It was a few days before commencement. My high school held three religious services - one Catholic, one Jewish, and one Protestant. A few days later, a big gala party. Students and parents could attend any or all of these events. As a graduating student, I didn't miss any of them. I learned to appreciate ways of praying that were new to me and to better understand people from various backgrounds.
It was the first mass I'd ever attended, and the solemnity was very impressive. Eager to join in the atmosphere of devotion, I nevertheless hesitated when the congregation was invited to kneel. And as all the people around me fell on their knees, I stood up. Very embarrassed, standing tall and awkward, I realized that doing something visibly different from the rest of the congregation was totally unnecessary.
The next time everybody knelt, I did too - a very new experience for me. I took it as an opportunity to acknowledge the infinitude of the divine Mind that made the universe, to look up to the source of happiness for all my friends and their families, a happiness inspired by Spirit, where everyone can find refuge from the noise of the world. As a result of that form of reasoning, my thought soared, leaving me comfortable and at ease.
This way of thinking and of praying had shaped my life since early childhood, thanks to the study of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," a book written by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy. The first sentence of the Preface says, "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings."
Kneeling that day became an occasion for leaning on this "infinite," the incorporeal presence that supported all of us in the church. With such confidence, my thought was rising, mentally turning away from everything that the eye can see. The beauty of Soul, the supreme reality permeating all space, was tangible and very reassuring, right there!
Anyone can become aware of this reality by doing what the Master of Christianity recommended: entering into the closet, shutting the door, and praying "in secret" (see Matt. 6:6). In that place of refuge, where thought breaks away from the surrounding circumstances, we can hear a voice that is not heard with the ears, speaking to human consciousness. Every man and every woman's higher nature can perceive it, and find guidance, comfort, healing.
Mrs. Eddy, in another of her books, indicates that it is by looking up, or lifting our thought, that we can hear this voice. Speaking about the Bible narrative, she wrote: "Mary of old wept because she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre - looked for the person, instead of the Principle that reveals Christ. The Mary of to-day looks up for Christ, away from the supposedly crucified to the ascended Christ, to the Truth that 'healeth all thy diseases' and gives dominion over all the earth" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 119).
The sincere heart reaches the undivided Principle that governs all of us and that is accessible to anyone who lifts his or her thought and tunes in to its influence. It doesn't matter what kind of religious tradition we follow, or even if we follow none at all.
During that graduation mass, kneeling several times to pray, I felt that everyone there was strengthened by the power of eternal Life. Those families came from a variety of backgrounds. Some of them even denied having any religious affiliation. But they all related to the same universal Truth. They were all embraced by the tenderness of unconditional Love, whose presence was felt. Anyone can look for this ever-presence. And that is prayer.
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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society