The other day my daughter came home from school and told me that her science teacher had said that if we didn't have the stresses of modern life, we could be living twice as long as we do.
I don't know what the other sixth-graders thought about that, but my daughter was impressed. I also don't know how to check the facts of her teacher's assertion, but just a glance at television and the newspapers shows that stress affects a lot of people.
Some of the stress comes from the pressure of professional deadlines that seem to have less and less lead time every year. Newspaper columnists complain of the downside of instant communications that cellphones, e-mail, and pagers have given us, so that the "office leash" is shorter and shorter.
For commuters, avoiding other motorists gripped with road rage means running a gantlet twice a day. All these conditions of life today seem to be accumulating stress upon stress.
At first glance, prayer might not seem to be an effective defense against stress. But getting quiet with God, forcing ourselves to move up and out of the frenzied pace of modern life, does have a calming and healing effect.
The kind of quietness I mean is not being quiet for the sake of quietness, but a communing with the all-loving source of our being, God. Prayer that affirms our identity as God's creation quiets fear. In my own times of stress – when, for example, it's apparent that maybe I made a bad judgment call and that there are negative ramifications I hadn't considered – I have found that a few minutes of prayer bring me calm, and often an idea for a solution appears.
In my prayers, I start with acknowledging God as the only power. Because God is infinite, there isn't room for a counteracting force. I know that God created me and that everyone around me is also a child of God. I acknowledge that God is in control, and that He is unfolding His plan. When it feels as if I'm up against a brick wall or confronted with hostility, I know that God's plan doesn't involve despair.
In her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote, "Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it" (p. 2).
Bringing me into harmony with God's plan is what this is all about.
This getting out of myself and subsequent identification with the Science of being is what brings me calm. As I trust more in God, I feel more secure in my daily life. This strengthened trust in God has always brought me to a greater feeling of gratitude to God for His care.
Recently I found a biblical passage in which God charges us, "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God" (Deut. 18:13). A noted Bible scholar has translated this as "You shall be wholehearted with the Lord your God" ("The Five Books of Moses," Robert Alter).
Wholehearted – what a great thought. We are completely resting in God's care, trusting in His goodness to lead us through the thickets and swamps of contemporary life. We can have no fear and no doubts when we have this wholehearted quality of love for God. That eliminates stress.
He maketh the storm a calm,
so that the waves thereof