I love long flights. They give me time to think and pray … and nap! On one trip, high above the Atlantic, I was shaken from sleep by heavy turbulence and by the murmurs of fellow passengers. For a few moments, fear seemed to be drawing all oxygen from the plane, taking my breath with it.
But instead of succumbing, I fought back with the only tool I had: prayer. I thought about God as my Life – remembering that I am always safe in Life, never powerless or alone. That I am safely “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), the divine Life of all, where no evil or terror can reach me. Within seconds the crazy shaking stopped and calm returned.
Was it luck? Chance? I can’t tell you how many times I have observed sudden peace resulting from prayer on airplanes and in other situations where big shake-ups have threatened to unsettle me. Once the fear is faced and disarmed by an understanding of God and my relation to Him, turbulence in whatever form just stops cold.
Earlier this year, I was on my way to the airport when one problem after another seemed to shake me up. A bus driver was driving erratically while yelling at someone on his cellphone, making several people on the bus, including me, sick from the motion; a suspected bomb at the airport blocked the path between the train station and my terminal; several problems in my hotel room required four different maintenance workers to spend a long time fixing things.
In the middle of the hoopla in my room, I opened the Bible to the story of Nehemiah and his team rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He was confronted by one problem after another that attempted to derail his project. The book of Nehemiah recounts that two opponents of the building plan sent a message to Nehemiah saying, “Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono” (6:2). But Nehemiah recognized that the invitation was a trap. Four times they tried to get him to go to Ono, and each time Nehemiah refused. The fifth time, they tried an extra-convincing argument, one they were certain he would fall for – but Nehemiah stood firm, knowing that God was strengthening him for his work and protecting the fulfillment of his good purpose. That was the last he heard from the troublemakers. The project was finished and the wall was built with success (6:3-15).
When I read the account, I had to chuckle at the play on words between Nehemiah’s Ono and my “Oh, no!” – a place where I had been tempted to go several times that day. As I read the account of how Nehemiah stood firm against the turbulence and upset of interruption, I realized that I, too, could turn from “Oh no!” to prayer.
My prayer was a heartfelt protest: “Oh, no, I will not be stopped from the peaceful period of preparation that I need for my work. Oh, no, I will not accept disruption and turmoil as acceptable or normal today. This is God’s perfect day, and both I and my work are safe and protected in it.”
Not five seconds after that prayer, the room full of maintenance men emptied. Everything worked. Peace and order reigned.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, explained, “Evil has no power, no intelligence, for God is good, and therefore good is infinite, is All” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 398-399). Prayer that stands up to fear and fuss draws its authority from the fact that disturbances don’t have real substance or power.
Really, it’s amazing what prayer can do.