Earth's extremes and the prayer that does more than comfort
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Rarely a day goes by when extreme weather doesn't hit the top-ten headlines, be it record-breaking temperatures, high winds, tornadoes, or torrential rains that lead to flooding. Earthquakes and tsunamis are not considered to be weather-related, but nevertheless have similar effects on the general population.
The availability of breaking news concerning all these conditions ties people together through heightened awareness of each other's plights. Visuals of a child discovering her teddy bear after a mudslide leveled the family home, or of a lone vendor opening his fruit stand in what had once been a bustling market before it was flattened by an earthquake, touch our hearts in profound ways, Suddenly, devastation on another continent or island doesn't seem so remote or removed from our own experience.
The human spirit longs to be of service during such times, with people volunteering money and muscle power to assist those in need. And while concerned nations and charitable organizations provide essential aid in helping a region begin to rebuild, challenges with distribution and allocation of resources abound, often making it seem impossible to reach those most greatly affected. This makes one wonder what more can be done.
Many have found prayer to be an effective response to such a cry. This magazine and its sister publications consistently include articles on how one might pray for all regions of the world and for the people endeavoring to put their lives back together. Such prayer does make a difference. It comforts, heals, reveals fresh solutions, and assures communities that a benevolent God would never use injury or loss of home, death, or devastation to chastise or punish His own children.
But effective prayer needn't only come after the fact; it can also be a preventative measure, offering solutions up front, before destructive turbulence occurs. With evidence of increasing climate instability, this is worthy of consideration. In fact, such prayer and its striking effects are nothing new.
Jesus and other Bible figures expected a heartfelt acknowledgement of God's supremacy to do bold things—still storms, turn the tides, even supply a gentle rain where needed. The prophet Isaiah heralded that "the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing" (Isa. 35:1, 2). And the Psalmist sang that "they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves there of are still" (Ps. 107:28, 29). Just what does this mean in the face of predictions of increasingly unstable weather world-wide? Are the desert and storm just metaphors for other life experiences, or can one honestly expect prayer to mitigate severe conditions, perhaps ending devastation? And if so, how does one pray in a preemptive way?
On a couple of occasions, Jesus calmed the wind and tempestuous seas. This was not based so much on trying to control the weather it self, but rather on seeing that God, as divine Mind, governs. What strikes me about these experiences is that Jesus wasn't fooled by what he saw, because mounting waves apparently didn't impress him in the least. They couldn't seduce him to turn from the power of a benevolent God. Instead, Jesus was so sure of God's control that he maintained his calm trust until the atmosphere around him followed suit. Later, when the Apostle Paul found himself shipwrecked in a severe storm, not a single life was lost at sea. Everyone made it to safety on bits and pieces of their shattered ship. These examples illustrate outcomes still possible today.
Effective prayer wouldn't attempt to alter the weather or upend natural seasonal changes. It wouldn't stop rain altogether or cause buckets of water to fall on a dryland. Prayer simply harmonizes a turbulent situation by bringing the "pray-er's" thought into the realization that a benevolent God shows His face in perfect balance—with neither too little nor too much. This all-powerful Deity expresses Himself in grace, not in destructive elements—and He gave us dominion over any force that would pose as a power apart from good.
In her Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, Mary Baker Eddy explained how Bible luminaries effectively mollified turbulent weather. She wrote: "The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles, demonstrated a divine intelligence that subordinates so-called material laws; and disease, death, winds, and waves, obey this intelligence. Was it Mind or matter that spake in creation, 'and it was done'? The answer is self-evident, and the command remains, Thou shalt have no other gods before me'" (p. 23). This Mind that spoke is God, the "divine intelligence that subordinates so-called material laws." God would never perpetrate evil upon His children. That wouldn't be within His nature as good itself, as divine Love. Instead, God governs with the hand of mercy.
How does God do it? By law, the law of good that undergirds His power and confers harmony, kindness, comfort. Unstable weather suggests another set of laws that is destructive and chaotic, implying that God isn't the only power and always present. Jesus showed this simply wasn't the case, and evidently he never shifted his focus from God during a storm. We, too, can demonstrate the "divine intelligence that subordinates so-called material laws," since it's available to everyone in every age. To do so, we must insist on the presence and power of God right where material laws seem to boast their superiority. We must come to know God sufficiently in order to be assured that He governs with that hand of grace, no matter what evidence to the contrary presents itself.
A lifelong student of Jesus' teachings, Mary Baker Eddy taught students of Christian Science how to address unrest wherever it materializes—whether in issues of climate, physical ailments, or strife. She once told Irving Tomlinson, one of her students, "We should have the same control over the weather that we have over our bodies." And she proved this on several occasions (Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, pp. 332; 354-355; 384-385). In effect, she utilized intelligence—or intelligence that derives from the allness of divine Spirit—to prove our dominion over the effects of weather.
A simple but profound prayer should reveal that divine Mind governs all in accord with its law, and, therefore, nothing—no power, no substance, no contrary laws—can oppose Him or disrupt His creation. Atmospheric or seismic instability can be treated in the same way that one would treat sickness or other bodily maladies—with the assurance that God didn't make them, so they have no law behind them. The "scientific statement of being" from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, succinctly explains that "all is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all" (p. 468). Infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation constitutes the sum total of existence. Jesus proved this when he stilled the storm.
In one sense, we make our own "atmosphere" by placing our trust either in the infinite law of God that emanates from divine Mind, or in so-called material laws that derive from a carnal or counterfeit mind. A passage from Science and Health explains that "the world would collapse without Mind, without the intelligence which holds the winds in its grasp" (p. 209). Our recognition of the power and presence of this Mind creates an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, perhaps with a gentle rain that gives the earth a fresh drink of water, or the reemergence of sunshine that dries out flooded fields.
I've had several opportunities to see God's law of balance and harmony in relation to forces of nature. I live in California, considered an earthquake-prone area. At one point, my husband and I had planned some major construction on our home. The contractor repeatedly delayed his start date. Despite the delays, I still felt very much at peace, and I didn't want to impose my own timing on the project. I'd early learned that God's the one with the overview, so my job is to merely listen for and heed His guidance. The start date finally arrived.
Two weeks later, the demolition was finished. Heavy rock had been taken off the front of the house and walls removed. We would begin rebuilding on the next workday. Early that morning, the Northridge earthquake of 1994, which measured 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit. Later that day, our contractor came by to see how we'd fared. We were safe and able to provide refuge for three families who needed shelter. We gratefully acknowledged that a willingness to do things in God's way, to let God govern, had been a protection to us and to our home. Had we started the remodeling earlier, those efforts might have been ruined by the earthquake. Had we started two weeks later, the rock facade would not have been removed, and could have pulled our house apart at the seams.
While God wasn't in the earthquake, this example shows me that when we're faced with extreme situations, God can and will guide us safely—and we can trust this prayer to guide us in helping others, too, just as we were able to open our home to the families who needed shelter. This is in accord with the law of divine Mind—the intelligence that "subordinates so-called material laws." This law has been proved by Moses, by the prophets, by Christ Jesus and his disciples, throughout the generations. God's eternal and universal law is just as readily available today. By applying it, we, too, can confront climatic extremes with authority—the power and presence of divine Mind, "the intelligence which holds the winds in its grasp." |CSS
FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC
To hear Colleen Douglass speak on this topic, tune in to Sentinel Radio during the week of November 7-13, 2009. For a listing of broadcast locations and times, go to www.sentinelradio.com. To purchase a download of this radio program, #945, on or after November 7, go to www.sentinelradio.com and click on Audio Download Store.