Water Shortages seem to be on the tips of tongues virtually throughout the world. There's the depletion of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and millions in East Africa facing starvation. There are withering Iraqi farms and California's coho salmon crisis. There's China's reduction in corn production and Mexico's billion dollar crop losses. In one way or another, shrinking fresh water supplies affect nearly everyone on the planet.
In an article for this magazine's sister publication The Christian Science Monitor, staff writer Gloria Goodale evaluated the increased focus that water shortages will require ("A wake-up call on water use," June 10, 2009). She writes, "Move over, carbon, the next shoe to drop in the popular awareness of eco-issues is the 'water footprint.' " Recently in conversation, Goodale described the crucial nature of California's water shortfall. Whereas in earlier periods of drought, when Southern California could rely on more than its share of Colorado River water, this time around, other states also need their fair share, so California is left wanting. And in neighboring Mexico, little potable water from the Colorado actually reaches the Mexican Gulf.
This same scene plays out on several continents. National Public Radio ran a story on September 3, 2009, posing the question, "Water Wars?" (see "Drought Withers Iraqi Farms, Food Supplies"). According to NPR's piece,
"The water shortage is so acute across so many borders that an international group monitoring sustainable development warns shortages could lead to water wars—armed conflicts for control of resources."
At the bottom line, experts wonder if enough fresh water exists to supply the world's need, and if it does, whether it will be managed in a way so that every citizen of every country will have access to it. Judging from the increasing number of articles written on the subject, it would appear that as droughts persist, fear regarding future availability ramps up.
Here's where prayer comes in—the kind of prayer that scientifically applies spiritual truths to quiet fear. The kind that reveals alternatives not previously considered and guides one to better management of existing resources.
BIBLICAL QUEST FOR WATER
Early Biblical accounts show that water shortages and fighting over meager rations are nothing new. Picture a desert environment with little rainfall and few rivers. Some inhabitants dug wells that became flash points for bitter battles. Others were nomadic, so they needed to find water as they wandered about and couldn't defend wells intended for their own use.
But these accounts also offer a range of solutions through prayer. In the case of Hagar, who feared for her son's death after they drank their last drop, God opened her eyes to see a well she had not previously observed (see Gen. 21:14–19). On the other hand, Moses found water in a rock, as the children of Israel roamed through the wilderness (see Ex. 17:1–6). Elijah prayed for, and received, rain (see I Kings 18:41–46). And when Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman (bitter enemies of Jews), who drew a cup of water for him, he was able to talk to her about the "living water" that his message of God's love provided to all people (see John 4:7–26).
One particularly poignant example of God's provision is the story of Isaac, who inherited wells dug by his father's servants. The neighboring Philistines jealously desired Isaac's abundance of water, which had led to his success, as evidenced by his livestock and numerous servants. So they began filling his wells with sand. Without resentment or guile, Isaac moved out of that area, dug new wells, and moved to Beer-sheba.
There "the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake" (see Gen. 26:12–33). Soon, Isaac's bitter enemies came to him and admitted that the Lord had blessed him. From that day on, they lived side by side in peace. This story illustrates important points regarding contemporary challenges: that God provides for everyone, and that battles over resources can be settled amicably.
DAILY GOOD FROM A LOVING GOD
In just the same way, prayer reveals the good that God has in store for everyone today. This kind of prayer doesn't entreat an anthropomorphic God to come down and fix a problem. Instead, it recognizes God as the eternal Principle that orders its universe of abundant ideas in perfect harmony, and as divine Mind—the intelligence that conceives such a kingdom and cares for every aspect of it.
In contrast to this picture of abundance, I've found it interesting that a crisis involving resources tempts one to constrict thought just at a time when ideas need to flow freely. The human mind slips into preservation mode, focusing on want rather than opportunity. But starting from the basis of infinite God, prayer rejects the image of drought and replaces it with one of plenty. It raises expectation for tangible solutions and looks for what God has already provided to satisfy every human need.
Starting from the basis of infinite God, prayer rejects the image of drought and replaces it with one of plenty. It raises expectation for tangible solutions and looks for what God has already provided to satisfy every human need.
In her textbook on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy used the phrase "teeming universe of Mind," which aptly describes the kind of universe one beginsto accept through prayer—a universe teeming, or abounding, with essential resources not yet imagined, and where no drought exists.
That full quotation bears inclusion here: "Advancing spiritual steps in the teeming universe of Mind lead on to spiritual spheres and exalted beings. To material sense, this divine universe is dim and distant, gray in the sombre hues of twilight; but anon the veil is lifted, and the scene shifts into light" (p. 513). Planet Earth, with global warming and widespread drought, might fit the image of being gray and in its waning years. But "spiritual spheres and exalted beings" are right at hand, as prayer lifts the veil of material sense and replaces it with a better and brighter view. Here it actually presents humankind with opportunities to apply new ideas in solving some of its most pernicious challenges.
SPIRITUAL INSIGHTS REVEAL RESOURCES
In the late 1800s, Mary Baker Eddy saw the connection between ideas and the supply of essential resources. In fact, in her early life, the theme of want—want of money, housing, and employment—recurred. In order to change the course of her experience, she needed to gain a more spiritual perspective of supply and its source. Through the kind of prayer already discussed, she grew to see that God, the source of all good, provides for every need. She identified universal truths that had been articulated since the earliest Biblical record, such as Isaiah's promise: "The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose....in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water" (Isa. 35:1, 6, 7).
So, too, spiritual ideas can still forge a more spiritual perspective regarding God's universe, one that envelopes Isaiah's vision. We can trust this insight to lead the world to tangible solutions such as new sources of water, more efficient use of this resource, and more equitable distribution. Even to unexpected rain.
Scientific prayer lifts one to a grander vista, where all things are possible to God (see Matt. 19:26). As in Biblical times, so today, the divine Principle pours out boundless supplies of everything that its creation requires for survival. Relying on divine guidance, step by step, will allow humankind to chart the best road to the discovery and management of essential resources that benefit all people.
FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC
See "Water from the rock" on page 16.
Colleen Douglass, a contributing editor, is a teacher and practitioner of Christian Science in Los Angeles, California.
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