How you start a project – or even start your day – often has a significant influence on the outcome.
I was reminded of this recently when I spent odd moments working Sudoku puzzles. These are the tantalizing games that most newspapers now run. Given some numbers to start with, you have to fill in all 81 spaces with the correct numbers. Each row, each column, and each of the nine blocks of numbers must contain all nine Arabic numerals.
It's not as easy as it may look. Working these puzzles tests your mental agility, as you try to find out where each number fits. The secret to succeeding is not only to avoid mistakes along the way, but to get a correct view of the numbers that are already given, and learn what clues they provide. A hasty move, made on a hunch that it may lead to a quick solution, usually leads to a dead end. How you begin is important.
There's an analogy in this to how you pray. Here, too, it's the starting point that counts most. All too often we're moved to prayer because of some pressing human need. That need may naturally seem to be uppermost in thought at the moment. However, the fundamental desire to pray is based on a belief that we can approach – or become aware of – a higher power to help us in our need, a power that people have traditionally called God. The best starting point for such prayer is a humble acknowledgment of God's presence and power in our lives.
In the prayer Jesus gave as a model, he began, "Our Father, which art in heaven." And in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy reinforced this approach: "The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, – that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle" (p. 275).
This describes the most reliable place to begin your prayer. When you turn to a spiritual power and presence to help you, you have already sensed that this power isn't simply an add-on to human existence. It's an admission – or maybe at the start, just an honest hope – that God actually is present for your benefit.
Mrs. Eddy identified seven prominent synonyms that help us understand God better: "Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love" (p. 465). If God is divine Life, God protects our life, including health. If God is infinite Love, His presence impels us to express compassion and to find evidences of Love all around us. If God is divine Mind, infinite intelligence, then we, as His spiritual reflection, possess all the intelligence, wisdom, and intuition we need.
When as a college student I first became interested in Christian Science, I would bring various problems to my Sunday School teacher for discussion. Invariably she would ask, "Well, what does God know about this?" She wasn't avoiding talking about a problem. Rather, it was only when I could accept into my own consciousness some aspect of the reality of God, of His attributes – much in the way that Jesus taught – that I found answers.
There's another analogy we can draw from Sudokus or actually any puzzle – you know in advance that there's a solution. It's up to you to work it out. If you didn't expect to solve the puzzle, you would hardly spend time working at it.
So, too, expectancy needs to accompany prayer. Knowing more about God and about how the action of the Christ-message in one's own thought brings healing to whatever is wrong in our affairs, we can expect that acknowledging God will be effective in enriching our lives.
I'm grateful to say that I've found my own prayers answered in the degree that my thinking has been anchored to its starting point – that God is governing each situation, and that what I most want is to see evidence of His power and presence.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.