In a world where tragedy is highly visible, it may seem hopeless even to try to help. The needs are so immense.
It is comforting to me to know that amid every need there is something beneficial that we all can do. We can pray. Prayer may not always spell exemption from human troubles. But anyone can learn how and why prayer is the best means of surmounting those troubles.
I find the discussion of God in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures most helpful. One passage in this, the textbook of Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy, describes Him as "the great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence" (p. 587). To me, contemplating God in this light is a bit like tuning a violin. We are all musicians, participating in the daily symphony of life. When we are in tune with God, as He is described in that passage, we express more harmony. And this in turn contributes to the harmony of the whole world.
So-called "natural disasters" are not natural at all to God, nor are they "acts of God." Christ Jesus said in his prayer, the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13). God, who is good, would not, could not, lead us into the temptation of believing in or experiencing evil of any nature. Rather, God frees us from evil. When trouble appears, we are delivered by knowing God, feeling His love and care, and following His guidance.
Sometimes people say that through prayer they have been guided in ways that protected them when disaster struck. You may cringe at the suggestion that prayer delivers some people and not others. Indeed, this is not so. A more accurate statement is that prayer opens our eyes to God's kingdom on earth. It awakens us to the exemption from evil that all children of God have. Prayer that leaves us in fear or doubt is not authentic, for it does not open our eyes to the truth, and we seem to suffer accordingly.
Prayer helps us to wake out of our terrors. It helps us to seek God's kingdom, the reign of good, "in earth, as it is in heaven," as the Lord's Prayer also describes (Matthew 6:10). When prayer is accompanied by this search, we do find ourselves either avoiding pitfalls or learning from our missteps and mistakes that God is the only Mind, the intelligence that is always loving. God, who loves us, would never lead us into trouble or cause us to suffer. Divine Love delivers us. The choice we always have is to recognize and experience this deliverance.
How can you best help in a situation where you have not been touched directly by the suffering you see others experiencing? Few of us have the wherewithal to pass out large checks, such as one generous person did during the flood crisis in the midwestern United States this past spring. But we can offer what we can all afford to give-our prayers. This is not a substitute for sharing worldly goods and services in ways we can. But prayer is, in the end, the most powerful answer to human need. It can lift others out of despair, encouraging them in hope and faith and masterly survival.
No one should say that prayer is an easy out. It takes diligent effort to conquer adverse situations. It takes persistence and patience to overcome the onslaught of grief. Prayer requires much more than one article can discuss. It is not always an easy way. But it is, I've seen, the way that provides the most help in the long run.
Jesus spoke of times when there would be "distress of nations, with perplexity" and "men's hearts failing them for fear" (Luke 21:25, 26). But he went on to say, "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (verse 28). This "looking up" is prayer in its highest sense-not begging God to tend to His business, but understanding and seeing Him as already governing all creation. This brings proof of His kingdom on earth.
How can we best help? We can pray, as St. Paul advised, "without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17).