To save time when I was on the road, I once headed for a car ferry without knowing the schedule in advance. When I got there the line was very long and it was obvious that only a few cars would be able to get on board. But I got in line anyway.
Accustomed to praying in situations like this, I said rather mechanically, “God takes care of me.” But I wasn’t really happy with that prayer. It wasn’t too comforting. It seemed unfair to ask God to help me and not the others. They wanted to get on the boat just as much as I did. And they were there first.
My next prayer was more thoughtful: “God takes care of all of us, including me.” The selflessness of that prayer inspired me and was truly comforting. Just then the woman in charge came up to me in line and said that a little car was needed to fit in a small space so that other cars could be properly arranged on the boat.
She jockeyed my car into position, and then proceeded to drive nearly all the others on board. As we took off across the water it was very chilly, but I was so grateful I hardly noticed the cold. And I loved seeing the sparkling city lights in the distance.
Unselfishness is essential to effective prayer because the God who answers prayer is infinite divine Love itself. When the heart is in tune with Love, God, it is in line to receive Love’s blessings.
Christ Jesus has given us a key to effective prayer in the very first word of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the word “our.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” “Our” includes others and thinks of others. Thinking of “our” opens thought to the universal blessings of infinite Love (Matthew 6:9).
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: “The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer?” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 9).
We might say that one key to prayer is the “our” of prayer. Absolute trust in God and expectancy of good are also important elements. Prayer becomes a vital healing force when these fundamentals combine.
Even though we are not personally responsible for the salvation of others, unselfishness in our prayers is important because it means we are willing to have all blessed, not just ourselves. Unselfishness opens thought to recognize the unconditional and unlimited nature of divine Love. It enables us to discern that man’s true selfhood is the very outcome of Love, the constant recipient of His blessings.
I learned a good lesson that night as I boarded the car ferry, and I haven’t forgotten it.
Even if our prayer for help seems unique and totally individual we can practice the “our” of prayer. We can know that God’s blessing is available to all His children, including us. And selfless love comes right back to us in full measure, because in expressing it we are aligning ourselves with the unconditional, universal, healing love of God Himself.
Reprinted from the June 3, 1983, issue of The Christian Science Monitor.