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Prayer in an earthquake

From the July 18, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Recently a friend and fellow Christian Scientist said to me, “Isn’t it wonderful that we never have to fear, under any circumstances?”

What he meant by this, he said, was that we can always know that God is our refuge and help, no matter what the present, past, or future circumstances. We can face any challenge with the certain knowledge of God’s protecting power and all-embracing love. Both my friend and I recalled the comforting words in Isaiah: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (41:10).

As a lifelong student of Christian Science, I have had many opportunities to realize the truth of what my friend said. In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Man, made in His likeness, possesses and reflects God’s dominion over all the earth. Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God, forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God” (p. 516). This makes it clear that I can never be apart from God, never without His care and protection. Based on this, I have never doubted my oneness with God.

The absolute proof of the validity of these ideas occurred on a recent trip I took to South America. I had enrolled in an educational tour that would take me and others to places I had never been—to several landfalls in Chile, and to the remote and isolated Easter Island for a five-day visit. Before departing on this trip, I prayed daily to know that wherever I went, God would be there before me, as beautifully expressed in Psalms 139:7–10.

I arrived in Santiago, Chile, three days before the beginning of the tour. I had the leisure and pleasure to explore the city on foot and on the Metro, and to take a bus tour to Viña del Mar on the Pacific Coast. On every hand I was treated with acts of kindness, courtesy, and helpful directions. I knew these acts to be the evidence of men and women reflecting the goodness of God.

On the night before the beginning of the tour, I was awakened in my hotel room by a violent shaking and a tremendous crashing sound. I realized that I was experiencing an earthquake. Immediately, I prayed aloud and firmly with two statements from Science and Health. The first was “There is no vapid fury of mortal mind—expressed in earthquake, wind, wave, lightning, fire, bestial ferocity—and this so-called mind is self-destroyed” (p. 293). The word vapid means “offering nothing that is stimulating or challenging.” Therefore I was assured that there was no real challenge to God’s control over His creation—no exceptions.

The second statement was “Let us feel the divine energy of Spirit, bringing us into newness of life and recognizing no mortal nor material power as able to destroy” (p. 249). This was my assurance that the only power at work was, as Isaiah says, “to strengthen . . . help . . . uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” God’s omnipotence is also omnipresent, unassailable, and always at hand. Right there, during that earthquake, I had an obligation and an opportunity to claim universal freedom from the false power of mortal mind.
Mrs. Eddy also wrote in Science and Health, “Think less of the enactments of mortal mind, and you will sooner grasp man’s God-given dominion” (p. 381). Since, as the previous reference says, “this so-called mind is self-destroyed,” I could fully exercise “man’s God-given dominion.”

I was assured that there was no real challenge to God’s control over His creation.

Electrical power had been cut by the earthquake, which had continued for about a minute after I had awakened. Now, with a flashlight, I discovered the loud crash I had heard was the television set falling from its shelf and landing on the floor. In the morning when the electricity had been restored, I put the television set back in place, plugged it in, and found that it worked normally. Water, which had been shut off, was quickly restored again, and life in the hotel and on the streets nearby soon returned to normal. Although the newspapers and television news reports included accounts of destruction and disorder in some parts of the country, there was also ample evidence of official and nonofficial efforts to provide aid and restoration. I continued to pray every day for a full and quick recovery of everyone and everything affected by the attempted intrusion of a power apart from God.

The day following the earthquake, I was notified by the tour director that the tour had been cancelled and the group was to return home as soon as possible. This presented another challenge—getting a flight out of the city. The airport had been damaged and was closed for a week after the quake.

I realized the need for patience, and was again helped in my thinking by two more statements from Science and Health. One was: “Wait patiently for divine Love to move upon the waters of mortal mind, and form the perfect concept. Patience must ‘have her perfect work’ ” (p. 454). What were this “perfect concept” and this “perfect work”? Since divine Love (God) forms this perfect concept, it must be “the rule of perpetual harmony, God’s law” (Science and Health, p. 381). This law admits no interruption, lapse, nor misdirection, but maintains itself whole under every circumstance. Its perfect work is the result of meeting every human need and of divine Mind’s guidance and control. The “perfect concept” and “perfect work” surely were the already established perfection of God’s being and His creation. I continued to pray to see these facts demonstrated in the rightly guided human steps toward universal normalcy. I needed to wait patiently for the demonstration in my own thinking about this present reality. My perception of the fact of perfection here and now was all I needed to know.

The other statement about patience was: “When we wait patiently on God and seek Truth righteously, He directs our path” (p. 254). In addition to my prayers, I pondered how I might seek Truth righteously. I could express quiet reassurance to my fellow travelers of my conviction of God’s control over His creation and of the certainty of His law at work.

It also occurred to me that I could, and should, acknowledge the many expressions of kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, and helpfulness I was witnessing all around me. Hotel staff, tour leaders, storekeepers, restaurant workers, airline personnel, strangers in the street and on the Metro, and even the ubiquitous street cleaners were all willing and ready to be helpful, and were patient in meeting my inquiries and needs. I found myself consistently and increasingly grateful for this righteousness at work.

Within a week, the airport reopened, and I was able to book a flight back home. After a quick and comfortable trip, I reflected on the blessedness of the experience. I had witnessed the actuality of God’s ever-presence and care for all His creation. I had seen that fear is needless—even under seemingly dire circumstances—and can be readily dismissed from consciousness through prayer. I look back with profound gratitude for these lessons learned. 

Norman Anderson lives in Mercer Island, Washington.

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