by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

It was a dog-day afternoon, as we say in Texas. The thermometer outside our farmhouse was registering 101 degrees . . . in the shade. Me and my dachshund didn’t want to do anything but nap on the sofa.

Scarcity of rain began in the spring and has continued into the summer months. The cracks in our ground and nearly-dry stock ponds remind us just how thirsty we are. My husband sold a few more cows this morning — another reminder of the impact of a disproportionate dose of heat and drought.

As we move into August, which is normally the season for dry and hot days, our ranch is looking pretty bleak and brown.

One need only turn on the television, while trying to cool off in the air conditioning, to feel even more like we inhabit a world out of control — raging fires, turbulent storms, rocket and bomb blasts, rampant random violence, and skyrocketing oil prices.

But is this the picture of a world created and governed by a good and loving divine Parent? Sometimes it may seem difficult to know if our prayers can really make a difference.

I’m not going to pretend to offer the perfect prayer to solve all the chaos in our world, but I simply cannot accept that life is subject to chance or uncertainty. Since God is omnipotent, it seems to me He can’t be powerless on certain occasions or over certain conditions.

So, an affirmation of God’s presence, goodness and power begins my every prayer.

Do we doubt the power of our prayers or do we expect healing results? I wonder what Jesus would say. Mary Baker Eddy, author of several books based on the teachings and healings of Christ Jesus, wrote, “He would mightily rebuke a single doubt of the ever-present power of divine Spirit to control all the conditions of man and the universe.” If we harbor a view of prayer as futile, why continue to pray? Eddy said discouragement with our prayers resembles “a pupil in addition, who attempts to solve a problem of Euclid, and denies the rule of the problem because he fails in his first effort.”

I find it helpful, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of some situation, to recall times past when prayer did have a positive and transforming effect. I often reason that if prayer — affirming the power of God and his divine laws governing the universe — helped in those instances it must surely help in this one.

As I rested on my sofa today, I started thinking back on other times when situations seemed out of our control, but I was certain prayer saved the day. Such as the many times our hay bales were saved from ruin because approaching rain dissipated before reaching our fields. Or the many instances when my husband’s faith, patience and perseverance nurtured a cow back to health. Or the time a newborn calf, almost frozen in an ice storm, survived with a hot bath and lots of love and prayer.

I’m sure everyone can think of experiences in their own lives when the power of prayer removed doubts and fears and brought healing.

I realize when pictures of tragedies, devastation and despair fill the airwaves or our communities, it’s easy to consider the age-old question — “How could God allow this to happen?” But there are always stories of survival and healing that protest, “He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He didn’t.” And it’s these healing examples that keep me praying and hope-filled.

I love the 23rd Psalm. I often think about the fifth verse that says the Lord will prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. So in other words, we are promised a “table” in spite of the presence of our enemies.

This says to me that no matter how dire the situation I may be facing, I can be assured of God’s healing power and loving presence right there in that moment. That there is truly no condition or situation where God, divine Love, cannot reach me and rescue me. Or as Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? What cannot God do?”

Already this summer, even though we don’t have the promise of money earned from hay sales, an unexpected job opportunity has become available for me. And I have no doubt that God will continue to provide as many “tables” in this dreary Texas wilderness as we, and others, need.