CAN prayer actually lead to a solution to such an insidious problem as poverty? I'm sure there are many who find comfort in praying, but don't really expect to see any practical results from prayer. Could it be that we should be expecting results--and getting them?
It's helpful to begin rightly, praying to God with the understanding that He is Love. God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, and He has created man in His image and likeness. God is perfect and all that He creates is very good. When we pray from this basis, it's natural to expect a practical answer to our prayers.
If we go to our Father, God, asking Him for more material things, we have stepped into a trap! We're being tempted to believe that God is no more than a superhuman, manlike being that is subject to limitation and may bring both good and evil.
But, in fact, divine Love, God, is our Father, and He never withholds anything that is necessary to our well-being. God is infinite Spirit and provides infinite good for all His creation. We experience that perfect good when we refuse to think of God as anything less than all good. We need to pray from the basis of God's infinite and perfect goodness, rather than accepting the lie that anyone can ever be a lacking and lonely mortal.
Christ Jesus had no bank account and no conventional means of support. But he gives us the perfect example of the practical effectiveness of accepting divine Spirit's abundant goodness. When he was faced with many thousands of listeners and only a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, he didn't hesitantly plead with God- -like a child trying to get his parents to do something it's pretty certain they aren't going to do. Jesus first of all gave thanks. By giving thanks before the need was met in a way that those around him could see, he illustrated his certainty that God has already supplied our every need. Man is always held lovingly in God's ever- presence, never separate, never left out or lacking in any way. Understanding these spiritual facts ensured that the needed food was there. And not just what was needed, but, as Matthew's Gospel says ``twelve baskets full'' of food left over! (14:20)
Jesus' prayer didn't specify how God should answer his need. He didn't plan it out and then deliver his list to God. He simply knew the spiritual nature of his relation to the one God, and recognized that nothing good is withheld from those who honor and obey Him. What we always need, then, is to better understand the kingdom of heaven, to better understand God's creation and His government of the universe.
Praying the way Jesus taught us to pray isn't always easy. It asks us to acknowledge the things of the Spirit first, even when they don't seem to be present in our experience. We must acknowledge God's ever-presence and be grateful for it, trusting God to care for us!
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, states in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection? Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept? The unspoken desire does bring us nearer the source of all existence and blessedness'' (p. 2).
Praying that brings us closer to God reveals solutions to poverty around the world. As long as our efforts to combat poverty look to limited, material sources for supply, they are partial at best, useless at worst. We need to look to God to see that His work is already done! This prayer is an individual responsibility. No one can do it for us. But as we see that God, good, never abandons His creation, we will see His care all around us.
Prayer is not the end of the road, a last resort; it is the beginning, middle, and end! Consistent and constant prayer brings to light practical solutions to poverty that we might never have thought possible. And these solutions are available to everyone right now, for free, because they depend on God's inexhaustible goodness! This kind of prayer helps us to overcome a false sense of what God and man are. It opens doors, and will heal poverty one life at a time.