In the Bible is found the instruction "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:31, 33).
While it is true that Christ Jesus, the man who said this, promised his followers abundant lives, he at the same time called them to focus on putting first things first. He made it clear that even necessary things such as eating, drinking, and being clothed were not those "first things." At another time he said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
By definition an added thing cannot even exist unless it is combined with something else preceding it. That "something else" is the primary need. The joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction that we seek in life are what follow from being true to God. The Bible also assures in Proverbs, "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it" (10:22).
What about those times when sorrow, trouble, or illness of some kind is our dominant concern? A problem of health, of human relationship, or of financial debt may seem more critical to well-being than God's kingdom or our own righteousness. Then prayers may become pleadings for answers to these needs, rather than searches to find God's kingdom or to express His righteousness.
Once, I came to find that another desire was taking over my priorities. I was getting ready to build a house-a dream I had had for years. Gradually this project began to absorb most of my thoughts and interest. I sought God's direction, but my fascination with the physical aspects of my new home nearly became an obsession. I lost sight of the fact that the joy of a home is not primarily in its layout, window placements, wallpaper, furniture, etc. It is in knowing that our real home is in God. Spiritual qualities such as order, warmth, love, wisdom, peace, and beauty-these are the real substance of home. These were the "first things" I needed to seek and cherish.
In time I did recognize this. It was when a physical difficulty halted me in my tracks. At that point I saw that the need for physical healing made it essential for me to give prayer precedence over everything, including my interest in the house-building. In my prayer I realized that even physical healing is one of those "added things" Jesus mentioned. What I needed most of all was to know God better and to express Him in the way He would have me do, every moment.
It was refreshing to get back to an interest in learning about God's laws, which had served me so well for so long. In spite of my pain and debilitation, I felt a profound desire to get my priorities straight and keep them straight. I felt I was "coming home" in a higher sense. I knew that physical healing would be included.
It was. And the house-building also became more productive. Whereas I had been rushing around with little thought for God's presence in it all, I stopped, set aside a time to know first my real home, my spiritual dwelling place. I gained a clear view of it as what Psalms calls "the house of the Lord" (23:6), and what the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, termed "the consciousness of Love" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 578).
We all really dwell in consciousness. Seeking first to improve this dwelling-our thoughts-we're blessed. A nicer home, a physical healing, income equal to expenses, a worthy occupation, a marriage, or whatever we need, is added when we get our priorities straight.
It is strange that often we must let go of the thing we most desire before we find that thing. Is there some pressing desire in your life at this moment? Perhaps your answer is to seek first to know who God is and how you relate to Him. Don't be surprised if, after doing this, you find that the thing that had appeared as your most urgent need is added.
You can find more articles discussing prayer in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.