Overturn danger and devastation with prayer

When we see images of danger and devastation, it can be easy to respond with feelings of cynicism and hopelessness. But there is a more productive response that is proven to bring healing and practical solutions: prayer.

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For some years, my job took me to war zones and disaster-stricken areas around the world. Seeing violence and devastation, whether in person or from afar, can fuel a feeling of hopelessness about the human condition.

I’ve found that when things are discouraging and it looks like no visible progress is being made toward resolution, there are two responses we can choose.

One is to be cynical, which is defined as “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives” (merriam-webster.com) and points to the destruction and harm we have observed. Accepting the invitation into cynicism is rooted in the feeling that there are no accessible solutions and that we can’t do anything to effect the needed changes in order for there to be progress.

But the other response, available at exactly the same time, is to trust that there are deeper, divine currents at work and that there is something that we can do that makes a difference. There is a scriptural promise from God that says, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it” (Ezekiel 21:27). And Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, “I also have faith that my prayer availeth, and that He who is overturning will overturn until He whose right it is shall reign” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 220).

So what is our role in that promise from God that evil will be overturned, specifically with regard to distressing situations around the world, like the current one in Ukraine? Through prayer, we can witness the presence and the power of God, divine Love, which is able to comfort and care for those who need it, right in the midst of that situation. Prayer enables us to bear witness to God’s, Spirit’s, presence and power, because through prayer we hear those spiritual messages that lead to answers that can be implemented by the people who need to hear them and act on them.

When working in war zones or disaster-stricken areas, I knew there were people at home and around the world who were praying for safety, harmony, and resolution to the conflicts. It was a palpable comfort to know that. And more specifically, there were times when I could directly feel those prayers and their impact through inspiration and guidance that came as to how to handle threatening situations and difficult decisions.

While on a humanitarian relief operation in an area of South Asia that had just been hit by a devastating cyclone, I was praying for guidance as to what to do. Our first helicopter with supplies had touched down in a location where the people had been without food or water for more than a week. The relief workers were immediately overrun by a desperate crowd, and the aircraft was rendered inoperable in the panic. When the second helicopter arrived, the crew members from the first helicopter were safely taken aboard, and I stayed on the ground while the helicopter hovered.

I prayed. And I knew others present were also praying for a solution that would allow us to communicate, form a plan, and safely get help to the people. I stood still. The crowd pressed around me, then calmed. A boy stepped out of the group and said, “I speak English. Can I help?” From that point the relief operation began, and it saved many lives.

As the boy and I worked together, he told me that he had lost all of his family members in the cyclone. We prayed together, and I soon realized that our partnership was an answer to prayer. He was able to help get food and water to his people who were in desperate need, and I was able to offer some comfort and care to him. Throughout that time, I could feel the strengthening prayer of others – near and far – as well.

My prayer right now for Ukraine comes from a prayer called the “Daily Prayer,” given by Mrs. Eddy: “‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (“Manual of The Mother Church,” p. 41).

This prayer has inspired me to pray: Right now, God, You are overturning all that challenges the peace, harmony, and safety of Your creation. Let Your power be felt by all. And rule out any belief of being separate from You, divine Love – any sense of being a victim or a victimizer. And may Your Word enrich (enhance the moral and spiritual quality of) the affections of everyone – including those who seem to be in power – and govern all.

Being a witness in prayer to the presence of divine Love does make a difference for good. Our prayers reveal the power of that deeper current that is ever at work.

For a regularly updated collection of insights relating to the situation in Ukraine from the Christian Science Perspective column, click here.

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