To many people, the idea of praying about our lives and the challenges we face may seem about as alien as suddenly taking wing and flying. Maybe we think we don't have time to pray or that we're not holy enough to approach God in prayer. Or maybe we just don't see the connection between prayer and such practical matters as raising children, paying bills, solving career problems, improving our health. Maybe we think prayer just doesn't work.
A while ago someone I love very much called to say he'd been suffering from pain and nausea for over a week. He couldn't eat and couldn't work. We agreed we'd both pray.
A couple of days later he called back to say he didn't feel any better - and maybe worse. So I asked if he'd been praying with me. "Sort of," he said. But then he just came out with it. "I'm not sure I know how to pray," he said.
We talked a little about how any outreach to God is effective if we're humbly seeking His will. There's no formula for prayer. In fact, every time you pray it will likely be different because your needs are different. Prayer is communication with God, the infinite intelligence that governs the universe. What He imparts is always just right to meet our particular need.
Actually, you don't need to argue your case with God, explaining to Him what you need, why you need it, and how much you deserve it. God already knows all about each one of us. So prayer is really more like listening - listening to what God has to say about Himself, about you, about His whole creation. And all God would ever tell you about yourself is good news.
I assured my friend that I would be praying, listening to God, right along with him.
When he called the next night, he couldn't wait to tell me what had happened. He'd gone straight to bed, but felt so bad he couldn't go to sleep. So he'd started asking questions and listening for answers. "Why am I here?" he thought. "Is my purpose in life just to be sick the way I have been for the past week?" No, he decided. God had something better in store for him than that.
"Well, if I'm here to do something good," he thought, "maybe I'd better start doing it." That made him ask himself some questions that had never occurred to him before. "How can I be a better person? A better son, a better friend, a better employee? How can I be more kind, more responsible, more loving?" And he went on to think of specific ways he could do all these things, starting right then.
After that, he told me, he felt happy. He somehow felt that God had given him this new desire to improve his life. And even though he couldn't explain just why, he felt sure that everything was going to be all right - that it was all right. With that, he dropped off to sleep. The next morning he woke up healed, ready to eat.
"You did it!" I told him. "You prayed!" He seemed astonished.
But what he'd done the night before was prayer. First, he had listened to God with his whole heart. In a sense, he'd followed what, according to the Holy Bible, were Jesus Christ's instructions on how to pray (see Matt. 6:6-13). "When thou prayest," Jesus said to his followers, "enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
And God did reward my friend. He saw something of his flawless, spiritual selfhood - unencumbered by earth-weights like illness and discouragement. He was learning that he had a divine destiny, above and beyond anything mortality could ever conceive or define.
My friend had taken a Godward leap in thought. He'd felt an irresistible desire to "be better" in every way. In "No and Yes," Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "Prayer can neither change God, nor bring His designs into mortal modes; but it can and does change our modes and our false sense of Life, Love, and Truth, uplifting us to Him. Such prayer humiliates, purifies, and quickens activity, in the direction that is unerring.... Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good" (Pg. 39).
We can all discover the thrill of praying!