Although the H1N1 flu has faded from the headlines, people continue to have concerns, as there has been further news of schools closing and more young people becoming infected. While discussion about how best to prevent the disease from spreading is ongoing, there is an effective solution, which many people are already using. That preventive is prayer.
I know this is effective because of an experience my husband's parents had during the awful 1918 flu pandemic. They were both stricken with the disease, and desperately needed help in caring for the house and for their very young son. Friends were afraid to come over and help, but finally they found a woman whom they'd never met before, who was willing to take the job. She indicated that she wasn't afraid of catching the flu, because her prayers kept her well.
As it turned out, those prayers not only kept her free from the flu but also protected their son, who, years later, became my husband. Though his parents were extremely afraid he would catch the disease, he responded to the prayers of this stranger and remained healthy. My husband's family fully recovered, although for many in that community and throughout the world, the disease proved fatal.
I don't know how that woman prayed. But I do know that our prayers today are and will be effective in stopping the spread of swine flu. And prayers are still needed as reports of cases, some serious, continue. Such prayer isn't simply hoping that there will be protection or healing. It is based on the spiritual power that enabled Christ Jesus to heal so effectively and included restoring people afflicted with contagious diseases such as leprosy.
The Christ-healing that was Jesus' hallmark is present with us also. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, described Christ as "the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 332). Christ is always present to remind us that we are spiritual, the image and likeness of our Father-Mother God, and not mortals subject to disease.
This Christ influence on human consciousness is far more powerful than the talk of disease to shape our thoughts and health. It lifts our expectations above feelings of mortality and vulnerability to confidence in God's care. But even if we or our families aren't affected, our prayer can still contribute to the overall health of society.
Mrs. Eddy stated in the textbook of Christian Science, "It is better to prevent disease from forming in mortal mind afterwards to appear on the body; but to do this requires attention" (Science and Health, p. 198). This attention can include a brief prayer every time there is a report about flu in the media, an affirmation of each individual's spirituality and freedom from the threat of disease.
Later in her book Mrs. Eddy wrote regarding children: "To prevent the experience of error and its sufferings, keep out of the minds of your children either sinful or diseased thoughts" (p. 237). When the parents' fear is gone, children usually find that they have no reason to be fearful for themselves or their friends.
Today it is impossible to keep the latest information about swine flu from entering our own thoughts or our children's. But we can give the issue sufficient attention through prayerfully affirming the fact that God is good and God is All, until we are free from harboring fears for ourselves and others. As we gain our freedom from fearing the disease, we will be guided as to how to keep the threat of this sickness from frightening children.
We and our children can look away from the images of disease, and can affirm the reality of God's goodness and love for each individual. We can also reject fear of sickness. Nothing precludes us from turning to God in prayer under any circumstance. And all prayers are strengthened by each individual's trust in God's power to "take sickness away from the midst of thee" (Ex. 23:25).
Through this reliance on God's love, it is possible to prevent swine flu, just as any other disease, and admitting this is the first step in our collective progress toward health and freedom from fear of sickness.