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Multiple-Choice Prayers?

WHEN I was in school we used to have multiple-choice tests in which the answer to the problem was selected from among several options. I was reminded of these tests one day when I was praying to gain an answer to a career decision. I had thought I was endeavoring to pray as Luke records Christ Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane: ``Not my will, but thine, be done.'' Suddenly it occurred to me that I had really only been willing to do any one of a number of things, so that my prayer was in a ``multiple-choice'' form: I was offering God a list of acceptable possibilities and then asking Him to indicate the right answer. Clearly this was not the kind of praying Jesus had done.

The Master had been faced with substantial evidence that obedience to God would be harmful to him. But in spite of this material evidence, Jesus chose to trust his spiritual sense, which told him that God's will for man is always good. Jesus prayed to see the present perfection of being, and his unswerving willingness to be obedient to God's good law resulted in his resurrection and ascension. He also blessed an entire world with his example of the way we are to work out our individual salvation.

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Jesus was not just being a willing martyr, he was subduing the false sense of a fleshly identity in order to express, or reflect, his genuine spiritual identity as the child of God. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, says of Christ Jesus in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``When the human element in him struggled with the divine, our great Teacher said: `Not my will, but Thine, be done!' -- that is, Let not the flesh, but the Spirit, be represented in me.''

Man's spiritual identity, the true identity of each of us, is united with God and is therefore indestructible, perfect, immortal, eternal, complete. When we understand this spiritual selfhood to be our real selfhood, we cannot be at the mercy of any material circumstances, hatred, disease, or disaster any more than God, the source of our being, can.

I began to realize that it is only the limited mortal sense of identity that would attempt to pray a multiple-choice prayer. If I am trying to follow my personal agenda or using God to fix things, I haven't really understood that God's will for man is infinitely good. I saw that for me to follow Jesus' example, my prayer needed to dig deeper than the multiple-choice, outlined sense of happiness that would self-righteously applaud itself for giving the appearance of humbly allowing God to make the final choice. I needed to yield entirely to God's perfect will, to the facts of harmonious, spiritual being.

In the career decision I was faced with, it became apparent that I needed to ``let not the flesh, but the Spirit, be represented in me.'' I needed to stop thinking that I directed my life and instead be obedient to God's direction. As I did this, I became conscious of a joy that had nothing to do with the outcome of my decision about a career path. I felt at peace, close to God and knowing that He was loving and caring for me, my family, and for the whole world.

The path that I followed for my career was not even among the options on my multiple-choice list. In fact it was one that I had specifically ruled out. But the praying I had done enabled me to embrace this path with trust that God's will is always good. And the years since then have brought more progress than any of the plans I had made for myself would have. And it has blessed my family and community in many ways as well!

We don't need to hedge our bets with God. We never need to help Him find suitable opportunities, solutions, or steps of progress. He is the one unerring, omnipotent Mind and governs each of His children perfectly. The Bible reminds us, ``He is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.'' As our prayers more nearly pattern the unselfed prayers of Christ Jesus, they won't be multiple-choice prayers. And we will discover that God's unlimited goodness will increasingly guide our steps of progress.


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When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be ye not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Matthew 6:7-13

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