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For simpler prayer

I sometimes make things more complicated than they actually are: small repair jobs around the house, tasks at the office, even prayer. In fact, especially prayer. Investing prayer with an artificial layer of complexity and detail rarely enhances its effectiveness and is far more likely to sap it of power.

The Bible, particularly the portion dealing with the life and works of Christ Jesus, is filled with examples of decisive healing brought about by a simple but genuine turning to God. While true prayer is never superficial, it can be quite simple; it can include just a trust in God, divine Love, and an acknowledgment of His healing presence. The book of Proverbs says, ''Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.'' n1 That advice, heeded , would keep our prayers from being sidetracked onto worthless detours.

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n1 Proverbs 3:5.

The Bible, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy n2 - a book that makes plain the spiritual meaning of the Bible - guide us along the path of understandingly placing our trust in God. Together, they relay the absolute truth of perfect God and perfect creation, excluding illness or evil of any kind. And they show us how to apply this truth to daily challenges.

n2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

When I base my prayers on spiritual truths that are illustrated in the Bible and explained in Science and Health, I do fine. But I run into trouble when I lean on my own understanding - that is, when I complicate things in an egotistical effort to make prayer work the way I want it to.

I had a lesson a while back, though, that has served as a useful reminder. I was living in Oregon with some wonderful people and their wonderful dog, Lad. I had come down with a bad case of the flu. Now, I am a Christian Scientist and have many times experienced healing through turning to God. So it was natural for me to pray at this time. Determined to knock this illness out, I soon had surrounded myself in bed with Bibles, Concordances, a copy of Science and Health , Christian Science magazines with helpful religious articles, and so on. I sternly marched myself through page after page with grim resolve, missing entirely the inspiration that naturally flows as we acknowledge and understand God as Love and man as Love's image. In other words, missing one of the most basic points of what I was reading!

In forty-five minutes I was sicker than when I had started. Then Lad, who had been lying near the foot of my bed this whole time, got up, came over to me, and licked me all over the face. I laughed out loud. Here was evidence of the very love I was looking so hard for. And it had been present all along.

Inspired by a sense of God's tender, omnipresent love, I found that in a matter of a few seconds every symptom of the flu had vanished. It was an instantaneous healing. The illness, never a part of God's plan or creation in the first place, could not possibly remain in the face of His presence and power realized. I hopped out of bed and for the sheer joy of it went for a run with Lad. When I returned to the room, still full of joy, I faced the largest task, which was putting away all those books and periodicals and making the bed!

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Now, don't get me wrong. It wasn't the dog that healed me. He was just expressing love, and that had reminded me of the healing presence of God. ''Divine Love is your ever-present help,'' n3 says Mrs. Eddy. And please don't think I've stopped reading my Bible or Science and Health. I read them more than ever. Only now I endeavor to see the inspiration and light of immortal Love shining through the words - instead of imposing my own brand of intellectualism on them. The prayer that results from such study is marked by simplicity but not superficiality. And it is more effective.

n3 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 295.

I sometimes still neglect the lesson I learned: that divine Love is always present to help, and my need is to simply turn to God, to understandingly trust in Love. But I'm getting better at heeding the lesson. And each time I do, I learn anew that God does not let us down. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward . . . . Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified. Psalms 40:5, 16

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