PRAYER has always been a common denominator among the world's religions. And yet, varying widely between various faiths, prayer is also a personal form of worship that receives little publicity.
Some individuals today would acknowledge that prayer adds an awesome, spiritual dimension to their lives. I read in a local paper a while ago that one well-known financial forecaster, John M. Templeton, considers prayer the most important part of his longtime success.
Beyond words, prayer can be most meaningfully expressed in our lives-in good thoughts and good deeds. After all, striving to obey God's laws consistently would constitute a life of prayer, and His laws instruct us to do good to others. Even in business, where fear and pressure are often prevalent, and where prayer is not generally discussed, turning to God can be a powerful and practical help in solving problems.
Recently in my job I turned to prayer when facing a predicament. I needed to complete some important work by day's end, and found myself way behind schedule. I was desperate. The only alternative for me was to pray silently, while I still continued to work at the computer.
I knew I couldn't ask God to stop the clock or make the computer operate faster. I simply asked Him to show me what I should do, and I opened my thought and listened. Then a Bible verse from Job that I knew came to thought: ''Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace'' (22:21). Although comforted by this assurance of peace, I wondered how I could ''acquaint myself'' with God as quickly as necessary!
Nevertheless, I continued to listen for guidance, expectantly. My reward was in the recollection of another Bible verse I knew from my study of Christian Science. This one came from Second Timothy: ''God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind'' (1:7).
I thought about the message of this. It was helpful to realize that God is the source of power, love, and intelligence. Then I recognized that what God does not give is fear! My ''acquaintance'' with God and His goodness completely ended my panic, right then. And it wasn't surprising to me when I thought of a more efficient way to do the job. The solution was so simple that it made me laugh. And I completed the work on time.
That all took less than thirty minutes. But the truth from which my answer to prayer came is eternal: God is divine Spirit; He is not at the mercy of time. He is the only cause, and His man is not limited by fear and pressure.
Jesus taught how to pray. He prayed himself, the Bible says. The Lord's Prayer is named after him. And Jesus frequently counseled the people who sought his help not to be afraid, but to have faith. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written in 1875 by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, tells readers: ''Christian scientific practice begins with Christ's keynote of harmony, 'Be not afraid!' '' (p. 410). The first chapter of this book, interestingly, is entitled ''Prayer.''
Some might scoff at the effort to pray about a computer programming problem and say, ''Save your prayers for the 'big' problems.'' But you won't read in the Bible that Christ Jesus, whose life Christians are taught to follow, turned away a legitimate plea for help, big or small. Jesus knew God's unconditional love for man. Yes, through God's power he healed sin and disease and overcame death; but he also turned water into wine and directed his disciple Peter to find needed tax money in the mouth of a fish. Each such experience shows Jesus had compassion for his fellowman, and confirms his faith in God's power to bless and heal.
Comparatively speaking, prayer is like practicing a musical instrument; the more you practice, the better you get. You may not know what form answered prayer will take. But you can trust that your obedience to God will bring assurance, guidance, and practical results.
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.