How many forms can prayer take? Prayer often can be asking -- even begging. Yet it can also be affirming. It can spring from faith, from belief, from hope. Prayer can take the form of an increasing understanding of absolute truths concerning God. And it can be a renewal of affection for God.
Prayer, no matter what it sounds or looks like, means that the person doing it believes in -- or at least hopes for -- a power beyond physicality.
The Bible's book of Matthew describes one of the times Christ Jesus was asked about the nature of prayer. He answered, "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (21:22). From the results of his own prayers, it is obvious that Jesus knew what he was talking about.
Once Jesus met a man whose son was in today's terms probably epileptic. The man said to Jesus, "Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him." The Bible continues, "Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:15-21).
Prayer that has only the faith symbolized by a tiny mustard seed is sufficient to heal convulsions-and even move mountains. Sometimes the things we pray about certainly feel as big as mountains. Do we need to understand as much about prayer as Jesus did in order to have our prayers make a difference?
Here is a very striking and encouraging example of someone who hadn't had much experience praying, but was healed nonetheless: "I had been deaf from childhood. I suffered intensely after eating, and dropsy was another of my complaints. This, with consumption, caused one doctor to say, 'It puzzles me; I have never seen such a case before as yours.'
"I met a friend who had been cured in Christian Science, and she said, 'Try Christian Science.' I got a copy of Science and Health and in three weeks I was entirely cured. I felt uplifted. It seemed as if God's arms were around and about me. I felt as if heaven had come down to earth for me. After five years of suffering can any one wonder at my unspeakable gratitude?"
This account can be found in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (pp. 652-653). Mary Baker Eddy wrote the book, and she started this newspaper after founding the Christian Science Church. Such testimonies as this one were published in the back of Science and Health to show what it had done for people. They discuss healings that came solely through reading the book.
The very first of Science and Health's eighteen chapters is called "Prayer." Although the whole book contains a tremendous amount of vital information about praying, this first chapter examines it specifically, in a way that has resulted in healing for people for more than one hundred and twenty years.
The chapter ends with the one prayer Jesus gave his disciples, the Lord's Prayer. Included is a spiritual interpretation to help people understand better the ideas in this timeless prayer. Even if you have only "faith as a grain of mustard seed," prayer can become the most meaningful part of your life-the most powerful influence for good, for healing, and for regeneration.
You can find other articles that discuss prayer in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.