MOST of us would gladly follow God's instruction if we were sure of what it was. Prayer is really about learning to recognize the voice of God. The Bible shows us that if honesty and love are governing our thought, this is evidence that God is guiding us, gently correcting our faults while encouraging all right endeavor. The prophet Jeremiah recorded God's promise in these words: ``Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart'' (29:13). Seeking God with our whole heart, however, often puts us at odds with human opinion, and we need to learn to recognize and trust the voice of God speaking within our hearts.
The words of the Lord's Prayer, found in Matthew's Gospel, are a powerhouse! They are a certain guide to help us recognize the voice of God in our own thoughts. In this prayer Christ Jesus affirms the authority of our heavenly Father, and declares the immediate presence of His holy government with those simple words ``Thy kingdom come'' (6:10).
A few years ago I was endeavoring to establish a business of my own. I was very much praying every step of the way to follow the best I knew how in the direction that I felt God was pointing out. Having adequate finances was a concern, and I often turned to the Lord's Prayer for guidance. In particular, I hugged close to me the line that reads ``And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil'' (Matthew 6:13), recognizing that poverty and lack are definitely within that category of ``evil,'' and that I wanted no part of them!
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science Church, says of the line of the Lord's Prayer I found so vital: ``And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death'' (p. 17). Clearly, God does deliver us! That knowledge gave me a reason to trust that I was safe when things sometimes felt scary.
I continued to pray, and asked another Christian Scientist to pray for me, also. I listened for spiritual direction on how to take the next steps wisely. A consolidation loan seemed like an obvious answer at that point. But at the last moment the loan was denied because of certain regulations that had not been noticed earlier. It seemed that my business venture would have to come to an end. Discouraged, I thanked the loan officers for their time and drove home tearfully. I felt as if a door had been slammed in my face. I wondered if this was God's way of telling me that I was pursuing the wrong path. But it seemed like such a harsh message. Struggling to trust, I strongly affirmed each line of the Lord's Prayer.
Very suddenly, my tears ceased. The Lord's Prayer clearly tells us that God does not lead us into evil. How many times have I felt the presence of God in my life! Never does it include sickness, dead ends, or despair. Always God guides us in a strong, gentle, and natural way. I was certain that if God were guiding me to employ other talents at the moment, I could expect to feel the hopeful, uplifting inspiration of that, and not a closed door.
In that moment I knew that frustration, hurt, confusion--and even the financial roadblock--were clearly not the result of God's guidance. These were simply temptations to believe God was not guiding me in my endeavors. Just as quickly I saw a natural way to secure a loan--a way that had simply not occurred to me before. As it turned out, I got a better rate of interest, too! Before long my new business was on a solid footing.
We clearly have our work cut out for us, but who can limit our vision when we're listening to God's voice? As we learn to recognize the nature of God as the substance of all good, we fearlessly recognize that His will for us is always good. Knowing that, we are willing to adjust our hopes to the kind hand of the Almighty and intelligently resist any temptation to give in to discouragement. With this honest motive we can proceed in the absolute confidence that God will never lead us astray.