I came home one afternoon to find my husband sitting at the kitchen table, abruptly laid off from a job he'd held for almost two decades.
He numbly talked about retiring.
I immediately began to pray, making the transition to a calmer state of thought by being grateful for the many years of answered prayer I had witnessed in my life. I reaffirmed that whatever we did now would be done happily, under God's guidance. I even began to see this as an opportunity to relocate to a new area, closer to a loved relative, and to be able to spend more time with my husband.
As a little girl, when my dad's work compelled us to move again and again, my mother and grandmother encouraged me to take into the "closet of prayer" the idea that God is everywhere and that He loves me; so any change in circumstances couldn't deprive me of happiness. I found this to be true in each of the 22 moves my family made before I was 18.
The idea of the "closet of prayer" is biblical. When my grandmother and mother had begun to study Christian Science in the 1930s, they turned for guidance to Jesus' words: "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt. 6:6).
They found in the textbook of Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," a passage that explains the importance of private, silent prayer: "The closet typifies the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love. Closed to error, it is open to Truth, and vice versa" (page 15).
I've been helped time and again over the years by praying in that way, and I trusted that praying would help our family's situation this time, too.
I was perplexed, though, a few days after my husband was laid off to discover that, instead of preparing to retire, he was updating his résumé, attending seminars for displaced executives, and networking.
I was momentarily tempted to campaign for moving; but my prayer had steadied me and confirmed my trust in God. Also, for 25 years I had watched my husband pray daily, five times a day, without fail. Wasn't God speaking to him, too? As the weeks passed, I decided to be entirely obedient to God's will and to listen, moment by moment, for His direction.
Three months later, there was still no job possibility in sight. Colleagues tried to get him a position, but nothing came of it. Interviews went nowhere. Downsizing and layoffs were occurring throughout the industry. When one door after another closed on him, my husband became deeply afraid that his age was hindering the search. He was too young to retire, but too old to be an attractive candidate.
Clearly, I decided, another door needed to close - the one on fear. I prayed to be delivered from believing that any of the God-given qualities and abilities my husband expressed could ever become obsolete. I stopped several times during the day to understand that human policies and conditions couldn't interfere with God's purpose for him. I recognized his unbreakable relationship to the infinite God by celebrating the immortality of qualities he already expressed, such as his steadfastness; refusal to indulge in self-pity; courage; wisdom; ability to joyfully solve technical problems; kindness and grace in dealing with colleagues, family, and strangers; as well as his deep commitment to God.
I became increasingly peaceful.
I spoke to my husband only a few times about God's love for him and how we could entirely trust the divine plan. I was comforted to discover that he had been thinking, knowing, and praying the same thing.
Two weeks later, a job offer came in. By the following Monday, he was back at work in an area close to home. A move wasn't necessary. Also, exciting opportunities opened up in my own career. I was content to stay put.
While my grandmother had found prayer to be a firm support in the Great Depression, and my mom had relied on it during the cold war and the upheavals of the 1960s, I'm happy to discover again that prayerful obedience remains fresh with up-to-the-minute inspiration today.