I LIKE big, black birds--but not in my house. The experience I had with the one that got trapped in my bedroom last spring taught me a good lesson about praying. When I realized the bird wasn't going to follow my urgings down the stairs, I prayed. The solution that came to thought was to crawl out on the roof of the porch and lift off the storm window, opening at least one upstairs window so he could fly out. But fifteen minutes later the bird was still frantically banging his head against all the other windows in the room, missing the one that was open. As I stood watching from a window across the porch roof, frustration was a mild term for what I was feeling.
But intuition said this was a lesson in persistent prayer, so rather begrudgingly I prayed again. The question came to thought, ``Why are you standing watching the window?'' The answer seemed obvious to me--I needed to know when the bird flew out. But another question came, ``Are you going to stop praying when the bird flies out?''
I remembered the Bible's counsel ``Pray without ceasing.'' This directive had always seemed humanly impossible. It is followed by an instruction to praise God: ``In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.''1
I knew I had to reach a point in my praying that was so lovely and so compelling that I wouldn't leave it. I needed to gain an assurance of God's complete control over His creation, an assurance that rang so true to my thought that I would stay with it as part of an ongoing commitment to understand God.
Quietly beginning to feel the patience of humility, I found myself reconsidering the thoughts that had comforted me so far. The first one was that God provided a sense of home that included safety, comfort, and order for both the bird and me. Being God-provided, the bird's home couldn't interfere with my home. Even though everything about the situation seemed to deny this fact, my spiritual sense of things told me that God keeps each of His creatures in perfect safety. At this point the bird became very quiet.
Then a new idea took hold of thought: God's law was holding both the bird and me in His presence. It was the goal of my prayer to praise and thank God for the beauty and order of His universe--not to try to manipulate the bird through my prayers. I truly felt at peace with the spiritual perception that God, divine Love, was caring for all His creation. I promised myself I wouldn't forget this. Within seconds the bird flew out the window.
You've probably had some experience with prayer and found that turning to God with an honest, humble desire has brought comfort and healing. But when a really difficult trouble continues to bother us and we need to persist with prayer (without ceasing), we may find ourselves doubting the effectiveness and safety of our prayer.
But what I learned from this experience is that it's not the sole purpose of prayer to change human situations. In fact if you keep trying to do this, you lose the joy of praying. A vital purpose of prayer is to worship God, giving thanks for His control over His spiritual creation. This praise quiets anxiety. Our thought yields to God's love and care, and we find healing. The worst part of bad situations is that they so preoccupy our thought that we feel very far from God. Prayer reaffirms God's closeness, power, and love.
Such prayer is not a manipulation of human thought but a yielding of thought to the reality of God's constant presence, to the power of His Christ, which cuts through the hypnotic fears of the human mind. It is the purpose of the Christ, of God's universal healing power, to nullify fear and sin and to heal. There's a statement in the Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy2 that has often reassured me during a struggle: ``Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness.''3
We are not alone in our prayers. No matter how much we may have to persist, the presence of Christ can be perceived, revealing ideas so beautiful we literally can't leave them alone. Then it seems possible to stick to our prayers until the need is met.
1I Thessalonians 5:17, 18. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 332. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Psalms 66:19