While some areas hit by Gustav have been more severely affected than others, all who have been touched by the disaster will be benefited by our prayers and by any other assistance our prayers lead us to offer.
One framework for our prayers could be the 23rd Psalm in the Bible, which has provided so much comfort over the centuries.
People who have lost their homes or businesses or have had severe damage to their property can be enfolded through our prayers in this thought: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Even in the face of disaster, this statement affirms what is actually true – that there is a divine law under which each of us truly lives, and it is a promise of God's goodness and care, always. Even if circumstances argue that God is absent, the spiritual fact is that right now, divine Love is a present help for each individual. No one will be left in a state of want; people will be guided to the needed help by God.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul." What one is seeing literally may be anything but green pastures. It may be more like shattered windows, a severely damaged roof, flooded roads. But this statement is a promise of God's love, of the beauty and peace that are our actual heritage. There is also a dynamic to this passage. God leads and restores; He doesn't just make us feel OK about being in a mess. Divine Love is there as an active presence, leading each individual, tenderly and intelligently, and also providing the ideas that restore order, even if it's very basic at first.
Those "still waters" are a fine symbol of peace, but we can also affirm that the need for drinking water, something nearly always in short supply after hurricanes, will be met for each community, along with necessary food supplies.
Our prayers can also restore the individual's hope and trust in God's saving presence. As the conviction develops that divine intelligence really is there as a loving guide, it will become easier to make good decisions; to give up regret, sorrow, anger, or fear; and to perceive God's mercy and goodness.
Another verse from the psalm reads, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." Even people who are unaffected by loss of life may be feeling the loss of a home, a job, or a car so acutely that it seems as if there's a shadow on their efforts to make progress.
In her commentary on this psalm, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote: "...I will fear no evil: for [Love] is with me; [Love's] rod and [Love's] staff they comfort me" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 578). This passage, referring to divine Love's ever-presence with each of its sons and daughters – that's all of us – states that even in times of great mental darkness, divine Love is there as a light to give hope and peace.
This is possible because, as Jesus' teachings make clear, God never sends evil. As infinite Love, there isn't any way He could include evil or send it to us. But we can receive the full support of His power to reverse evil and see individuals affected by the storm as under Love's care and protection, never trapped by fear or danger of any sort.
Does this mean that the ill effects will suddenly disappear like magic? No, it doesn't. But what our prayers can do is let the light of Love shine on these circumstances. As we do this, we'll be blessed by being required to see our neighbors in a spiritual light, as under God's care. And as we pray to see it for ourselves and for them, those prayers will be answered, and we'll be able to help those affected – however distant – move from hopelessness and despair into divine Love's ever-shining light.