Most accomplished individuals have developed one or more specialized skills. These may involve employing a keen sense of humor, astute musical perception, or manual dexterity, to name just a few.
But regardless of the talents people have, there is usually one thing they tend to agree on: "Practice makes perfect." The musician practices scales and chords; the actor practices lines; the skater practices a routine until it can be accomplished with ease and grace.
The more one practices, the more quickly he or she obtains the desired results. This observation also applies in the area of hearing what God is saying. When someone listens for God's voice, he or she is really praying. The more we pray, the better we hear Him.
Many people mentioned in the Bible prayed frequently. According to the Scriptures, Daniel prayed three times a day (see Daniel 6:10). And though he was thrown into a den of lions because of the envy of his enemies, Daniel recognized clearly that his constant innocency was what kept the lions from killing him (see verse 22). Daniel's prayer and his protection from danger caused an entire nation to worship the one true God.
Jesus Christ prayed often. His prayers allowed him to perceive the needs of others and to respond to those needs. His perception of God was so keen and pure that he healed people. He conquered death. And his teachings became the foundation of all Christian faiths. According to Luke, he instructed us "always to pray" (18:1). It is interesting that Jesus never imposed the condition that one should pray only when faced with a crisis or unpleasant circumstance. (Similarly, Daniel didn't only start praying when confronted by those lions.)
I have received many blessings as a result of prayer. But at one point I began to feel a need to pray daily for myself, even if not facing problems. I began to realize how Jesus himself prayed on a regular basis and instructed us to do the same.
Prayer is not a request that God do us a personal favor. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook of Christian Science, asks, "What are the motives for prayer? Do we pray to make ourselves better or to benefit those who hear us, to enlighten the infinite or to be heard of men?" And this book by Mary Baker Eddy says in the next paragraph, "God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love" (p. 2).
God is infinite and can give only that which is good. Understanding this, we can perceive good more clearly in every aspect of life. Since all real intelligence belongs to God, and since we reflect Him, we must be able to know and appreciate His goodness. What is not good is not part of God or His creation; evil cannot becloud, compromise, or diminish the good that God has given us all. Praying with understanding, we can expect to receive good and good alone in our lives.
I started to approach my daily communion with God in the same way a musician might approach the time spent with an accomplished and loving music teacher. As I prayed, I became more aware that my identity was in and of God-complete, perfect.
Two distinct events took place soon after these prayers began. First, my work improved immediately, and this was indicated in performance reviews. I began to exceed regularly the expectations in all categories pertaining to my job classification. I was now clearly having much better evaluations, and these results showed up while I was working under two different supervisors. After a while, I asked when my work improvement had first been noted; it was in the very month in which I had started praying to God daily. These superior results continued for years.
Secondly, at about the same time that my job performance improved, I also began to make wiser monetary decisions, which brought a new level of financial security.
I continue to learn to love God and my neighbor more and more. What I've learned from studying Christian Science has taught me not just the importance of prayer but also how to pray effectively.