Have you ever gone into an exam room, read through the test, and felt you could answer hardly any of the questions? It can be devastating.
But in my last year at university, I found that there's a way out of this hopelessness. At that time, we took each subject for a whole year. And any subject we failed, we had to repeat the next year. As you might imagine, passing exams was high priority.
There were also qualifying exams in each subject, which we had to pass before we could take the finals. And a lot of these were crowded into a single week. Time for review was minimal, and I felt sorely unprepared in one subject that had a reputation for being especially difficult.
I had attended every class through the year, listened well, taken good notes, and done my homework. Then, why did I feel the need to cram? Because I was assuming that most of us just can't contain information in memory. It seemed to me that education was a matter of stuffing a lot of information from a teacher-mind into student-minds, which had a few leaks that allowed the information to be gradually lost; and that the information must be stuffed in again, just before the exam, in the hope that it would spill out on the exam paper.
This is contrary to the basic meaning of education, which refers to a drawing out from within, rather than to a stuffing in from without. True education should bring to light and usefulness that which is already included in a person's consciousness, like the opening of a flower reveals what was already contained in the bud.
Concepts like these helped in my predicament - but not at first. I went into the exam room, looked the paper over, and was horrified. I wrote down the answers I did know, but had them finished in about 10 minutes. It was at least a two-hour, if not a three-hour, exam. Obviously, I was failing. There was plenty of temptation to panic and feel hopeless. But I knew better than to give in. Instead, I laid the paper aside and started to pray. Though I don't recall the exact trend of my prayer, I know it followed the line of spiritual reasoning that I was (and everyone else was) "the full representation of Mind" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 591). Mind is a Christian Science term defining God as the supreme governing intelligence of the universe. As Mind's full representation, I had to include all intelligence, wisdom, perception, capability, memory. None of these could ever be lost to me or in short supply.
If I believed this, I could not also believe that the useful information gained through my consistent work through the year could vanish from memory. The all-knowing divine Mind could not possibly be expressed in an unknowing likeness. As God's representation, I had to reflect the all-knowing quality of my creator.
This contemplation brought me peace, and I looked at the paper again. There were a few more questions I felt I could answer, so I did. Then I prayed some more, then wrote some more, and so on, until in the end I had written for the full allotted time.
After handing in the paper, I continued to pray, envisioning the whole situation in God's care. I knew that the same infinite Mind that governed me was also providing the person grading the paper with the alertness, keen perception, and sound judgment that would ensure a fair assessment.
When the results came out, the names were listed in order of merit. I looked at about the middle of the list, where I usually found my name, and then right down to the end. Had I dropped out the bottom? I looked a little higher. Still nothing. Finally, I found my name at the very top - for the first time in four years. And in the subject in which I'd felt least capable! (I sat the final and passed it.)
This taught me an important lesson. In subjects where I'd felt better prepared and really confident, I had trusted my own capability with modest results. But in this case, I had nowhere to turn but to God. And wholehearted trust in His divine intelligence had brought far superior results. I wished I'd learned it years earlier.
The same divine intelligence is universally present for everyone. And the prayer of spiritual affirmation opens anyone's thought to accept and utilize it.