Prayer is usually associated with words rather than obedience. Words may certainly aid us in praying to God. But our sincerity is shown in our actions. For prayer, in the deepest sense, is not a question of telling God what we want Him to do for us, but of being willing to live in obedience to His laws.
The Bible stresses the importance of active obedience to God: ''Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.'' n1 The Ten Commandments and Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount are examples of the Word of God, pointing the way to lasting peace and harmony in our lives.
n1 James 1:22.
Obedience to God's law of harmony, as presented in the Bible, is not restrictive but confers newfound freedom. Why? Because God, Love, expresses His unbounded goodness and love in His spiritual image, man; and when we bring our lives into accord with divine law, we experience the well-being and freedom native to our true selfhood. This is the living prayer of obedience.
How can we know what God wants us to do? The answer can be found through quiet communion with God, through gaining a deep sense of our unity with Him. Jesus explained: ''When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.'' n2
n2 Matthew 6:6, 7.
In whatever way we pray, our approach to God can rise above ''vain repetitions.'' Our sincerity is paramount. In order to deepen our prayers, we may need to firmly deny the false claims of the carnal mind, of materialistic thinking, which insists that man is a sinful mortal, separated from God. By actively reflecting God's goodness and love, and denying what is untrue, not in accord with the reality of His creation, we can invoke God's law of good in our lives and find healing.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''If we are not secretly yearning and openly striving for the accomplishment of all we ask, our prayers are 'vain repetitions,' such as the heathen use. If our petitions are sincere, we labor for what we ask; and our Father, who seeth in secret, will reward us openly.'' n3
n3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13.
For several days I had struggled with an eye condition that, despite much prayer, did not heal. Then one morning I felt a strong conviction that my prayers needed to be strengthened, not by more words but by more active obedience. So I humbly asked God to show me what I needed to do.
Later that morning I found I needed to contact someone who would probably respond in a hostile manner. I was very reluctant to make this call. But knowing it was my duty to proceed, I prayed to realize that man, as Love's loving reflection, is not governed by hostility and hate. Praying too for moral courage , I made the call.
The response was at first calm and attentive, but soon became resistant and uncooperative. Knowing that to be obedient to this assignment also required that I express Christlike qualities, I was able to retain my composure. Suddenly, as I was speaking, the symptoms of the eye problem disappeared. In an instant my eyes became perfectly normal.
Many of those who approached Jesus for help were required by the Master to take some form of obedient action, such as the young man whom Jesus told to sell his worldly possessions and give to the poor. n4 Jesus knew that active obedience is a sure indication of the sincerity of one's faith in God's ability to meet the human need. He knew how easily sincerity can be obstructed by selfishness, pride, or some other lingering trait of the carnal mind.
n4 See Matthew 19:21.
In our prayers, words help to marshal our thoughts. And our thoughts help us to feel a deep closeness to God. But our actions speak loudest of all. For then our life itself becomes a vital, effective prayer. DAILY BIBLE VERSE My little children, let us not love in work, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. I John 3:18, 19