SOMETIMES we may feel that prayer doesn't fit naturally into the everyday scheme of things. We may slip into the habit of thinking of it either as a ritual of sorts, to be performed on religious occasions, or an activity reserved for desperate situations when no other help is available. If we look at life from a surface viewpoint, such concepts may seem valid. After all, it may look as though we're on our own in a world that has little if any connection with what prayer can offer. But if we look further, we come to a different conclusion.
Is life nothing more than what our eyes and ears take in -- a mixture of good and evil, of justice and injustice, of harmony and suffering? And are we nothing more than fragile mortals, either fortunate or victimized, separated from our creator? If the answer to these questions is ``yes,'' then maybe the assumption that prayer has only occasional value is a reasonable one. But if it's ``no'' -- if we're willing to accept the Biblical teaching that God is infinite Love, who created man in His image and cares for His offspring through eternity -- then prayer can be seen as a powerful, practical help.
In what way? Not as a means for persuading God to help us, but as a way of opening our thought to the presence of His care. The Psalmist prayed, ``Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.''
How can we begin to see this care more clearly? One way is by listening for His pure thoughts in the quietness of communion with Him. Circumstances would persuade us that God is absent or unable to help. But through prayer we can silence the insistent thought that help is unavailable and begin to discern God's direction, to feel His love.
The book of Matthew tells us that when Christ Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he rebuked the devil, rejected the suggestions of evil, and then ``angels came and ministered unto him.'' When, in the stillness of prayer, we consistently reject the thought of confusion or futility and listen for God's thoughts, we find the answers we need. We begin to prove something of the spiritual reality of existence.
As we can learn from the Bible, man is, in reality, God's spiritual image, inseparable from God's constant care. A first step in proving this to be true is to reject as illegitimate the evil that seems so unbudging and to open our thought to God's presence, to the healing intuitions that come from Him. This is not to ignore evil but progressively to gain dominion over it.
In the chapter called ``Prayer'' in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love.'' And she says, ``Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it.''
I've found that prayer does bring us into greater harmony with divine reality, with the Science of being, and so can help us, whatever the need may be. Prayer has helped me feel God's nearness, impelled me to yield to His guidance. When I've tried to pray merely to get something or to make something happen in a certain way, my efforts have failed. But when I've prayed for God's will to be done and have been convinced of His care, I've seen proof of that care in relation to health, daily provision, decisionmaking, and so forth.
Prayer is a daily guide and a vital aspect of worshiping the one God.