Earlier this month a resident of my hometown in New South Wales, Australia, was killed by a shark while swimming off the coast (see “Tathra Beach shark attack victim remembered at memorial service,” Australian Broadcasting Commission). As a longtime resident of this beautiful seaside town and a Christian Scientist, I wanted to pray about the incident. For me prayer is a kind of “first responder,” a way to challenge fear and panic that we might feel on hearing news like this.
But how could I even begin to pray? I tried to follow the example of Christ Jesus, whose prayers were described by the founder of this newspaper as “deep and conscientious protests of Truth” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 12). What came to thought as I was praying was that God, the Creator of all, is the only cause. The picture of an accident seemed very real – that a shark had taken away the life of one of God’s children – but I could insist through prayer that this wasn’t the real story. The Bible says that “the curse causeless shall not come” (Proverbs 26:2), and I knew that since God is the only cause, His children are never for a nanosecond left to fend for themselves or allowed to be vulnerable. God’s love guards us. He protects our spiritual identity, no matter what. I knew my prayers weren’t about trying to put my head in the sand and ignore the news, but about challenging and defeating the suggestion of an accident – of something apart from God.
This spiritual perspective can certainly seem far from what is happening in day-to-day life. In my community, the drama and trauma in the wake of the shark attack seem very real. Yet it is only by looking away from feelings of shock and fear to the tender mercy of God that we can pray effectively. I’ve been quietly affirming the immortal, holy, divine nature of each man, woman, and child. And in spite of the grief, there is a tangible feeling of love in our town. I’ve received hugs from store-keepers, and smiles and gentle kindness even from strangers.
Our prayers challenge the notion that an individual can be taken out of God’s care. They bring comfort to the grieving, as God gently assures us that each life exists permanently in Spirit. They bring opportunities for spiritual progress. They bring spiritual awakening as our thinking is uplifted to behold the facts of eternal life, immortal spiritual being. God attends to the needs of each and every one who is affected by any accident or tragedy.
For many years I have participated in a morning swim from Tathra Beach to the wharf some 500 meters offshore. It is my favorite swim. Recently I lay way out in the sea on my back, gazing at the sky and cliffs mid-swim, filled with joy that God, divine Life, is the Creator of all. There can be nothing outside of Him – no random, inexplicable accident – and as we insist on this spiritual fact in our prayers we’ll find comfort, healing, and protection, which extends even to those who are no longer with us. The powerful presence of God is a constant blessing.