A Christian Science perspective.
Calling 911 could bring dedicated workers in a well-equipped vehicle right to your side. But what if it’s another 9/11-type emergency – a homeland security breach and rescuers need help themselves? What if you aren’t able to make the call, or communication systems have been shut down? What if the torment is not physical at all, but is mental – or environmental? What would you do?
For me, like so many others, turning to prayer would be natural. That’s what Jesus would do. He would do what he always did in desperate situations. He turned to God. But one time when he was praying to clarify his thought about his mission, the Gospel of Matthew says he was “tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1-11). To me, what was going on was an inner, mental conflict that each one of us can relate to.
At that moment of temptation, we could say Jesus “called 911” – the spiritual help line, and in this case it was Psalm 91:1. In fact, the devilish temptation that came to his thought came mocking those very verses of the 91st Psalm, word for word. The “devil” says, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up.”
Jesus had an answer for each of the temptations. The Bible says, “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”
What happened there? The Christ – Jesus’ active relationship with God – corrected, directed, and protected him right where he was. In the Christian Science textbook, author Mary Baker Eddy says this of our Master: “The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 25). This same divine oneness is the reality for each one of us. I also love the assurance Psalm 139 gives about God’s ever-presence and our identity: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit?... If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (verses 7, 8). The Christ, our individual link with God, is here for each of us, right at the point of our recognition of it.
Psalm 91 promises God’s protection from great fears: terror, epidemic of disease, sudden destructive calamity, wild beasts, and poisonous snakes. These protections and more are promised to those who live “in the secret place of the most High.” Where is that secret place? Verse 4 says it is right under the arm (or wing) of God. In other words, it is the divine presence, not a geographical location.
Praying this psalm of protection uplifts us from human sense and locates us at home in spiritual sense. This mental stance meets that elevation where it says that God gives “his angels charge over thee."
Angels? Before I read Science and Health, I thought of Bible references to angels as mere poetic license. But Christian Science gives angels a definition and job description: “ANGELS. God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions....” And their job description? They counteract all evil (p. 581). Much more than ethereal figures of artistic imagination, these messengers from God provide instant help against all threats. In fact, that verse promises that angels will lift us up, carry us home, and keep us in all our ways.
When we call for and accept God’s help, there is nothing to fear. Jesus knew this, and we can, too. As I see it, Psalm 91 delivers this promise from God that I know I can trust: Because you have chosen to reside with Me, I am with you. Just call My name, and I will answer. I will be with you in trouble. I will honor you and deliver you.
Can everyone who makes that 91:1 call trust there will be a response? Yes, the divine connection can be felt by anyone who resides in that secret place of the most High, where, in reality, we all reside.