“What a world,” said the guy standing next to me on the subway. I glanced over at him and noticed the news story on his phone, reporting the bike path attack in New York City.
In praying about this incident and other acts of violence, one of my questions to God has been: “How can I be more prepared?” Often, when something bad happens, it can be challenging to respond constructively, with powerful prayer that heals, instead of tumbling first into fear and reaction. It may not always feel like we’re already equipped with the right ideas—the spiritual facts about God and His creation—that can directly address and counter reports of evil.
Our willingness to witness more of God’s allness and love puts us in a perfect position to be helpful.
Lately, though, God has been showing me something new about spiritual preparation, which is that one of the best things we can do to be prepared is to be open and willing. This willingness to witness more of God’s allness and love, and our openness to being led to do that in whatever way God, divine Mind, directs, puts us in a perfect position to be helpful—before or after these incidents.
That’s exactly what happened for my friend Frederik, who found himself at the scene of the bike path attack earlier this week. Here’s his story in his own words:
“I was in a hurry to get to the South Ferry terminal, at the very tip of Manhattan. But I felt a strong inspiration to go on foot from where I was, almost 30 blocks away at Penn Station, spending time walking and praying in the warm light of the afternoon.
“On my walk, I was especially praying with a passage from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which I had read just the day before: ‘Let us rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated from God, and obey only the divine Principle, Life and Love’ (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 91).
“As I was walking, I felt inspired to turn West towards the Hudson River, and when I got out on the Hudson River Drive, I crossed the road so that I was walking on the westernmost side. I hadn’t gone far when I realized that the road was blocked ahead. Yellow police tape and a group of news reporters prevented me from going any further. Up ahead, I could see a trail of bike parts—wheels, handlebars, and pedals—lying everywhere.
“I asked one of the reporters what had happened. He told me that someone had swung a truck from the other side of the road right onto the bike path. At that point, since I couldn’t go any farther, it seemed best to go on my way. As I turned my back on the scene, the passage from Science and Health came powerfully back to my thoughts, and I started praying again to know and understand that there can be no separation between God and His spiritual idea, man. There can be no separation between man and Love. And there can be no separation between man and Life.
“It was clear to me in my prayers that nothing, no hatred or any other power, can tear man away from Love. No matter how it appears, truly no force in the world can rip us away from Life, either by accident or by intention. I held to this conviction for the bikers, pedestrians, and everyone on the bike path that day and knew that these prayers had an effect. And I also prayed for the young man who drove the truck. I endeavored to see that he couldn’t be separated from God’s mercy.”
“No hatred or any other power can tear man away from Love. I held to this conviction for everyone on the bike path.”
Don’t you love how prepared Frederik was to pray in such a specific and helpful way? How before he even knew the need, he was fortified with just the right inspiration to help address it? Though we may never know how his prayers—or our own, when we’re moved to pray about difficult situations—are touching and helping those involved, we can trust that because they’re motivated by God, they have His power behind them. And that power of Love is not only mending hearts now, but is also a healing influence, neutralizing potential future threats.
To me, Frederik’s whole experience is proof of God’s promise in the Bible: “Before they call, I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24). That’s a reassuring reminder that the real reason we’re prepared to be helpful in any situation is because of the nature of God. God is constantly showing all of us that He is with us, and making known His authority, presence, goodness, and love. Our openness to what God is being and doing, and our willingness to stay true to that pure, spiritual view of God and man—no matter what’s going on around us—enables us to be a mighty force for good in our world.