How can I pray about overwhelming global problems?
Q: I feel hopeless, and overwhelmed by everything going on in the world. I don’t know where to start praying … or even if it will do any good.
A: Some of these global challenges really do seem tough to approach. But standing by and feeling helpless, paralyzed, and/or indifferent isn’t where we want to be. Is there anything we can do that will genuinely make a difference?
At one point, my answer might have been, “Um … not sure.” But a recent experience taught me that we can help—that prayer truly is a powerful weapon for good.
Picture this: a wildfire raging out of control with 240,000 homes in immediate danger, including my own. For several days I was hypnotized by the threat of loss, the news reports, and the billowing smoke. Frankly, I was terrified. We evacuated the horses and talked strategy about how to care for the rest of our animals. I tried to pray but couldn’t get traction because I was so afraid.
I could consciously take my thought out of the fear place and put it somewhere constructive.
Then, on about day four of the inferno, a startling idea came to me: I could choose what to think about. I could continue to get mentally sucked into the swirl of fear, or I could (drum roll, please) consciously take my thought out of the fear place and put it somewhere constructive. What a concept!
So that’s exactly what I did—basically, I mentally “changed the channel.” And by doing that, I was able to shut out the compelling drama being played out both around me and in my own thoughts.
When I did, I was able to pray, “Father, show me Your power and presence.” And I got an interesting answer: My heart was filled with compassion for those whose homes were in danger. This prayer went way beyond me and my own interests, and it took me to a place where I could feel God’s love and care for His whole creation—with no one left out. And even though the news reports continued and the smoke was still visible, the fear that had felt so gripping was gone. I knew God would come through.
And He did. Although the fire crept into a few backyards, only a handful of mountain cabins were actually burned. Did my prayer do this? Can’t say that it single-handedly did. But I felt it definitely helped the situation. And why not, since the Bible assures us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). The deep and powerful recognition of God’s presence shifted my perception of a dangerous situation into an awareness that God really was in control—with tangible results.
Actually, the Bible is full of accounts of amazing things accomplished by just one person. For example, one wise man saved a city from destruction (see Ecclesiastes 9:14, 15). Noah alone got the message from God that creation would be preserved in the midst of a massive flood and that he had an important role to play (see Genesis 6–8). And then, look at all the good that Jesus did. He showed us how wonderful things can happen when one person accepts the omnipotence of God where healing is needed.
We, too, can make a difference. As we align our thought with God, it opens the way for the power of God to be experienced.
You might look at what those people did and think they were simply extraordinary. But we, too, can make a difference by following their examples. As we align our thought with God, just as they did, it opens the way for the power of God to be experienced right where we are. It’s a little like pulling back the curtains to let the sunlight stream into a room. The curtains, which block the light, are like false beliefs—the fears, doubts, and mistaken perceptions that seem so real—which would keep us in the dark and paralyze us with fear. We can think of the room as spiritual reality, which the light reveals as God’s wonderful creation—safe in every way.
We learn through Christian Science that the nature of God is only good. So, what of wildfires, destructive storms, and other cataclysmic events? The only answer, when we accept God’s omnipresence as true, is that they are the effect of dreadful misperceptions, which can be corrected through a spiritual understanding of God and His spiritual creation. Mary Baker Eddy addresses this issue in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, “All reality is in God and His creation, harmonious and eternal. That which He creates is good, and He makes all that is made. Therefore the only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise” (p. 472). To pray with this understanding is to let God “strip off” the disguise—illuminate spiritual reality. As we acknowledge and embrace God’s power and goodness, which are always in operation, we see the reality of this truth appear.
Though our individual efforts to help through prayer may seem small, the spiritual light that shines through can make a difference. I love this little saying: “One with God isn’t just a majority; it’s a monopoly.” The world needs us to put our weight on the side of that monopoly.