WHEN we spend the evening at the home of a gracious host, we experience kindness, generosity, attentiveness to our needs, concern for our welfare. We have a good time. We leave feeling enriched and valued.As we look back we will be grateful for the character of our hosts. We also realize that if we had refused their invitation, we would not have had the happy experience. Grace that comes into our lives needs to be accepted if we are to benefit from it. We respond to it with our own kindness, generosity, and attentiveness. All this we see as beneficial. But how much more important it is to learn of the grace of God. This is the outpouring of goodness, provision, and cherishing of man that God continually offers. These are God's inexhaustible gifts. Our awareness of them and acceptance of them bring these benefits into our experience. Contrarily, if we turn our back on God's gifts, because we think they are unattainable or not for us, we don't avail ourselves of them. Of course, we can't return graciousness to God the way we can to a human host. But our prayer, our acknowledgment of God's presence and goodness, opens our thought to divine giving. The Bible often represents man as blessing God, saying, for example, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies. In the light of the Psalmist's passage and with the cascade of benefits received by man, how can we possibly bless God? By accepting that God is God, the Creator of all, who made man in His image, spiritual and whole, and by living insofar as possible in a way that accepts these blessings from God. Yes, grace comes only from God. But if we want to catch a downpour, we hold out a bowl and not an umbrella. That is, we place ourselves in a position to receive by accepting God's grace. Prayer teaches us to be receptive to good. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in No and Yes: "True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us. Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good. By prayer we open our thought to grace. Folding away the shield of indifference, skepticism, and negativism, we hold out our receptive thought to catch the spiritual ideas poured out on us. This is a quiet, private experience. In Matthew's Gospel Christ Jesus advises, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Many individuals have found their lives transformed by their openness to grace, to God's willing outpouring of goodness and ability. We, too, can have this experience through our prayer. We find answers to our needs in the good God's grace pours out on us, and we acknowledge God as its source.
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