How can I pray? What is prayer? Will my prayer really do anything? Isn't it hard to know how to pray?
I'm beginning to find practical answers to these questions. The very first chapter of the Christian Science textbook is entitled "Prayer." And one of the most helpful ideas to me from this chapter has been this: "Consistent prayer is the desire to do right" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 9).
Prayer can be as simple as a good desire. So, then, it's as we desire to do what helps other people, what is honest, what is loving - what is our highest sense of serving God - that we are actually living out our prayers.
I've come to realize that we're probably praying a lot more than we realize, and that we could be praying even more as we think more about what our desires are. It has been a great joy to see how a desire to do right is a prayer.
Praying, I have found, might mean keeping alive the desire to find good, even when nothing good seems remotely evident in our lives at the moment. I used to wonder when I read what St. Paul said in the Bible's book of First Thessalonians - "Pray without ceasing" (5:17). How could this be possible? After all, I had a lot of other things to do in my day - work, raise children, volunteer. I could pray some of the time, but how could I pray without ceasing?
It was because of that explanation of prayer in Science and Health that I realized that persistent prayer was and is possible for all of us.
This prayer was just what was needed when my husband's company - the one he'd worked at for over 25 years - was downsizing for the second time in just a two-year period. This time there were to be significant cuts in management, which would affect him directly; his job was to be combined with another into one new position.
It was natural for my husband and me to turn to God for help during this three-month reorganization. We had found that if you trust your desire to do what is good, you're really trusting God - you're really praying. And that even if you have to persist in praying during times of challenge, you can always remember that He is in control of your life.
Rather than give in to feeling discouraged because we were going through this downsizing for a second time, I persisted in acknowledging the fact that God loves and provides for each one of us, His/Her sons and daughters. God gives us each individual talents, which we express in our lives uniquely. We are each needed in this expression. No child of God can take another's place. God is infinite Love, which provides abundantly for all of us.
I knew that God's provision for my husband had to include the right employment. Science and Health promises that "divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (pg. 494). It is by seeking to understand and hold to this spiritual truth (and sometimes this might mean persistently!), that anyone can utilize it as a prayer.
During this time of prayer, my husband came to me and said he felt he should volunteer to quit his job so that the man working for him could take the new position. I said, "You're actually going to downsize yourself!" He knew I supported him in doing what he felt was the most right - even though it meant we didn't know where we'd be living or working.
But when you rely on prayer, it's awesome to see how things work out. My husband went to his supervisors with his idea. Instead of going with it, they determined that both positions were needed. And other workers found new jobs even before their old ones ended. We felt that prayer had shown us how God takes care of us all.
Prayer based on the understanding of God's goodness and omnipotence is effective. Don't let anyone or anything tell you otherwise. It's not too much to ask to pray without ceasing.
The Annual National Day of Prayer is observed on the first Thursday in May.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society