WHEN I was a child my mother would pray with me every night. She also told me that when we pray, God helps us. During those relatively carefree days of childhood, I had little need to ask God for help. Later on, when I prayed on my own, I regarded prayer more as a duty to be got over with. But then there was the time that I faced a particularly difficult task the next day. That night I said my prayers slowly and carefully and asked God to help me to do well. I didn't, and what a disappointment that was! I never forgot. It was enough, at the time, to make me doubt the usefulness of prayer.
There are many people who don't believe that prayer can do anything. Others pray only halfheartedly or out of habit, as I used to before I learned how genuinely effective prayer can be.
When Christ Jesus prayed he submitted to God's will. The prayer he gave his disciples, the Lord's Prayer, simply, humbly glorifies God. Jesus knew that God, the Father of us all, is omnipresent and always willing to care for His children. So the Master could assure his listeners, ``What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.''1
God, Spirit, created man -- our real identity -- spiritually, and the things He gives us must also be spiritual. Christ Jesus trusted in God's spiritual omnipotence to override all material beliefs in lack. Therefore he could give thanks in advance when he asked God to heal the sick, still the storm, or supply enough food.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains: ``What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds. To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done.''2
Through studying Christian Science, I learned to regard prayer as close communion with my Father-Mother God. Prayer, then, wasn't something I could do now and then. I needed to pray daily to grow spiritually in my understanding of my relationship to God. This constant, spiritual nourishment changed my outlook on life. I learned to trust that God, divine Love, knows what I need and cares for me lovingly.
Some time after I had begun the study of Christian Science I applied for a job I had always wanted. Before I went to the interview, however, I prayed to see what I had to offer from a spiritual viewpoint. Not only did I have sound basic knowledge; I had an eagerness to learn, honesty, willingness to turn to God for direction. I was grateful for this opportunity to demonstrate my deeper understanding of prayer. I prayed to accept God's will, not mine, in the situation. In this calm, clear, and even joyous frame of mind I went to the interview. Things turned out far better than I expected.
Everyone can benefit from a deeper understanding of prayer. When we confidently turn to God, good, for answers, we'll find solutions we never dreamed of -- spiritual solutions that bless everyone concerned. And, because we will be praying understandingly, we won't be disappointed or think that prayer doesn't work. We'll know it works because we'll have seen its effects in our lives.
1Mark 11:24. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 4.