Prayer: Going Shopping, Or Taking Inventory?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.
WHEN I've reached out to God in prayer, I've often felt as though I had a grocery list of things that I needed His help with. Recently, as I started praying, however, I saw a fresh way to find healing solutions to complex problems. I thought, "Don't go shopping, take inventory." In other words, instead of making a list of what I thought was missing, I needed to take stock of the abundant, eternal, spiritual good God is always pouring out on us. I remembered that whenever Christ Jesus prayed he began, not by informing God of what he needed, but by thanking God for what was already and eternally manifested.
Christ Jesus was not the only one to take account of the infinite supply of God by recognizing the good that was already at hand. A widow woman came to the prophet Elisha for help. She was destitute and in danger of starvation. When he asked her "What hast thou in the house?" (II Kings 4:2), wasn't he, in effect, asking her to take inventory? She thought she had only a pot of oil, but that was merely a symbol of the abundant goodness that God was forever pouring out to her. Trusting Elisha's instructions, she literally poured the oil out into other containers. There was enough to provide for both her immediate and her long-term needs.
Prayer that acknowledges God's abundance is effective for anyone. As we begin to take account of what God is giving us, of the good that is right at hand, we see this evidence of good as "the tip of the iceberg." The completeness of God's goodness and omnipotent allness is actually backing it up.
The great thing about taking inventory of spiritual good in our prayers is that we don't have to wonder or worry if our prayers will be answered. If we had to acquire something in prayer that we don't already possess, then there would be a good chance we might not get it. But since God is infinite Love and we are Love's expression, then surely God is forever providing us with all good at every moment.
God's creation is entirely spiritual, and His spiritual ideas must be discerned through spiritual sense. Each of us has spiritual sense. Sometimes, however, we're not used to utilizing it and it takes some practice to listen to God's voice, to His thoughts. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God" (p. 209).
A healing I had a couple of years ago may help to illustrate how to listen with spiritual sense. One evening, one of my feet quite suddenly began to hurt a great deal. I kept trying to find a more comfortable position for the foot, thinking that I could pray better if I could just get the foot comfortable. All at once, I realized the mistake of this thinking. I didn't need to keep thinking about where to put the foot, but could simply listen to God with my spiritual sense. I spent about an hour enjoying God's assurances of His allness and the ever-present perfection of His entire creation. It was like taking inventory of the goodness and allness of God, of His complete care and control of me. I was still conscious that the foot hurt, but I was more aware of God's presence than of the state of my body. The telephone rang and the one calling was in need of comfort. I spoke to her for a few minutes of God's love for her. When I hung up the phone, all pain in the foot was gone. The next day I ran up and down stairs in our home as usual.
Taking inventory in the allness of God gives us a glimpse of the immeasurableness of good. As the Bible encourages us in Malachi, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (3:10). Bringing our tithes into the storehouse allows us to take stock of life in Spirit. Here we find allness so good and profound no container in the universe could hold it. And, no problem on earth finds place in it.