I once thought that prayer was just for healing sick or broken bodies – that prayer was meant for the hard stuff. God had no time for petty needs.
If I had poor grades, it was my job to study harder, not ask God for help. Few friends? It wasn’t God’s job to make me popular. I could be a better person. Broke? I could get a part-time job. I didn’t think it was right to ask God for money, or for any of my other modest wants. It was natural to pray when I was sick or hurt, but praying for money or other narrow needs seemed, well, unseemly.
My grandmother said I was wrong because it was right to look to God for any need, big or small. She was an early student of Christian Science, whose founder, Mary Baker Eddy, taught that since we are all God’s children, made in His image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27), we have divine dominion over any earthly discord, including poor health, poor grades, or even a poor purse. There is no needy God for us to reflect; the God we reflect is abundantly full of goodness.
The Bible clearly shows that turning to God meets difficult challenges: A widow was able to feed her son and herself with an always full pot of oil and a bottomless barrel of meal; Joseph survived cruel brothers, slavery, and wrongful imprisonment to save a nation from starvation; Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes; Jonah found salvation in the belly of a whale. No small stuff here.
In her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy made a stunning declaration: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). Not just some needs some of the time, but all needs, always.
I didn’t have to ask God for better grades, popularity, or money. All that is good already exists. Everything I’ll ever need or want already is mine as the full expression of an all-good God, who gives me dominion over anything to the contrary. I could let God be God!
Along those lines, Eddy counseled: “Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 307). What is truly unseemly is asking God to be God.
In time, I would see that what I used to think was self-reliance was actually God’s way of showing me how to go – a whispered thought here, a nudge there – while I had been thinking that my ordered steps were of my own doing. Instead, I was demonstrating my God-derived dominion over anything awry in my life. The prophet Isaiah said, “[T]hine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
As for monetary needs, when Jesus said it’s hard for a rich man to get into heaven (see Matthew 19:24), I believe he was referring to someone who loved money above all else, not just a person who had money. The Bible describes “the love of money” as “the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10). Money is not evil or unseemly. Our Savior spurned only what the Bible called “greedy of filthy lucre” (I Timothy 3:8).
The Bible doesn’t expect us to become self-imposed paupers in order for us to live a God-centered life. But it does warn us against trusting “uncertain riches.” Durable riches alone are godly, for true wealth is spiritual. True wealth is golden. It never loses value or luster. It doesn’t come and go. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan’s offer of the world’s wealth held no allure for him (see Matthew 4:1-10). He was already rich beyond measure in the glory of God.
Whether our human needs are great or small, we can face them with confidence as they turn us to God’s always reliable and ready resources.