Most people at some time or other pray. Sometimes they only turn to prayer when all else fails. ''Man's extremity,'' as the saying goes, ''is God's opportunity.'' And because God is Love and forever cares for His children, He does answer prayer, whatever the need may be.
The widespread belief, however, that God can be influenced by man, reflects a misconception of the divine nature. The Bible implies that God is the one infinite Mind, always governing His creation wisely. It illustrates the fact - particularly through the teachings and works of Christ Jesus - that God is supplying all good ceaselessly, impartially, and in full measure, and that the real purpose of prayer is to lift human thought to behold what already is, awaiting acceptance.
This constant supply of good was proved by a young man who was in pressing need of funds to pay off a debt. A passage from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount especially related to his need: ''What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?'' n1
n1 Matthew 7:9-11.
The young man reasoned that even though he had no human father to whom he could turn, he could surely call on God, his heavenly Father. So he prayed earnestly for means to pay his debt. Quite suddenly he found himself saying, ''Thank you, Lord!'' There was no more money in his possession, but he knew his prayer was answered, his need met. And so it proved, for the next day he was given a commission to buy furniture for someone, and the payment for this service settled the debt.
When our need is met through prayer, we may conclude that God knew of the need and supplied it. But divine Love, Spirit, knows man as He has created him - as eternally cared for. There is no unfilled need in the divine economy, in God's perfect spiritual creation. The effect of the young man's humble prayer was to lift his thought out of the mesmeric belief that he was a lacking mortal into a perception of divine reality - the only reality - in which there is no lack. This clear recognition of what was actually true brought to light an appropriate solution. It was proof that true prayer always includes the answer we need.
Mankind generally mistakes its wants for its needs, and looks for satisfaction of these wants in some form of matter. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, turns prayer away from materiality when she declares, ''What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.'' n2
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 4.
The healing prayer of Christian Science rises from petition for God's help to the affirmation and recognition of His perpetual care. Such prayer is based on an understanding of God's allness and the consequent nothingness of sin, disease , lack, or any ill inherent in materiality.
Prayer should involve an expectancy of good results. Christ Jesus urged his disciples to have an understanding faith in God: ''I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.'' n3 Doesn't the word ''believe'' here imply that we should understandm that the good we seek is already ours to rejoice in?
n3 Mark 11:24.
The skeptic, the doubter, the unbeliever, begins with the handicap of the farmer who, when asked to join in the parish's prayer for rain, shook his head and pointed to the weather vane, remarking gloomily, ''It's no good praying for rain with the wind in that direction.''
Let us not limit God. His power is able to resolve our problem, whether it be sin, disease, want, unhappy relationships. Prayer can lift troubled thought above the mist of earthly woe and bring light and healing through the understanding that God is Love and that man, His beloved offspring, is made in His image and likeness, created to express the divine perfection. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:7