The price of oil

Today's article on Christian Science

The last 18 months have seen oil prices roughly triple, wreaking havoc on individuals and industries heavily dependent on oil and gas. Beyond the short-term political maneuvering for a solution - and the longer-term efforts for greater energy efficiency - there are reasons to deem prayer a part of the answer.

Consider a memorable Old Testament Bible story in which oil plays a pivotal role (see II Kings 4:1-7). A widow whose resources were nearly exhausted faced the grim prospect of having her two sons forced into slavery by a creditor if she was unable to settle her debts. The prophet Elisha questioned her, learned that she had one remaining resource - a cruse of oil - and directed her to borrow as many empty containers as possible and start pouring. She filled all the containers and, amazingly, still had oil in the original cruse. Elisha directed her to sell the extra oil, pay her debts, and save her sons. It's a remarkable, inspiring story, usually retold to illustrate the divine power that met her needs in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances.

But what about the people who bought the oil? What about their needs? She, after all, was the seller. They were buyers. The story wouldn't be nearly as inspiring if her prices had inflated to a point where the buyers were driven into economic recession or bankruptcy. Thank goodness there's nothing in the story to suggest such an outcome! In fact, there's no hint at all about her pricing policy. The unwritten implication is that the buyers' needs were met in a way that wasn't financially ruinous to them.

An unrelated passage, occurring in a New Testament letter from an early follower of Christ Jesus, is relevant. "I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (II Cor. 8:13, 14).

It's in keeping with the divine design that all needs are met, that there is a balance of supply and demand, that nobody loses. When we glimpse this natural divine justice in prayer, doubts fade. We begin to realize how all human needs are met by the Divine. Nobody is unfairly burdened.

God, who is the divine Parent, the Father and Mother of everyone, loves all His children equally. There isn't a divine tilt toward exporting nations and away from importing ones. Nor is there a divine tilt toward, say, a Christian nation but not a Muslim one. God spreads His love and provision evenly, impartially, and endlessly. This is a spiritual truth. And spiritual truths, held to in prayer, transform our lives, bringing a whole range of inequities into proper balance. Even inequities as mundane as an out-of-line price for oil or other commodities.

Perhaps it's fair to say, though, that the real need is never for just a "good price." Nor is it just for more of a material thing: oil or steel or bread or computer chips. The real need is always for a deeper understanding of God and His resources. God provides an endless flow of healing, problem-solving ideas. Discerning these ideas comprises both the aim and the heart of true prayer. Therefore, a prayer such as "God, lower the price of oil" isn't the most effective. For one thing, it implies that God is some sort of a super trader in the energy market. How much better to pray - and to understand - that ideas from the divine source are so clear and intelligent that as we consciously listen for them, our whole experience changes for the better. Fair adjustments take place.

Others, including those we may be purchasing from or selling to, are also blessed by the same prayer.

God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.

Mary Baker Eddy

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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