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Sentinel Watch

Underscoring cybersecurity with prayer

From the August 13, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

David Bachmann

A recent news story reported on a number of computer attacks aimed at the natural gas industry in the United States and Canada (see “Alert: Major cyber attack aimed at natural gas pipeline companies,”, May 5, 2012). These cyber attacks make use of “spear-phishing,” an approach in which attackers attempt to gain a digital position within corporate networks through an employee’s e-mail. The article stated that this kind of access “can eventually allow a hacker to wind . . . into the vital industrial control processes. Those systems, if infiltrated, could allow hackers to manipulate pressure and other control-system settings, potentially reaping explosions or other dangerous conditions.”

Reading about these computer threats reminded me of a story in the Bible. The king of Israel and his army had eluded the raids of the Syrian king, Ben-hadad, again and again. It was discovered that the prophet Elisha had been able to warn the king of Israel before each attack, so the Syrians’ efforts were thwarted. Then, when Ben-hadad learned of Elisha’s work, he sent his troops to capture him (see II Kings 6:8–14).

Elisha’s servant rose one morning to find the enemy surrounding the city. He wailed, “Oh, no! Master, what will we do?” Elisha’s first response was, “Don’t be afraid.” He prayed that the servant’s eyes would be open, “that he may see.” When the servant looked again he saw the mountain was “full of horses and fiery chariots surrounding Elisha” (II Kings 6:15–17, Common English Bible).

Elisha continued to pray for safety as the Syrians came down after him from the mountains. As the account goes, the attackers were blinded and Elisha led them out of the country. Their sight was later restored and “after that, Aramean [Syrian] raiding parties didn’t come into Israel anymore” (II Kings 6:23, CEB).

Thoughts make a difference.

This account can inform our prayers about threats to online security. When we begin with the counsel “Don’t be afraid,” we can shift from focusing on the “what ifs” to knowing that there is a God who cares for and about His creation. As the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26), divine Mind, God’s man (meaning all men, women, and children) reflects calm assurance, confidence in good, wisdom, and alertness.

Readers of this magazine have found that holding to these spiritual facts is an effective deterrent to acts of evil. Thoughts make a difference—and prayerful thoughts that affirm the presence and power of God touch hearts next door and across the ocean.

When threats seem imminent, our prayer can be as Elisha’s—that eyes may be opened. We can support those on watch in security facilities, that they may reflect alertness, attentiveness, and clarity of thought. They are receptive to God’s guidance and direction. They can discern threats and be guided to take proper steps to thwart an attack.

Our prayers can also include those who would perpetrate a cyber attack. Even those who would try to destroy or cripple computer systems have access to the divine Mind, to wisdom, to right thinking and acting. Affirming that the power and activity of God is “a divine influence ever present in human consciousness” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. xi) impels thought in the direction of reason and mercy. It disarms and nullifies evil.

This kind of prayer is effective in neutralizing cyber threats of all kinds. Maybe you have been concerned by reports of a computer virus or an online banking hack, or have had your e-mail address hijacked. Again, our prayers are an active defense. Our dominion and control comes from our inseparable relationship with Mind. “The human mind . . . has no control over God’s man. The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness” (Science and Health, p. 151).

Even when we feel we don’t comprehend complex security issues, or that those involved are literally and figuratively worlds away, we can be assured by Mary Baker Eddy’s statement: “In the desolation of human understanding, divine Love hears and answers the human call for help; . . .” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 81.) That “still small voice” of Truth is heard.

Nancy Bachmann is a Christian Science practitioner.

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