Into the 'closet' to pray
A Christian Science perspective
Much of the news from my home country, Japan, does not sound promising – the highest unemployment rate since the end of World War II, lack of political stability and initiative. People are feeling fear and frustration, which will not yield constructive solutions and decisionmaking.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, sometimes urged people to pray at times like this for the progress of nations, and for humanity at large (see, for example, "Christian Science versus Pantheism," p. 14).
But how can we begin to pray? Christ Jesus instructed his followers to go into the closet and pray (see Matt. 6:6). Jesus said this before offering a prayer that later came to be known as the Lord's Prayer. This prayer is so famous that even many who are not Christians know it.
To me, a closet means a space without windows that's full of stored stuff. If used as a metaphor, it can also mean a private space in one's consciousness, full of ideas to draw from. This is also a mental place where we can shut out the noises of everyday life – worries, resentment, anger, and negative memories.
Mary Baker Eddy, who also discovered Christian Science, described it this way: "The closet typifies the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love. Closed to error, it is open to Truth, and vice versa.... To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 15).
One time when I was doing research on the Lord's Prayer, I came across a reference that opened my eyes and confirmed that this instruction was based on universal truth, applicable to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
According to "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible," the Greek word that was later translated into closet is related to a word that means "now," "present," or "this very immediate moment." We don't have the exact word Jesus used, but this may relate to what he meant.
So in addition to seeing the closet as a sheltered, private space, I started seeing it as something to enter in the present moment.
"Now" consists of no other time – neither past nor future. It makes us mindful of only this moment. Our commitment to eliminate in prayer the noises of the past and worries of the future can make all of us much better listeners. Inspiration and intuition can be clearer to our consciousness when we are quiet and at peace in this "very present moment," whether walking, commuting on the train, cooking, or studying. It's a proactive step, not a passive one. And it's not a one-time requirement, but a constant reminder to be at peace in that very present moment.
Most of our thinking wanders back into the past or toward the future. We don't realize that nothing but this present moment has the right to our fullest attention. The time machine always seems to take us back to the fondest – but lost – moments, or to the worst incident we can remember, or else to worries about what's to come.
But we actually do have spiritual strength to pray in this present moment. And if we succeed in entering into the closet right now, we can enjoy more serenity, like the undisturbed surface of a lake on a cloudless day, where everything surrounding the lake is reflected clearly.
I'm finding that praying in this way can open doors to inspired, innovative, and healing ideas. In that moment of "now," we are standing in the presence of a singular infinite God, good, from whom we all come and with whom we are at one. There is no strife, disease, argument, resentment, but only pure and spontaneous goodness that can be shared right this moment. Whatever devotion, prayer, or meditation you offer there, it will be fruitful.