Your prayer—immediate help in a disaster

An account of healing following the Loma Prieta earthquake

Do you ever wonder if prayer can help others far away who are involved in a catastrophe?

I know that it can. Prayer uplifts thought to God, who is "a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1). Prayer has an inspiring, healing effect on both rescue workers and individuals needing to be rescued or cared for. Helping the victims of a disaster through prayer is practicing the Golden Rule: "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31).

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I believe I felt a tangible effect from the prayers of others when I was traveling alone. Late one afternoon, something suddenly went wrong in the airport where I was waiting to get a plane to another city. I was unable to stand up, metal was rattling, the electricity went out, and ceiling pieces and other debris were falling.

As other travelers and I were figuring out what was going on, a woman came inside and said she had just heard on her car radio that it was an earthquake. I decided if this woman had heard about it on the radio, then loved ones thousands of miles away most likely had heard the news, too. They were probably already praying. Just knowing this was comforting!

Airport security personnel asked everyone to leave the buildings. Roads were closed. Everything needed to be inspected for safety. So, the evening was spent outside, in an open area with many people. People were very kind to one another—sharing a warm jacket when it became cool, finding a drink for the thirsty, and so forth. Very little news about the earthquake reached us (this was the Loma Prieta earthquake that occurred in 1989 in the San Francisco area, just before a World Series baseball game).

Some of you may have been praying about that earthquake that very evening. Thank you for praying! I am sure that your prayers were felt by others and, I know, by me. They strengthened me and encouraged me to persist in my praying about specific, urgent challenges that came to my attention—a child to be found, a fire to be extinguished, and more.

When we hear news of some calamity with its descriptions of discord and chaos, we can recall Christ Jesus' instructions about how to pray effectively for harmony. Jesus looked to a higher source of information than the material facts of a situation. Referring to divine facts, he said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

What freeing truths can we know? That God is Love, the only power, and wholly good (see I John 4:8; Rom. 13:1; and Gen. 1:31). That Father-Mother God is forever maintaining and caring for His perfect spiritual creation. The Bible assures us that nothing, try as it may, "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (see Rom. 8:35–39).

Realizing that everyone in the airport had an inseparable relation to God made me free that evening. Free from what? Free from believing in a power of destruction. The temptation to believe in an evil power denies the all-power of God, good. But evil doesn't have any real power. All power belongs to God, whose allness doesn't allow for any other power to exist!

God's ideas were guiding us after the earthquake.

God's ideas were guiding us after the earthquake. Since airport buildings still needed inspection, we were asked to find other places for the night. Roads were reopened. Some people left in vehicles; others elected to spend the night outside where they were.

I prayed about being in my right place. Our right place is more than a geographic position. It is a spiritual state of thought that we can never truly be outside of—it is our oneness with God. Here, God's ideas are constantly guiding man, leading us to take the right human steps.

Well, a bus came through the area. Its sign said it was going to the BART Train Station. The idea came very clearly to get on the bus. But I argued: "Oh, no, I can't do that. It means riding through a tunnel under the water. What if there is another aftershock from the earthquake? And when I arrive at the station out in the suburb, how will I continue? Walk? In the middle of the night with heavy suitcases?" Such arguments! Yet the thought kept coming, get on the bus. I intuitively felt that this was an impulsion coming from divine Mind and that the resisting arguments were temptations—not from God. I got on the bus. I knew I could trust God's direction to help me find the right way—His way.

The bus was about two-thirds full. I sat behind everyone. As we left the airport area, some young people wanted a ride. They sat behind me in the seat that went across the back of the bus. Now the only empty seats left were the ones across the aisle. As we pulled out into traffic, someone who saw the sign on our bus yelled to us that the trains weren't running. Our driver decided to drive to the bus garage.

Now that we were out on the freeway, I began to realize that this had been a devastating earthquake. It alerted me to pray even more earnestly. Prayer helps us come through disasters, unharmed. The Bible tells of such instances: Noah came through a flood and Joseph came through a famine. I knew that prayer was helping us to come through this earthquake.

The man at the bus garage told us that the trains would not be running until the tracks were inspected, and that there were problems downtown, including looting. "You don't want to go there," he said.

Prayer helps us come through disasters, unharmed.

We passengers on the bus discussed what to do next. Most of us wanted to drive around until we could find electricity and then places to stay for the night. The teenagers were disappointed with this decision. They were very eager to get downtown. As we started on our way, they began to talk softly among themselves. Although I couldn't hear everything they were saying, I heard enough words to figure out they were plotting to rob us passengers.

Continued prayer was needed. It included these truths to correct the wrong intentions:

God's child is receptive to his Father-Mother God and wants to be good.

God's child has a pure, innocent nature that denies any sinful urges based on greed or fear.

In all of God's good creation, no idea of His can be hurt or bring hurt.

The teenagers calmed down and began behaving normally.

Did God answer my prayer? Sure! All passengers were safe. And the young people did not harm anyone.

Everywhere we drove it was very dark except for flares the police were using to mark intersections. At one of the intersections, a man knocked on the door. Although no one on the bus understood the language he spoke, he communicated to us that we should wait until he returned with his wife and three very young children—the youngest a baby no more than a couple of weeks old. They looked so relieved to be on the bus. We exchanged smiles across the aisle. We were now a full busload of people.

After what seemed like a long time—although I think it was only half an hour or less—we came to an area where there was electricity. Our driver stopped at motels and shelters where we could spend the night. She waited at each stop to be sure everything was all right. I got off the bus at the third stop.

I do not know what other adventures the rest of the passengers had. I did sense a tangible feeling of oneness with our Father-Mother God and a oneness with each other—like a family, all of us children of the one divine Parent.

Many people talked about how they felt so loved and cared for after the earthquake. Prayers from people like you played a part in this. So again, thank you!

What God knows about pets—and us
March 16, 1998

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