care it provides.