When I was growing up, I often prayed with my mom or dad if something was bothering me. It was natural for me to go to them for help. Maybe it's the same for you. If you're not feeling well or you're having trouble at school, Mom or Dad (or maybe some other family member) is the person you turn to for the good ideas and love and prayers that help make everything all right.
But what if you're at school or camp or a friend's house and you feel that there's nobody nearby to help? Then what do you do?
I never thought much about these questions. I didn't need to. It seemed there was always someone around who could help me pray whenever something went wrong.
But one day, that changed. I was 7, at summer camp, and we were going on a field trip to the ocean. Was I ever excited! This particular camp was a marine biology camp, and we'd spent the first week learning about ocean creatures and plants, about currents and tides and tide pools. This was our opportunity to see up close all the things we'd been talking about.
We piled onto the buses with our ocean gear - special nets, water shoes, buckets, and towels. Everyone was eager to see what the day would bring.
Before long, we arrived at the beach. As soon as the bus stopped, we were hurrying to get into the ocean. We didn't want to waste a moment. Racing across the hot asphalt of the parking lot, we began to cross the sandy dunes that bordered the beach.
That's when it happened.
Just as I was climbing down the last dune, I stepped into an anthill - a fire ant hill. These were no ordinary ants. I'd been bitten by them in the past, and the bites were awful, usually taking a week or more to heal.
Before I even knew what was happening, the ants (who weren't happy about my foot plunging through the roof of their sandy home) swarmed out of the hill and began biting me. By the time I'd shaken off the last ant, my legs were covered with bites and hurting a lot.
For a minute or two, I felt scared and helpless. My group was already farther down the beach. I wouldn't be seeing my parents until much later in the day. But then I thought of something reassuring. I could pray! I realized that even though I would have liked to have my mom or dad there to help me, I didn't need them there in order to talk to God or to feel God's love.
I decided to listen for the good thoughts I knew God was giving me. As I did, I remembered something I'd read with my Sunday School class. It was part of a verse from the story about creation in Genesis. It says: "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth ... and God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:21).
It was so comforting to think of a God who was so good that He made everything good. And I decided that what I needed to do was just think about God's love for all of His creation - for the ants, for me, for each of His creatures. Rather than focus on how much my legs were hurting, I could love what God made - and feel His love. So, as I hurried to catch up with my group, that's what I did. Then I forgot about the bites and started having a great time.
Later that day when I remembered the bites again, I discovered something wonderful: They were completely gone. God's love had healed me.
God's love is always there to heal. And we can start our prayers by knowing something about this love - that it's infinite, powerful, that it fills all space. Starting our prayers by thinking about God helps us know what's true. Then, standing strong in that understanding of God and our relation to Him helps bring that truth to light. That's what heals.
As I discovered that day at the beach, prayer is as simple as knowing something about God - and sticking to it. And you can do that all by yourself.
His arm encircles me,
and mine, and all.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)