When a night of prayer brought light

A Christian Science perspective.

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When I was little, I used to think that the only time people prayed was when they were kneeling by their beds before retiring. As I grew older, I learned that when you wanted to connect with God, you could pray wherever you might be, and I often did, asking in childlike simplicity for His help and direction.

God isn’t confined to any location, isn’t more accessible in one place than another or more accessible at one time than another. His presence can be felt whether we’re on public transportation, in an office cubicle, sitting in our favorite chair, or on our way to an appointment. Wherever we are, we can know that He is at our side, ready to bless. Recognizing His ever-presence makes room for the good He is imparting to us.

I had an opportunity to prove this during a long-distance train ride with my three children. It was late at night, and the passengers were all sleeping except for a woman and her husband near where we were sitting. They refused to turn off their light, the woman retorting to my daughter’s request to do so with cutting words that brought her back to me in tears.

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I felt a strong urge to retaliate in kind (it was late at night and nerves were frazzled), but I knew that calming prayer was a better solution. Quelling my initial urge while consoling my child wasn’t easy, but soon she was curled up asleep beside me – with the neighbors’ light still on.

Despite the late hour, I stayed awake to pray for God’s harmony to prevail. I’m grateful to say that this need for prayer kept me alert for most of the night. What came to me were guiding ideas from a brief autobiography of a woman whose life was based on biblical precepts. She wrote: “The best spiritual type of Christly method for uplifting human thought and imparting divine Truth, is stationary power, stillness, and strength; and when this spiritual ideal is made our own, it becomes the model for human action” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 93).

Recalling this “model for human action” kept me from responding in kind. Instead I wanted to feel this “stationary power, stillness, and strength.” I prayed earnestly to make “this spiritual ideal” my own and to experience God’s healing presence supporting my desire to see this woman as His loved child.

Turning my thought to divine Love, I cherished the real identity of this woman as a child of the same God that fathered my child and me in our true spiritual selfhood. I silently replaced all the negative traits that were being expressed with what was true about her as God’s creation.

I continued my prayers throughout the night, rejoicing in this woman’s divine nature as beloved of the Father. My prayers gradually expanded into a genuine love for her filled with compassion that brought tears to my eyes – tears of joy.

As the morning light dawned, the conductor announced the next stop. A subsequent encounter with the woman revealed her in a totally different light. The thoughtlessness had vanished as though harsh words had never been spoken, and she, my daughter, and I enjoyed a pleasant exchange with especially kind words directed toward my daughter. In the course of our brief conversation, she mentioned the passing of her two daughters at an early age. My daughter reached for my hand as though she grasped the woman’s great sadness – and its relation to her behavior during the night.
 
Since then when aware of rudeness, in public or in my own experience, I have realized that it is often impersonal. While it may seem inexcusable at the time, it still warrants our compassion and accompanying prayer. That night my prayers were answered. God’s cleansing light shone on all of us.

Christ Jesus so valued his sonship with God that he invited his followers to humbly join him in a relationship established for all time, that of being brothers and sisters in Christ’s name. This connection becomes more precious each day, as we lean on the teachings of Jesus, making them practical in our daily lives. The woman, my daughter, and I were indeed sisters in Christ’s name.

That long but productive night in prayer proved to me once again that God is ever available to keep us on course and is a strong buttress in time of need. To know this with conviction moves us forward in the right direction. Kneeling beside one’s bed in humble prayer before retiring puts a spiritual cap on the events of the day. It’s a commendable habit to form early in childhood with rich rewards as it expands into close communion with God throughout each day. Then we can say with the Psalmist: “[T]he Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall” (Psalms 18:28, 29).

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