Prayer and first responders

A Christian Science perspective.

You might glimpse one at the side of the road, helping a woman who didn’t quite make it in time to the delivery room at the local hospital. Or, you could spot one running into a burning building right when almost anyone would instinctively be running out of it. Police officers, firefighters, and other professionals – some with formal training, some with just a willing heart – populate the ranks of first responders. Perhaps on most days we give them scarcely a second thought. But when the need is suddenly urgent, they may unexpectedly feel as close as family.

If you have ever yearned to, in some meaningful way, pour out your gratitude to these men and women, consider this. You can pray. You can make prayer for a first responder a regular part of your daily routine. It could serve as a steady reminder to them – and to us – that professional first responders don’t just have a useful skill set. More important, they have spiritual resources to which they can turn. Those resources might include the God-given capacity to be still, to listen intuitively, and to follow faithfully the wisest and most helpful – even healing – steps available at the moment.

Consider someone who might be the ultimate first responder: Christ Jesus. A boatload of increasingly frantic passengers struggled to check the water they were taking on (see Mark 4:35-41). He addressed the emergency, and in moments, instead of a storm, there was a great calm. The danger was averted. The Christ that was so completely embodied in the man Jesus is the message that comes from God to human consciousness. Christ is the message of safety, of security, and of strength. As the Christ-message arrives at the door of thought, fear and panic begin to recede. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,” says the Bible (Isaiah 30:15). And that well describes how the Christ-message often arrives. In that quietude, the spiritual message of Christ steers individuals on a better path.

I know a firefighter, a spiritually minded man of prayer. We’ll call him Tom. Once he was with a group of people at a remote location, out of cellphone range. They were taping a TV show. The temperature had soared well past 100, and one of the participants began to suffer from what appeared to be heat stroke. The alarming symptoms multiplied quickly. In a flash Tom realized that in this group, as a firefighter he was the “expert.” He didn’t panic, not even when another individual accidentally gashed himself in a way that left a nasty wound. It might have seemed like a crisis on top of a crisis. But it was a time for prayer, not panic. A time to take in the Christ-message of safety, poise, and focus. Although Tom does not recall how, or even if, he prayed for himself or for his day, he could have told you, had you asked him, that the God who is divine Life and divine Love, was present, and God’s Christ, God’s saving and safety-enhancing message, was also present.

“In quietness and in confidence” Tom went to work, performing his first-responder tasks swiftly, precisely, and calmly, caring for the two individuals in need. The outcome was good for everyone. The two people got the immediate and follow-up help they needed, and the taping continued. One of Tom’s family members, who includes Tom in his daily prayer for his family, sees the whole episode as a proof of God’s healing power and protecting care. Was anyone devoured by fear, dread, or panic? No. They were delivered to the Almighty’s care. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, “How blessed it is to think of you as ‘beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,’ safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 263). Imagine how blessed it would be to think of every first responder as “safe in His strength ... building on His foundation ... covered from the devourer by divine protection.” That would amount to a powerful, protective, and prayer-filled boost for every first responder.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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