Wants and needs

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

Open almost any magazine, turn on the television, and you're confronted with advertisements for so many "must have" consumer products, all targeted to meet our "needs." But simply pushing something as being absolutely essential to our lives doesn't make it so.

Wants aren't necessarily needs. For some people, the remaining months of this year will be spent looking for a home. Rebuilding a community. Finding suitable employment.

One place where knowing the difference between wants and needs is vitally important is when we're praying for something. Who hasn't prayed to have some "need" met, only to have the request go unanswered? You may think God doesn't care, or that He doesn't realize how badly you need what it is you're asking for. Perhaps the deeper issue has to do with understanding more about the God we're praying to.

Quite some time ago, I felt it was time to find a job better suited to my skills than the one I had been doing for several years. I sent letters of introduction and samples of my work to several businesses, and finally a manager of one of the companies called back. He liked what he saw, and asked if I could catch a plane that weekend and join him and the company president to talk about an opening they had.

It was a substantial position. The more I heard about it, the more I became convinced it was just what I needed. All the way home, as I anxiously awaited their decision, I prayed to God that He would meet my need for this particular job. When the call came, they said they had decided to hire someone else. I felt sure God had let me down.

I had to learn more of God's completely benevolent nature, and of our actual relation to God as His children, cared for in every way. There was no need to feel anxious, or to convince the all-knowing God of a need of mine. As sons and daughters of divine Love, we receive from God everything needed to live a fulfilling and complete life and be a blessing to others. That includes having the spiritual ideas that provide happiness, health, direction, purpose, growth, wisdom.

Still, our Father-Mother is not only loving and benevolent but infinitely wise. How wise would it be for God to sit there just filling every personal request we have, as though He were one of those telephone operators standing by to take your order? God doesn't operate from a human set of standards but from an entirely spiritual one. "That which we desire and for which we ask, it is not always best for us to receive," writes Mary Baker Eddy in the chapter "Prayer" in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (pg. 10).

What I had wanted was a particular job. What I should have been striving to discern more spiritually was, "What do I need?" This would have helped me realize what I already included as God's image and likeness - fully satisfying, purposeful activity.

Four months later, the company I had hoped would hire me changed ownership and went in a completely different direction. I had been so caught up in what I'd wanted that I hadn't recognized what I needed, and what God knew was best for me to have at that time - patience, trust, and spiritual understanding, which would enable me to calmly let events unfold naturally. Soon I was offered an excellent position with an international company that was a perfect fit for my skills.

"Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Matt. 6:8). That was fresh and practical guidance centuries ago, when Christ Jesus first spoke those words, and it's just as practical today. Note that he said before you ask.

So, before you tell God what you want, think about what God wants for you. The all-loving and all-knowing Deity always, always, wants what's best. And He is seeing to it that you have it when you need it. Even in the runaway marketplace of today, what more could anyone want?

For he satisfieth

the longing soul,

and filleth the hungry

soul with goodness.

Psalms 107:9

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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