Embraced by a prayer

A Christian Science perspective.

Like most people, I find it can be easy to react emotionally to negative situations, either in my personal life or in the world at large. Through experience, however, I have found that such reactions are rarely useful, to say the least. What works better for me is to pause and step back mentally to consider and ponder spiritual ideas that get at the root of the human need. These ideas have a powerful effect on me. They quiet my emotions, enable me to think with unbiased clarity, and give me confidence that praying with these ideas will have a healing effect. 

A veritable treasure chest of healing ideas is discoverable in the prayer Jesus Christ gave to his disciples when they asked him how to pray. Though this prayer, commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, is generally thought of as a Christian prayer, the ideas in it are universal. The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, referred to it as “that prayer which covers all human needs,” and she even gave a line-by-line spiritual interpretation of it to help people mine its treasures (see “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 16-17).

There are many different translations of Jesus’ prayer, and people often prefer a translation they are most familiar with, particularly one that is used in congregational prayer or in other public settings. I especially love the King James Version of the Bible’s rendition, along with Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual interpretation, but I also find other Bible translations of the prayer useful in uncovering its multifaceted ideas. This version from The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, by J.B. Phillips, for example, gets smoothly and directly to the heart of the prayer:

“Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honoured; May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us each day the bread we need for the day, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).

The prayer, of course, is addressed to God. So fundamentally it gives one an opportunity to think deeply about the nature of God as the divine Parent, including the way He meets the daily spiritual and human needs of His sons and daughters, forgives us and expects us to forgive, steers His children – each of us – away from temptation, and saves them from all manner of evil. But lately I’ve become especially engaged in considering what makes this prayer universally applicable – its use of “our,” “us,” and “we,” instead of “my,” “me,” and “I.”

I realize that the use of those pronouns is not simply to make the prayer a better fit for congregational prayer. To me it is God’s demand on me to honor Him by nurturing a genuine desire for His blessings to be bestowed on everyone everywhere.

At present, I am just beginning to mine the treasures indicated in the opening word, “Our.” Right there it says that God is the heavenly Parent of everyone, and that we need to honor God’s nature by honoring each one of His children as made in His image, reflecting His pure and perfect nature as divine Love, Life, and Truth. So when I think of family members and neighbors – as well as world leaders and people reported in the news (and their families) – as having been involved in some kind of disaster, and even those involved in criminal actions, I need to consciously include them and desire for them the same blessings I desire for myself.

Opening the treasure chest of spiritual ideas in the Lord’s Prayer is a grand adventure. It’s also quite a demand to regularly and consciously broaden one’s embrace of others close by and those near in one’s thoughts, seeing them as God’s dear children and knowing that they are placed in His care and guidance. But the more I welcome this demand and let it guide my thoughts and prayers, the more joy I feel. What greater blessing could you feel than to know that God is meeting others’ needs while He is meeting your own.

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