The role of prayer

RECENTLY a churchman wrote of some present-day church leaders: ``They have, indeed, succumbed to a material view of man and his purpose in the world. The real danger to mankind in this and in every age--but perhaps peculiarly in this, because of the prevalence of nonreligious ideologies--derives from threats not to his material but to his spiritual condition.'' 1 Certainly we need to give our spiritual condition a much higher priority. Indeed we have to realize that the real condition of our being is totally spiritual--the image and likeness of God. An essential role of prayer is to help us realize this. And by prayer we don't mean a merely formal procedure of repeating familiar words, but a silent turning to God for more strength and wisdom and perception so that we can express these qualities more effectively in our lives. This kind of prayer and its effects can't be put in pigeonholes. Such prayer doesn't leave human needs unmet or human tasks undone. Instead it prompts practical and imaginative ways of fulfilling them. It doesn't aim primarily at material prosperity, because our well-being isn't so much a question of getting something or having something as it is being something--being surer and humbler and more responsive to good, and so being able to experience more of God's goodness. We're not being out of touch with reality to maintain this standpoint, because reality itself is spiritual. Everyone can add to his own particular office, whatever it may be, the qualities that have enriched his thought through prayer. For example, the social worker may find, as the result of prayer, that he is feeling even greater compassion for humanity, and this, in turn, is more evident in his welfare projects. Prayer can lift the politician into greater integrity and more statesmanlike judgments, and it can give the news reporter more discrimination and insight into the issues he writes about, so that everyone is better informed and better able to help and support spiritually. Through prayer, the homemaker can find added strength and patience--and joy. So the role of prayer can't be confined to church services, although it may be initiated there. It has a place in every individual's thought, and is relevant to everything he does. Christ Jesus didn't pray only in the synagogue or only for religious purposes. He prayed everywhere he went--on the mountaintop alone, at the tomb of Lazarus, in the desert, in a fishing boat on the lake. He prayed without respect to an individual's station in life. And the effects of his prayer have been felt around the world and have lasted through the centuries. Included in the essence of prayer, as taught by Jesus, is this simple statement: ``Thy kingdom come.'' 2 Only three words, but very powerful ones. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives this spiritual interpretation of those words: ``Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.'' 3 And she elaborates on this concept in the prayer that all members of her Church are expected to pray every day: `` `Thy kingdom come;' let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!'' 4 Prayer always has to start with the individual, but its effects reach receptive thought everywhere. And the more people that pray, the more widespread will be the effects. ``The reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love'' gives a strong sense of authority and power as vested in God, the divine Principle of the universe and man, administering His own creation with unfailing justice and benevolence. Understanding this brings new momentum to activities. It progressively rules out self-interest, unreasonableness, and indifference, first from thought and then from experience. Anybody can begin to demonstrate this, whether in the workplace, in church, or in the home. The role of prayer in spiritualizing thought is indispensable, and the benefits of prayer, boundless. 1 Quoted in The Daily Telegraph, (London), November 10, 1984. 2 Matthew 6:10. 3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 16. 4 Manual of The Mother Church, Art. VIII, Sect. 4.

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