ONCE I learned a great lesson from our nine-year-old neighbor and her newborn baby calf. The calf had been born prematurely, the first calf of a heifer that was really too young to bear offspring. Neighboring farmers predicted the calf would not survive long. It was winter and the nights were cold. But our neighbor would not accept such a prediction. For a week she nursed that calf, leaving her cozy house twice each night to feed it warmed milk. It was an all-out effort. And the calf survived in fine shape, later bearing two calves of her own.
Can we make the same kind of effort to help the needy in our community? Or the hungry in the world? Or someone in our own family faced with a severe challenge?
The Bible, through psalm and parable and example, assures us that we can. No matter what the proportions of the difficulty appear to be, what the Bible teaches about the infinite love God has for man can help. Christ Jesus told his disciples, ``If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.'' 1
And what is the means of moving mountains? In the verse following the one just quoted, Jesus says, ``This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.'' Illustrating the power of prayer, Jesus healed cases of organic disease, fed thousands of people with a small quantity of food, and stopped the action of a devastating storm.
In Christian Science, prayer is based on the spiritual premise that God, Spirit, is the one all-powerful creator; that God created man and the universe good; and that evil has no place in God's creation.
That God is all-powerful and loving, and able to govern His creation in a harmonious manner, is fundamental. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,--a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.'' 2 It was to demonstrate the all-conquering power of God and His love for man that Jesus did his marvelous healing works.
But prayer demands more than a casual effort. It requires a pure heart, because the spiritual premise underlying prayer is that God, Spirit, is good and that His creation--including man--is pure and good.
To have a pure heart might require some housecleaning--rooting out and eliminating some bleak character traits. Maybe we need to deepen our care by making what we could call an all-out effort to pray.
Many have found that when putting aside personal concerns in order to pray for the health and well-being of the local community and the world, they have had personal troubles healed in the process. There is no boundary to the love of God that acts through prayer!
Sincere prayer impels us to respond in whatever way is appropriate to people and situations in need. Any helping activity toward those in need is best started in prayer. And once started, it is best carried out according to the leadings of prayer. And indeed, it should be seen as inseparable from prayer.
At one time I had charge of the daily activities of a group of needy people. One year at Christmas I felt impelled to direct the efforts of this group toward helping someone else. I cherished this desire in prayer for several weeks.
Then someone in the group found an envelope that had come through the mail. It was a request for monetary contributions to help feed hungry children. This young woman taped the solicitation envelope to a jar and placed it in our classroom. Every day the students put what pocket change they had into the jar.
Not long after, someone else in the group voiced the desire to collect food in our own neighborhood for needy people nearby. We did so and donated it to a collection agency in our community. Everyone felt especially enriched that Christmas, even more than in previous years when they had been recipients of many gifts and much support.
To our group, this was an all-out effort, initiated and carried through by prayer to the divine Love that blesses all. 1 Matthew 17:20. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 1.