THE world is filled with people yearning to overcome bad habits. Whatever particular habit one is struggling with, feeling a slave to our actions is debilitating, limiting, saddening. Feeling out of control is frightening.
I once had a friend tell me he only got drunk once--and never again--because he didn't like waking up and not remembering what he had done the night before. For many, one negative experience is enough deterrence. For others of us the solution isn't as easy and the habit may become well established. We may then feel trapped by an inability to change.
Yet there is hope. While more is needed than merely recognizing that a particular habit is undesirable or unproductive, such a recognition is an important first step. What comes next in our efforts to drop such a habit--if these efforts are ultimately to be successful--is a desire to learn how to be obedient to God. Such obedience will help us replace bad habits with good, even though the change may be gradual.
Whether the change is gradual or immediate, however, it does take place as we exchange harmful habits for the devotion to God that frees us from material dependency. Because God is good, He has naturally created all good for His child, man. He maintains man perfect, whole, and free. As we begin to recognize that this God-created man is our own, genuine, spiritual identity, we see more and more clearly that we can rely on God and obey Him. We can break free of imprisoning habits.
We have to make a real effort to embrace spiritual living. But we can start now. And as God's child we can learn to lean on Him to help us change unwanted habits. Spiritually understanding that all good stems from God helps us to see that what isn't productive and good doesn't have its source in God--and therefore has no basis. What does have its source in God, good, is maintained and sustained by the infinite.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of the need to eradicate sin in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. And at one point she comments: "This conviction, that there is no real pleasure in sin, is one of the most important points in the theology of Christian Science.
We can be assured that when prayer brings the spiritual understanding that enables us to put off unproductive, unwanted habits, it will be because they have already been replaced by our desire to be habitually obedient to God, good. Prayer strengthens our moral courage and supports us in our honest endeavors to do and be better. Cultivating good habits begins in thought, with prayer. We can change our thought of God to accept Him as our helper in times of need or temptation. Because He is our helper, He will provide for us a better way--He will supply a practical escape from temptation.
Christ Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew's Gospel, with the Beatitudes. It is here that he points out: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Through obedience to God we will be filled with righteousness, strength, courage.
Reliance on and obedience to God encourage us to go forward in our efforts to conquer ungodlike habits--even when it's difficult. Prayer shows us the way out and provides our God-given freedom when our own efforts have failed, perhaps more than once. Prayer can help us gain the obedience and strength we need. No matter how severe or long-standing the difficulty--once we turn to God, our prayers will show us man's God-given moral courage and spiritual strength to resist evil. And our freedom will be perma nent.