During most of the time I was in school, tests and examinations terrified me. No matter how much I studied, I never felt secure, and I often made mistakes even on things that I was familiar with because I felt so panicky. Although I did pray to God for help, I can't say I ever felt His presence. I think all I wanted from Him was to survive.
When I was studying for my doctorate, however, I became acquainted with Christian Science, and this led to a great change in my attitude toward God and toward exams. For one thing, I learned to accept the Bible's promises, and Christ Jesus' proofs, that God will help us through troubles. I also was introduced to the thought of God as infinite intelligence, or Mind.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states simply, ``God is intelligence.''1 This seemed a logical description of Deity, but where did that leave me?
I found my answer in the Bible passage ``God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.''2 As I reasoned about this in the light of Christian Science, I saw that if man is made in the image of God -- and therefore is completely spiritual -- he must express Godlike qualities. Thus, if God is intelligence, man must express intelligence.
But it also had to follow that man cannot express those things that are ungodlike. So I could not, in absolute truth, have a ``spirit of fear,'' because God had not given me, or anyone, something like that. Instead, God had given man a spirit of ``power, and of love, and of a sound mind.''
To study with a ``spirit...of love'' for what I was doing instead of through fear of the exam was quite a change in outlook. I found, for instance, that the work became much less labored. I seemed better able to retain material, and I was less frightened by examinations. And when I did feel afraid, I had enough presence of mind to stop and pray instead of pressing forward in fear.
Since then I've faced various other pressured experiences and each time have been helped by prayer. Prayer also enabled me to overcome a lifetime fear of mathematics.
Such prayer doesn't involve begging God for help. Instead, it includes an affirmation that in truth intelligence comes from Mind, God, and that man is inseparable from God. Because Mind is infinite, its intelligence is unlimited. We can rely on divine intelligence for the ability to know what and how to study, and how to allocate our time during the exam.
Listening for the guidance of the one Mind in prayer helps free us from fear and enables us to deal calmly with what others say about the test. So often, a kind of mob mentality comes in when everyone is afraid of an exam. Sometimes the fear we feel comes from everyone else's feeling afraid -- sort of like a herd of sheep running off just because one sheep is startled. Through prayer we can resist this tendency.
Fear is totally without foundation in God. And when we identify ourselves as His spiritual likeness, we soon realize that fear has no basis in us either, and it diminishes.
The Bible reference quoted earlier says that we have ``a sound mind.'' If we see that this soundness comes from God and is therefore stable, we'll realize that we can't be cut off from intelligence. We have to be intelligent because God, our Father, is intelligent and we are made to manifest His nature. Proving this may be a gradual process, but as we persist in prayer, we will find that the fear and confusion are replaced by the spirit of power and of love and by the natural expression of divine intelligence.
1Science and Health, p. 2. 2II Timothy 1:7.