As children, a lot of us were taught to ''say our prayers.'' Prayer is a vital part of many people's day. Others may not pray on a regular basis but certainly do in times of trouble.
Just what is prayer? How does it help? Sometimes the answers to questions like these become more apparent when we think about some of the things prayer isn't!
Christ Jesus counseled, ''When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.'' n1
n1 Matthew 6:7, 8.
Wasn't Jesus telling us that what really matters is the quality of our prayer? In our family we used to have a saying, ''It isn't just what you say, but how you say it!'' This could apply to prayer. How we feel in our heart is as important as what we pray. Do we recognize that God is ever present, all-powerful and - most important - infinite good? Our prayer may be an affirmation of these facts, in keeping with the first commandment, ''Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'' n2
n2 Exodus 20:3.
Jesus' words quoted above - ''Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of , before ye ask him'' - point to another important aspect of prayer. They imply that prayer is not so much asking as listening.
Prayer is an opportunity to feel God's presence and listen for His direction. It's an opportunity to clarify our thought about what God is and who we really are. As the Bible teaches, God is Spirit, All, and man is his loved child. Through prayer we can establish in our consciousness what this means to us. For one thing, an infinite God, good, precludes an opposing power; it precludes evil.
In science or mathematics it is usually easier to learn the rules than to apply them. The same is often the case with Bible truths. But just as with the physical sciences, the more one does study and learn and then apply the gleanings of this work, the more one is able to use and prove what he knows.
Praying should be an integral part of our day - not thought of as something to be saved for special occasions but as a perpetual opportunity to stay in harmony with our Father-Mother God. Paul counseled that we should ''pray without ceasing.'' n3 This would appear to be an awesome task when people have so much to do at work and at home. But it all seems to fall in place when we consider Mary Baker Eddy's n4 statement, ''The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer.'' n5
n3 I Thessalonians 5:17.
n4 Mrs Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n5 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
So rather than being a repetition of words or phrases, isn't prayer a vital, ongoing activity? One that can and should touch each aspect of our lives?
When we are trying to make decisions at work, we can realize that as the image of God we reflect infinite intelligence. As we pray - listen - we can expect to recognize the guidance that comes to us from God and then act upon it.
In dealing with others, we can prayerfully realize that God is the Father of all; that every individual, in his true being, is spiritual, loving, intelligent , under the control of the one divine Mind. In this way we help bring our relationships under the harmonizing law of God.
There really isn't a time when we couldn't or shouldn't pray. We can always be listening for God's direction, confident that He is unceasingly with us.
While, as adults, we still ''say our prayers,'' our praying is much more than saying! DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Lord . . . heareth the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29