Praying for more than a fish

AS a boy, I often prayed to God. My prayers were usually answered, but sometimes not. My better prayers brought regeneration and healing, as they still do. The lesser ones reminded me, at least, that there was a God I could talk to, even though they may have illustrated more of a boyish petulance than spiritual perception. Once while I was fishing I prayed that if God would put on my hook the biggest fish He could find, I'd believe in Him forever. Of course that implied that if I didn't get the fish, there would be some question as to His ever getting my serious attention again. One of my lesser prayers, to be sure. I blush now to have thought such a thing. Anyway, I went on to take a devout interest in the Bible and in praying, even though I never got that fish. Gradually, I learned more about becoming what Christ Jesus called ``fishers of men,'' 1 and I was able to interest others in the power of prayer. Perhaps this boyhood experience has something to do with the delight I take in the gospel stories involving fish. Along with others who've read of Jesus' feeding multitudes with only a few loaves and fishes, I marvel at the power of prayer to care for human needs in such a way--practically, amply, impartially. It's interesting how that prayer-filled demonstration of meeting others' needs dwarfs all those human desires that begin with ``me'' as the center of our universe instead of God, the all-encompassing I am. James tells us, ``The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.'' 2 Such prayer ought to benefit the world as much as ourselves. Selfless prayer acknowledges that all individuals have one Father-Mother God, who imparts His infinite good freely and equitably. That kind of prayer is not confined to one person's likes and dislikes, nor is it limited to a select number of beneficiaries. That kind crosses the barriers of time, place, nationality, race, creed. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``Prayer can neither change God, nor bring His designs into mortal modes; but it can and does change our modes and our false sense of Life, Love, and Truth, uplifting us to Him. Such prayer humiliates, purifies, and quickens activity, in the direction that is unerring. ``True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection.'' 3 The disciples learned a valuable lesson about expanding their prayers beyond their own interests when they returned to their fishing nets, perhaps on the assumption that the Saviour had forsaken them. They caught not a single fish until Jesus, standing on the shore, told them to cast their net on the other side--the right side--of the boat. This they did, and caught a netfull.4 From a fisherman's perspective a minor change in procedure like that would in itself have made no substantial difference. The astounding contrast illustrated that the mission of the Christ-power to feed a spiritually hungry people was beckoning them. Casting their net on the right side-- praying for others in Spirit instead of toiling for matter for themselves--was the way to fulfill that greater mission for a waiting world. This brings to mind one more true fish story. Another time when I was a boy, in the last few hours of a Canadian vacation I was invited to go fishing. The adults had fished almost every day until then but hadn't wanted a little boy around. Finally they took pity on me and arranged for a twenty-minute jaunt. Time was about up when they indicated a desire to return home, having the opinion that fishing on that wild lake required more skill than a city youngster like me had. I didn't pray for a fish that time, but instead prayed that God show all of us the importance of sharing freely with one another the joy of unselfish love that is available to us all. That sharing became the most important thing to me right then. Within a couple of minutes (yes, that's right) my line pulled in by far the biggest fish of t he vacation period--to everyone's delight. 1 See Matthew 4:19. 2 James 5:16. 3 No and Yes, p. 39. 4 See John 21:1-6. 30{et

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