Wildfires and the power of prayer

A Christian Science perspective.

During summer and fall, television reports of tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires are fairly common. The images can almost be overwhelming as I sit and watch, feeling concern for the affected residents and first responders. It wouldn’t be as bad if there was something we could do to help during the immediate crisis. But there is! We can follow the example of Jesus. Let me explain.

The one time I was personally affected by a wildfire, I wanted to be of assistance. One afternoon as I was leaving the one-room schoolhouse in the Sierras where I taught, I heard that a wildfire had just started in our general vicinity, but many miles away in an unpopulated area. I wasn’t concerned until I watched the 11 p.m. news – and then was shocked to see the front of the school lit up by the raging fire in the background.

Because of the gusty winds, I knew the firefighters would have their hands full. I went outside, where it was quiet, and as I watched the wind swirl through the tops of the tall cedars, I thought, “As powerful as that wind is, God is more powerful.” I recalled reading in the Bible that Jesus (unlike his disciples) did not feel helpless or afraid when high winds rocked their small boat. He simply said, “Peace, be still,” and both the wind and the disciples were calmed (see Mark 4:35-41).

How did he do that? We can look to his teachings for answers. Jesus told his disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). His unwavering faith in the omnipotence of God was an essential key to his ability to heal – whether it was a storm, illness, or a lack of resources.

But Jesus taught that there is more to it than faith – understanding is a key, too. He told his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). He wanted them to understand that regardless of what seemed to be going on around them, they could experience the kingdom of heaven – God and all His goodness – right then and there. This knowledge enabled him to remain calm and dispel what was so frightening to others. As a way-shower, Jesus had faith and spiritual understanding enough for everyone around him. Today we can look at his example and know that the universal truths he taught and demonstrated are true for us as well.

So I prayed with wholehearted faith while the firestorm raged around my schoolhouse. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, once said, “Step by step will those who trust Him find that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 444). I knew the firefighters were not alone in their battle, because despite the gusty winds, omnipotent God was in control. I prayed, knowing that there are no destructive forces (or fires) in the kingdom of God – only God’s goodness actually has power and might. As I affirmed these truths, I was freed of fear; I felt a calm sense that all was well, and I felt free to go to bed.

The next morning the news reported that the fire had been contained. A fire chief stated that during the night it looked as though they were going to lose the school; the flames came right up to a retaining wall located within 20 feet of the building. Then suddenly the wind direction changed, blowing the flames back onto the area that had already burned, extinguishing the fire. The school was not even singed. In fact, with the exception of an old, abandoned truck, no personal property or structures had been burned, nor were there any injuries.

The lesson I learned was that no matter how daunting a challenge appears, we are not helpless – regardless of where we are, we can help. We need to apply our faith and pray, affirming that God, good, is omnipotent and omnipresent. Then we can be assured that through our prayers, someone somewhere will be blessed.

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