HOW do you pray? And what do you pray for? The answers to these questions are many and varied. Some people pray for the material things they need. And they only pray when they need something. Other people feel that prayer has no relation at all to human needs. But this doesn't help humanity very much, especially when the needs aren't only personal but affect large numbers of people. Don't human needs themselves suggest a basic sense of inadequacy in human thought that requires continuous reassurance from outside itself? Prayer supplies that reassurance. The purpose of prayer is to enlighten thought spiritually so that the smallness of self-centeredness and self-interest yields to a greater understanding of the infinite good we call God. God promised Moses, ``I will make all my goodness pass before thee....''1 What is God's goodness like? Because God is Spirit, His goodness is spiritual in nature. It's expressed in such qualities as love, purity, wisdom, strength--qualities that uplift experience and bless it with whatever is needed. Our endeavor to express such qualities more and more is itself a form of prayer, because we're living the very qualities that constitute genuine goodness. And in doing so we begin to see ourselves more as we really are--as the image of God, inseparable from His care--and not as a needy mortal.
Christ Jesus gave many examples of effective prayer through his proofs of God's ever-present goodness and power--as when he fed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes. The Lord's Prayer, which he taught his disciples, contains this verse: ``Give us this day our daily bread.''2 Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, spiritually interprets this petition, ``Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections.''3
Elsewhere Mrs. Eddy writes: ``When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone,--but more grace, obedience, and love. If this heart, humble and trustful, faithfully asks divine Love to feed it with the bread of heaven, health, holiness, it will be conformed to a fitness to receive the answer to its desire....''4
To believe that goodness is just a human characteristic that some people have and others don't have is to entertain a very small sense of goodness and therefore a small expectancy and experience of it. But to see the smallest expression of goodness as a hint of the beneficence of God is to align one's thought with infinite goodness and to bring to bear on our lives more of the divine power.
Once I needed a new home, and I prayed one afternoon to be more aware of God's continuing care for me, and of my individual niche in His creation. That evening I met someone who told me that her mother had a friend who was looking for someone as a paying guest. I followed this up and lived with that family very happily until I was able to have a home of my own.
This little incident not only met the immediate need. It gave me a much more confident sense of the power of prayer to help humanity as a whole--a conviction that God's goodness is indeed infinite and is never withheld from anyone.
The effect of prayer doesn't stop when the answer to a particular need appears. Prayer has a widespread influence that makes more of God's goodness apparent to others. God's goodness is universal, and is equally available to everyone through fervent prayer.
1Exodus 33:19. 2Matthew 6:11. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17. 4Miscellaneous Writings, p. 127. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: If ye...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? Matthew 7:11