In times of disastrous situations in communities, it’s not uncommon to hear public officials or emergency responders ask the viewing audience to keep that community in their thoughts and prayers. To me, this shows an expectancy of God’s divine help for all those involved, including citizens and rescue workers.
There may be a reluctance to pray for others far away from us because either we don’t know the people or we think our prayers may not make any difference. But trusting God, knowing that He is good and ever present, and knowing of the many evidences of His care throughout history bolster our efforts and confidence to pray specifically for those situations.
A recent plea for prayers and good thoughts from those connected with a calamity in the western United States moved me to take that request more earnestly than I usually do. I felt the sincerity of their request, and I did some specific praying. For some reason, I could feel that others were doing the same. One Bible promise, among many, that I turned to was this encouraging message from the prophet Isaiah: “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.... For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (25:1, 4).
It was so reassuring to know that God, divine Love, is a strength to the poor and needy, a refuge from the storm, and a shadow from the heat. When suggestions of severe disaster and discouragement came to my thought, I buckled down and prayed ever harder with the Bible verses I had looked up.
This prayer included the desire to see those in distress, facing the storms of life, as embraced in God’s great love. Realizing that man is made in the image of God, and that each one of us as His sons and daughters is cared for just as a human parent cares for his dear children, was very encouraging.
When a lawyer asked Christ Jesus what the most important law is, Jesus told him to love God supremely and to love his neighbor. The Bible reports: “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:35-39). This command of the Master was so reassuring because I could glimpse that the best way to love my neighbor was to realize that he or she could never be separated from God’s all-encompassing love and tender care.
As we realize that we would want someone to send loving, unselfish prayers to our rescue if we were in a difficult situation, we will then be stirred to do the same for our neighbors, whether or not we know them personally. What gets us praying for those in need is some understanding of God’s great love as well as a compassionate awareness of our neighbor’s need.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes, “My weary hope tries to realize that happy day, when man shall recognize the Science of Christ and love his neighbor as himself, – when he shall realize God’s omnipotence and the healing power of the divine Love in what it has done and is doing for mankind” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 55).
The Bible is full of examples of what earnest, selfless prayers can do for humanity. And as we realize that God’s love is universal, and that divine Love blesses others just as much as it has blessed us individually, then we are motivated and strengthened to utter those confident prayers for our neighbors in need, whether near or far. It’s also helpful to remember that their requests for prayers are sincere and heartfelt. This can energize our efforts to have more than casual thoughts about what they are going through.
These sincere requests for prayer are also encouraging because they help us realize that the prayers of so many loving people are not in vain, and they hopefully stir us all to keep on praying for those in need, just as we would want them to pray for us.