PAUL felt really grown-up the year his parents asked him to buy and set up the family Christmas tree. When he discovered it was too large for the tree stand, he had to cut it down to size. It took a long time and was pretty hard work, but he persisted, chipping, chipping, chipping away at the tree with a hammer and a chisel until it fitted. Even then it looked rather strange. The next year, when Paul used a saw, the job took only a couple of minutes and wasn't hard at all. He realized that approaching problems the right way--with the right tool--makes quite a big difference.
Paul was also learning about another tool--prayer--that made a big difference in how well he could solve problems in his life. He could see that just complaining about a problem was a little like chipping, chipping, chipping away at it. You never really got anywhere--and could even end up with a bigger mess! On the other hand, he'd seen how prayer does bring results.
Prayer is talking to God, but that doesn't mean you're begging God to change things (and hoping He might do it). Prayer is never a ''quick fix'' to make us feel comfortable. We have to listen to what God is telling us and be obedient to His direction. Sometimes that means doing things a different way, or even doing different things. But when we are obedient, we find out that we can no more be separated from God's loving care than sunlight can be separated from the sun.
That's pretty encouraging, when you think about it. And what's really great about prayer is that you can do it anywhere. There are no formulas for prayer, so prayer takes many forms. In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy, says, ''Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds'' (p. 1).
One day it occurred to Paul that just saying words when he was praying wasn't enough. He needed to understand the ideas behind the words because it is through spiritual ideas that God speaks to us. And he could soon see that being stubborn or willful about how a problem should be solved didn't help him understand God's ideas at all.
Paul also discovered that he could always trust the power of right, spiritual ideas. Just as we trust that a saw will cut through wood, so we can trust prayer to give us the right answer. This is the kind of trust that Jesus was referring to when he said, ''What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them'' (Mark 11:24).
When Paul was in high school, he had many opportunities to use what he was learning about the power of prayer. With each challenge, however, Paul remembered what he had learned about approaching problems the right way. Instead of complaining or being stubborn about how he thought things should work out, he turned to God in prayer. He especially thought a lot about the ideas in the Lord's Prayer, which Christ Jesus gave us. Paul knew the words by heart: ''Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever'' (Matt. 6:913). An interesting result was that prayer not only gave him the guidance he needed, it also showed him more about his relation to God.
For example, he realized that the ''daily bread'' from God mentioned in the Lord's Prayer included all the ideas needed for doing well in school because God is the source of our intelligence. And since that prayer speaks of God as ''our Father,'' Paul was able to become a good friend to a boy who made fun of him, because he could see that boy, too, was God's child.
Throughout high school--and beyond--these ideas meant so much to Paul. Each challenge he faced helped him to discover a little more of how valuable a tool prayer is. It's always available, and it solves problems in the most effective way possible.