FAST food, fast cars, and express check-outs. Time is almost more precious than oil -- there never seems to be enough of it. I felt this way a few years ago. I always seemed to be scrambling to get my regular work done and, in addition, people were coming to me with other questions and problems. I felt so pressured that I kept telling people I didn't have time to talk to them. As a Christian, I knew quite well that Christ Jesus told us to love our neighbors. And I got to thinking about the Master's ministry and how he interacted with the great numbers of people who came to him. Despite all the demands on him, I can't imagine Jesus ever saying to someone, ``I haven't got time for you.''
His response was the exact opposite. Once, the Bible tells us, ``great multitudes came unto him,'' bringing all kinds of sufferers to be healed. Instead of feeling pressured, Jesus said to his disciples, ``I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.'' These are not the words of a man who is overwhelmed by the demands being made on him. Although the disciples had only seven loaves and some fish, Jesus prayed, and the food was sufficient to feed more than four thousand people.
This pattern of patience and love runs all through the Gospels. While Jesus did rebuke those who came to him with evil motives, he never failed to listen to and help those who had a genuine need. One message we can glean from this is that when we feel pressure, the problem may not be so much a lack of time as a failure to understand our relationship to God.
Jesus' example helps us here as well. He prayed regularly, and whenever he was confronted with a particularly difficult challenge, he didn't just plunge into the fray. Instead he took time to turn to God, to thank Him for His help and guidance. Through the Master's reliance on God and his willingness to pray first, the problems people brought to him were solved, often instantaneously.
Of course Jesus was and is unparalleled. Yet from his teachings it's clear that he expected us to express something of this Christlike patience and love which he showed us. So, in following him, our first step may be individual prayer to understand our relationship to God as Jesus did.
And while our prayers will be tailored to our individual needs, there are some universal elements that will help to free us from the pressure of time. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, articulates them in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes: ``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.''
Each of these qualities -- ``patience, meekness, love, and good deeds'' -- is a building block in a more peaceful life because putting them into practice is an affirmation not just of our love for others but also of our spirituality as sons and daughters of God. For example, patience should include patience with ourselves as well as with others. We can have this patience if we understand that in reality we are not time-bound mortals, struggling against the tide. We are in fact spiritual, and because this is so, we are living in eternity -- timelessness -- now.
Sometimes we build up a lot of pressure thinking about all the things ``I've got to do.'' This is where meekness helps because it reminds us that in actuality we are always under God's government and care. This is why Jesus could do the great works he did and never seem fazed. The Master understood very clearly that obedience to God -- asking what God wanted him to do -- would enable him to accomplish his task. Because God is both Mind and Principle, this obedience brings order to our days. It enables us to perceive the correct priorities.
Then love, a truly divine quality, enables us to put these priorities into practice in a way that will not cut off anyone who needs help as we accomplish whatever needs to be done. The resulting change in priorities definitely leads to good deeds -- not out of a feeling of obligation but because our lives open up to others. The love we are expressing provides us with simple and logical ways to help them.
That this type of prayer is practical and makes a difference was proved in my own life. As I made a more conscious effort to be patient and especially to love others, I found that I wasn't constrained by time. Now, many years later, I have many more demands on me than I did back then. Yet it all gets done, and it isn't a burden or hassle to do it.
Do I still have to pray about pressure or lack of time? Occasionally. And when I do, Jesus' life speaks across the centuries as an example of just how much one life can accomplish when it is lived in conscious and complete obedience to God.
Healing through prayer is explored in more detail in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel. BIBLE VERSE Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
II Timothy 4:2