The right to pray
Who or what decides when we can pray? A legislature's vote? A state ban on religious worship? What about how good we've been lately, how much time we can take during a busy day, how well we feel? While many of these factors may seem to shape or even threaten our time for prayer, none of them cna actually revoke our right to pray.
The right to turn to God when we need help, to seek divine Love's healing power in time of illness, to find new direction, to feel protected, strengthened , and ready for our day through prayer, is not conferred upon us by civil power or because of some situation particularly favorable to prayer. This right is the direct result of the intimate relationship each of us has with God.
"We love him," we read of God in I John, "beause he first loved us." n1 This God-impelled spiritual affection is the origin of prayer and the circumstance fostering it. As a child truns to its mother, certain because of family ties that it has a right to ask help at any time, so each of us has the right to turn to God in any situation. god's love for us actually draws us to pray.
n1 John 4:19.
An experience I had may illustrate how one can exercise this right to pray in the face of adverse circumstances. While I live in a country whose government acknowledges the right of the individual to choose his or her religion, there might as well have been a governmental prohibition of prayer. I felt mentally locked up and very guilty. Some of my recent actions had been so reprehensible I felt I really had no right to turn to God for help. I'd just have to suffer the consequences of my unwise actions.
In this state of thought I happened to watch a news broadcast on current legislative debate over the legality of taking time in public schools for prayer. I asked myself if, when I'd been a student in the public schools, I'd ever felt I could not pray. My answer took the form of a remembered Sunday School teaching. "In divine Science, where prayers are mental, allm may avail themselves of God as 'a very present help in trouble.'" n2
n2 Science and Health,m pp. 12-13.
This statement comes from the chapter "Prayer" in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scripturesm by Mary Baker Eddy n3 I decided to reread that chapter, thinking it might answer my concern that I had no right to pray in the face of guilt. As I read I could see the clear evidence of Mrs. Eddy's spiritual search in the Bible. She devotes several pages to Jesus' explanation of when and how to pray, including a spiritual interpretation of the beloved Lord's Prayer. She also gives important insight into the uses and misuses of prayer.
n3 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
I found I had not only the right but the obligation to pray in the face of this guilt. The prayer I needed was not so much a prayer of words but an earnest feeling. ore than statements or requests, my prayer neededt o be a mental openness to God's unfailing government and supply, a rejoicing in Truth's transforming power and grace. n4 Science and Health, p. 16.
Of course I'd face the consequences of my actions. But when these consequences were confronted with prayer, they could only teach me more of God's love, more willingness to reach out to God each step of my day. Prayer would help me see the emptiness of false promises, so they would hold no further temptation. Guilt is unproductive thought about the past; prayer opens the heart to what God is teaching us right now of Spirit's satisfying presence.My study helped me consider the implications of that nws broadcast in a new light. I realized that God alone authorizes prayer and protects the right each of us has to seek mental communion with our Parent, divine Mind. No inner turmoil or outer pressure need obstruct prayer. We are free each moment to pray the prayer of mental yearning, for God has already decided that we are unfailingly His. And God is the only real decisonmakerm