Many people have been taught to believe that prayer is about asking for something, as in, "I need a car, so I'll pray for a car." Given the present state of the world's economy, some people may be also saying to themselves, "Where was God when I needed help paying my mortgage?"
Questions like these are important and encourage us to look more closely at what prayer is and what it does. Jesus' approach to prayer cut across what one of my friends refers to as the "determined outcome approach" to prayer. The few passages in the Bible on the subject record that his prayers were more about God rather than about a desired result or thing.
When he raised Lazarus from the tomb, for example, Jesus didn't ask God to restore his friend. Instead, he affirmed that God always heard him and his prayers (see John 11:41, 42). Evidently he understood the nature of God's love, and His ultimate control of every human situation, so well that he felt totally confident God would resolve the situation in the most appropriate manner.
Is it easy to trust God this much? It can be, if one has already seen proof of His care. But sometimes it's hard to let go and trust God's plan, especially if we formulate a particular outcome as the best way forward.
One thing that can help is to recognize that God is infinite Mind and that each of us is Mind's spiritual idea, a child of God. On the human scene, you and I may have a specific – and different – view of a given situation. You may know of resources that I'm unaware of, and vice versa. However, there may be other assets that we're both unfamiliar with. Briefly, we see some of the picture, but not all of it.
Jesus' teachings show that God is infinite and thus God can see the entire picture in a depth and richness that is beyond our human capacities. Once when he was in a rather intense discussion with one of his adversaries, Jesus declared: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). One of the ways that God is identified is as a God of truth (see Ps. 31:5), and Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded this newspaper, actually named Truth as a synonym for God (see "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 587).
This definition gives an added dimension to Jesus' statement. Identifying ourselves as the children of divine Truth helps us perceive practical spiritual answers, even in times of trouble. We don't need to know exactly how God will operate. We just need to know with conviction that He will, and that the divine solution will be perfect in every detail.
With that in thought, it becomes easier to face financial and other difficulties because it's more obvious that poverty and deprivation are not part of God's creation. We do, however, have to trust God's care as the actual reality, even if it flies in the face of human reasoning about a given situation.
One way to maintain spiritual clarity is to return to Jesus' statement that it's possible to know the truth and that it will make one free. Given that we are the children of infinite Truth, we can claim the spiritual fact that not one of us has ever been separated from God. The next question to ask might be: What else can I understand of God and His kingdom that will help relieve the feeling of pressure? If we understand that the kingdom of God is intact, it follows that we can't be separated from the good God is continuously giving to His children.
In prayer, there's no need to outline an outcome to the issue that's causing concern. That's up to God, who is Love. Our task is to know that the negative situation – our human sense of things – isn't true, because it isn't in harmony with God; it only suggests a separation from God that has not actually occurred. As we know the truth, our eyes are opened and we see God's power at work in our lives.