Pirates, hostages, and prayer

A Christian Science perspective: In the aftermath of pirates' slaying of four hostages being held off the cost of Somalia, how people's prayers can contribute to helping stop violence on the seas.

The brutal slaying last week of four civilians traveling on the yacht Quest once again highlights the dangerous nature of the waters off Somalia.

It’s unclear why the yacht’s owners chose to leave the relative safety of the marine convoy they were in. Nor is it totally clear what happened to precipitate the shooting. But the importance of addressing the continuing danger to shipping is clear. At this writing more than 50 vessels of varied types, and over 800 hostages, are being held captive, with no solution in sight.

One challenge is the large area that needs to be covered and the attitude of lawlessness that seems to be infecting the region like a vicious disease. Lack of unity among the various national navies is also a factor, since different nations have differing policies.

Many people in the shipping industry and the military are working to end this danger. And each of us can support their efforts through prayer that recognizes the power of God’s law to turn the tide.

Praying about this issue, I find one of the most helpful psalms is 139. It includes this passage: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Another verse declares, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”

These passages support prayer for the hostages and for their families. However isolated they may feel, God’s loving presence is with them, comforting and guiding them. And although the participating navies can’t cover every square mile of ocean, each individual assigned this task – and those passing through the area – can feel and know something of God’s guidance, inspiration, and wisdom.

Prayer is also about healing, and in prayer we can individually insist that in God’s eyes there are no lawless places on land or on sea. God, infinite Love, isn’t absent so that evil can sneakily enter. Our prayers can defend this part of the world, insisting that this problem can be solved. Even when it appears that human efforts and the prayer already being done haven’t made much difference, we can continue to trust that God, divine Mind, will provide a way forward.

One way to break down the feeling that the problems are insurmountable is with the knowledge that God never approves, nor sends, evil. There is no justification – spiritual, social, or otherwise – for what the pirates are doing. Their actions are evil, and they can be stopped. This rejection of evil as a power, along with a positive conviction that a solution can be found, strengthens our prayers.

Mary Baker Eddy founded the Monitor in 1908, and she was well acquainted with the global scene of that time. In her landmark book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she wrote of evil’s powerlessness before God, saying, “Error of any kind cannot hide from the law of God” (p. 95).

Divine law isn’t a mere abstraction or something nice to think about just on Sunday mornings. It is the law of omnipotence that is expressed on the human scene in the majesty of the planetary movements, the power and glory of the sea, the strength of the mountains, and the beauty of all living things.

This is the strength that those fighting the pirates can call upon, and that our prayers can affirm as present for their aid and for anyone in trouble. The source of this strength is God, the divine Mind, who gives wisdom, inspiration, intelligence, along with the ability to anticipate the enemy’s movements and forestall them.

In prayer, we can claim all this for individual nations, and also recognize that this one divine Mind can bring them together in a unified force, working effectively on everyone’s behalf. It’s important, too, to address apathy – the feeling that “it’s hopeless, so why bother?” The knowledge that Jesus himself was able to tame the sea – to actually walk on it – strengthens our hope. Today the healing Christ, God’s messages of good that come to us in prayer, can tame the sea in another way. It’s not too much to ask that the pirates’ use of the ocean for evildoing cease.

Each of us has the power to pray and to make a difference in solving this problem. Our “weapons” truly are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (II Cor. 10:4). That includes the strongholds that pirates have established on the seas and in Somalia. Even there, God’s hand leads those working to stop the piracy – with hope, strength, intelligence, and wisdom.

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