There is nothing like a hostage drama to capture the attention of the media and the public. Add to that piracy on the high seas and a daring rescue, and, if you didn't know better, you might think it was the plot of a Hollywood thriller.
If only that were the case.
Like many others, I followed, with interest and much prayer, the capture and subsequent rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from the hands of pirates off the coast of Somalia last week. I rejoiced when this brave and unselfish man, who had traded his life for the lives of his crew, was returned safely to his loved ones. Yet the whole episode, especially its ending in the death of the pirates holding the captain, alerted me to the need for continued prayer.
As of this writing, about 17 ships and almost 300 merchant sailors remain hostage to Somali pirates who continue hijacking commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden. Angered at the captain's rescue and the loss of their colleagues, they have threatened violence in response.
Praying about a situation of this magnitude and complexity can seem daunting. At least it felt that way to me until I quietly turned my thought to God and asked what I needed to know. Immediately, one word came to mind: "redeemed." What promise that word holds. To be redeemed is to be rescued, ransomed, or liberated from captivity or bondage – the exact opposite of being held hostage. I understood this to mean that a redeeming power is already in force and on the scene – and it is not human but divine.
As a student of the Bible, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, found it natural to consider God as the Redeemer. She wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love" (p. 224).
Some of the sweetest expressions of God's redeeming power can be found in the Psalms. One of my favorites is Psalm 107, which begins with this acknowledgement: "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy."
Looking at this psalm of redemption again while praying about piracy, I realized that it includes a beautiful blessing for mariners: "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep." The psalm continues by describing how God calms storms and brings mariners to "their desired haven" – a place of safety.
There is a powerful stillness and comfort in these verses. God's works and wonders go well beyond quelling wind and waves. To see them as present on the seas is to feel the ever-present protecting power of God as infinite Love itself, even in the midst of the most frightening circumstances.
The Apostle Paul, who was no stranger to imprisonment or the raging of the sea (see Acts 16 and 27), understood the all-power and ever-presence of divine Love. He spoke from experience when he wrote: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:38, 39).
No one can be separated from divine Love, because divine Love is infinite and universal. Love is not only present to free those in captivity, but also others and their families who live in fear of hijacking. To look deeper into this promise is to see that pirates themselves are captives to the belief that piracy can be the answer to problems, and that good can come from wrongdoing. They, too, can be redeemed by divine Love.
Deliverance isn't dependent upon bank accounts or armaments. The divine Mind supplies intelligence that can inspire shipping companies, governments, and their militaries, to find effective, creative, and nonviolent solutions. Those solutions need to include the people of Somalia and the pirates specifically. Prayer makes it possible to see them as God's children, valued and useful, and with a higher purpose. And as divine Love, God can reveal a way out of dire circumstances.
As we acknowledge the divine power and presence to bless and keep safe all who sail through the Gulf of Aden, we can know that these prayers are effective because they are based in the love of Love – everyone's true Father and Mother. Under God's care, each one can find and benefit from the solutions that will bring freedom and peace.