The vital breath

WE usually don't think about breathing; it seems so natural for sustaining existence. There is something we might equate with breathing, which is also essential to well-being: prayer. In the words of an old hymn, ``Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, / The Christian's native air.'' 1 Why is prayer vital? Why does Paul, the great follower of Christ Jesus, write, ``Pray without ceasing''? 2 Prayer is the normal response to our creator and sustainer. And God's continuous love for us enables us to pray. We can pray wherever we are, whatever we are doing, because God is Spirit, always present. Prayer, as natural as breathing, expresses obedience to and trust in God, and it brings to light divine blessings. Christ Jesus knew the human tendency to be caught up with other concerns besides God. In his parable of the sower he indicated that some people, though receptive to the Word of God, become absorbed by the ``cares and riches and pleasures of this life,'' 3 which choke further spiritual progress. Obviously, cares, riches, or pleasures, of themselves, are not necessarily wrong. But they may have a wrong effect on our normal and natural response to God. If we have many responsibilities, we may begin to think of ourselves as separated from God. Or worse yet, when pressure builds we may think that we can solve our problems by our efforts alone, without divine help. Yet such states of thought reject the very truth of our being--the truth that man is the image, the reflection, of God, of Life and Love. The trend of feeling, and therefore acting, separated from God, has a choking effect. It squeezes out the joy, spontaneity, and inspiration with which God constantly supplies us as His beloved offspring. So, although prayer and our love for God are natural, sometimes it takes discipline and effort--even hard work--to clear away what would block our normal progress Godward. But we find that as we do this we begin to feel God's healing love. By rejecting the suggestion that we ``have too much to do to pray,'' we begin to feel closer to divine Spirit. Obeying the teachings of Christ Jesus by turning from the false sense of responsibility (not by ignoring what we have to do but by first seeking God's guidance in our endeavors), we are able to do even more. God is giving us the grace and wisdom and vision to know what to do every day, and the tools with which to do it. I discovered this again not long ago. When I woke up one evening, breathing was quite difficult and labored. After rising I began to pray. I took no drug to relieve the suffering but wholeheartedly trusted God, the very source of my being, for healing. I had felt a great burden about some work I was doing. But as often happens when one prays, one begins to feel God guiding his thoughts and motives. One feels a lifting and a holiness as he perceives more clearly that God is All and that there is no other creation but His, perfect and eternal. One even finds that God directs prayer. This is what took place that night. Within a short while I could breath again without laboring. And during the next few days I proceeded in my work with greater freedom and trust. Jesus demonstrated two thousand years ago that prayer is the only method for attaining anything truly worthwhile or lasting. And Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, leaned on that fact, turning to God many times a day. She writes in the Christian Science textbook, ``Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind.'' 4 Just as we wouldn't choose to go without breathing, we shouldn't choose to go without praying. 1 Christian Science Hymnal, No. 284. 2 I Thessalonians 5:17. 3 See Luke 8:14. 4 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 1.

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