Have you ever noticed how children sometimes try to negotiate, to make deals? When our eldest daughter was a toddler she used to say, "I make you a deal. I make you a deal."
More recently, I've noticed a new style of negotiation in our home. When our youngest daughter wants something from her older siblings, and I try to help, she stops, looks around, and says, "I talk to her." When she's confident that no one is going to do the talking for her, she deals directly with the sibling involved.
These negotiating strategies aren't all that different than the ways people sometimes approach God. Along with the misconception that one can bargain with God is another in which one believes that God will intervene for us if we beg Him enough or make a good case with Him. Have you ever found yourself saying, "God, if You'll do just this one thing for me I promise to . . . ." Some people believe they have to communicate with God through other people or through ceremonies.
Thinking about this, I've realized what value I've found in going straight to God when I'm in trouble or I need something. When I feel I should improve myself, for example, I like to speak directly with the One I know can help me-God. I want to take my thoughts and prayers to Him. This is because I understand that God is already in charge.
Christian Science shows that through prayer we approach God directly. Prayer, however, is more than words, rites, or rituals. It may be with words that we pray-that is, we may use them to convey our thoughts. But the prayer is not in the words themselves; it is in the sentiments that lie behind the words. Prayer is expressed best by how we live our lives. That's why it's possible to say that one's life is his or her prayer. How we act, how we think, what we desire, is our prayer.
Mary Baker Eddy, who studied the teachings of the Bible, especially those of Jesus Christ, was familiar with prayer. The first chapter of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook of Christian Science, is entitled "Prayer." Page one says, "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds."
Prayer takes form. It takes expression. Once again, it's sometimes expressed in words. But it's mostly expressed in thoughts, in deeds, in everyday living. So it isn't really something that we ever begin or end. Prayer is made up of life, thought, communion with God. By such account, because it's how we live it's the most important thing we do all day.
Learning more of our unity with God causes us to leave off trying to negotiate with Him and actually to begin to commune with Him. As God's sons and daughters, we already have all that He has. We already reflect all the good that He is. We already express all the perfection in which He creates us. Prayer simply awakens us to these facts. And once we understand them to be true, they are inevitably shown in our lives-in good experiences, prosperity, physical healing.
You are never separated from God. Because you have Him with you now, there is no need to try to negotiate something out of Him. His child-that's you-is heir to all He has. You can go to God in the way Jesus spoke of when he said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7, 8).
Wherewith shall I come
before the Lord, and bow
myself before the high God? . . .
He hath shewed thee, O man,
what is good; and what doth
the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly, and to love
mercy, and to walk humbly
with thy God?
Micah 6:6, 8