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Prayer and Gratitude

RECENTLY on the front page of my local newspaper there was a picture of a soldier lying on top of his tank reading the Bible. He was waiting for a repair crew to come and fix the tank. The picture said a lot about reliance on God during times of strife. Perhaps people are looking more wholeheartedly to God because they're feeling a lack of control over their experience, or because fear is so great. Homelessness, high unemployment, recession, the war, have many worried about their futures, and a deeper desire to feel more of God's presence has naturally surfaced. Prayer is what enables us to feel His presence and the certainty of His care, and gratitude is a vital aspect of prayer. Whatever challenge we may face, the desire to live peacefully and secure ly is fulfilled as we turn to God with gratitude for the good He gives, for the harmony He constantly maintains in His spiritual likeness, man.

The Bible tells us that before Christ Jesus raised Lazarus from death he gave God thanks in these words: ``Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always.'' Jesus thanked God for answering his prayers before the restoration of Lazarus was apparent. Wasn't the Master's gratitude a powerful acknowledgment of God's supremacy and perfect, uninterrupted government of man? While the others were doubtful, Jesus was sure of God's willingness to maintain man's eternal harmon y. Gratitude is an indispensable element of prayer. It reflects an assurance that God is in control of His creation. Often our narrow vision of opportunities or success hinders our seeing God's hand in our experience. As we pray to see how God is protecting and guiding us, and as we thank Him for all He has already done, we'll see more good taking place, more of the harmony of genuine, spiritual life coming into view.

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Prayer is not only a realization of true being but the living of it. In other words, it's a striving to act in accord with what we know to be true of God and of our true selfhood in His likeness. If we're praying to be more loving, for example, and affirm the truth of our being as divine Love's pure image, we'll strive to be faithful to that truth in thought and action. Then we'll feel the support of divine law, and we'll find ourselves being more loving towards others.

Prayer is, simply put, seeking and finding. As we seek God and His goodness, seek to express more of His nature, we find Him ever present, omnipotent. We see His love expressed tangibly in our lives. Praying with gratitude for all that God is and has done, we find prayer becoming a shield. It's a shield because it enables us to feel God's protective care, and it excludes from our thought the fears that bud from lack of trust in God. Trusting God, spiritually knowing and understanding that He genuinely c ares for His idea, man, is to rely upon Him at every point in our experience and to prove His care.

Conforming our lives to the hopes and desires of our prayers is vital. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``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 ?''

Learning to live more consistently with our prayers makes a difference -- for us, and for humanity. It enables us to demonstrate the healing effect of communion with our creator and of gratitude for all that He is and does.

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