MOST of us have circumstances we wish we didn't have to face. It could be an overwhelming lack of income, disease, relationship problems, or simply constant impediments to our comfort and progress. Whatever we're confronting, however long we've been battling it, we can overcome the difficulty when we learn how to turn our efforts in the most productive direction.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, tells us in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ''If our petitions are sincere, we labor for what we ask; and our Father, who seeth in secret, will reward us openly'' (p. 13). How do we labor for what we ask? We start by turning first to God in prayer.
This doesn't mean that we're asking God for a new car or to give us money to pay off a mortgage or finance our child's education. What we're doing when we put God first is recognizing that our greatest need is spiritual. What we're asking--and striving--for is to understand what He knows about His child, man. Our prayerful labor, then, is directed toward finding the indestructible gifts God gives us, such as guidance, peace, right ideas, protection.
Christ Jesus taught, Matthew's Gospel records, ''Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you'' (6:33). Seeking God turns us to Him for the solution to our difficulties. This prayerful turning is naturally accompanied by a desire to follow God's direction. And when we seek the peace and comfort of God's kingdom, it shouldn't surprise us that we also find practical, achievable solutions to our everyday needs.
When we seek God first we are willing to make the effort needed to bring transformation and regeneration to our lives. We make gaining a clearer understanding of man's relation to God a priority. Then when God shows us what to do, it's only natural for us to listen to His voice and follow His direction.
We follow in the master Christian's footsteps when our prayer--far from asking for material things and possessions--is focused solely on God. Asking for more materiality is wasted effort, since it provides no real or lasting benefits. But even when it seems that we have to work hard for progress, our efforts are well spent when we're seeking an enlightened understanding of spirituality, which God freely gives.
Seeking God first shows that we're putting Him in control of our experience. Doing this doesn't necessarily change everything instantly. Rather, the calming, illuminating assurance that all is well and God is in control helps us work toward our goals in a focused, effective way.
Striving to express more of the spiritual qualities that God gives us as His beloved children is the best way to overcome any difficulties. Because thought is expressed in action, when we're laboring prayerfully for more patience, kindness, forgiveness, these are expressed in our lives. The expression of these qualities results naturally in improved employment, healthier lives, and more satisfying relationships.
For instance, if we're having a hard time holding down a solid job, we may be tempted to feel that we're not capable or worthy. But as ''we labor for what we ask,'' by seeking a better understanding of God, turning to Him for guidance, and being sincerely willing to alter our thought and action, we learn that every child of God is capable and worthy because God created him to be. This, in turn, makes us better employees.
Putting God first, acknowledging His support and ability to help, solves disturbing circumstances. And our deeper understanding of God naturally results in a life devoted to expressing Him and His goodness ever more fully. The Bible, in James, promises us, ''The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much'' (5:16). This ''effectual fervent prayer'' changes our petitions from mere wish lists to life-changing communion with our Maker. We understand God better. We learn how He supplies all of His children's needs through spiritual ideas and qualities. This allows our thought to grow Spiritward. Then our life reflects the fulfillment of one who prayerfully labors for what he asks.