Does prayer help?
WHAT do you do when you're confronted with alarming pictures of violent and threatening events? Many people feel they would like to pray, but they don't always know quite how to set about it, and they may doubt whether prayer really helps anyway. How does prayer help? First, it helps us to change our thoughts about ourselves and others, to discern man as God's offspring, under His control. And this helps us to be more conscious of the ever-presence of God, both where we are and where the trouble seems to be. God is infinite Love, as we can learn from the Bible. The Scriptures also imply that He is Mind and Principle. So Love and its wisdom and law are everywhere to rebuke any semblance of lawlessness, mindlessness, or lovelessness. The Bible gives examples of prayer that starts with remembering God's presence and care instead of a particular predicament. The twenty-third Psalm is a good example. The Psalmist didn't plead with God to do more for him than He was already doing. Instead he quietly reminded himself of God's constant shepherding presence. In his book Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, Irving C. Tomlinson gives this impression of how the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science prayed on one occasion: ``While on duty at Chestnut Hill one evening, a member of the household unwittingly overheard Mrs. Eddy pray aloud. Her petition was scientific, orderly in procedure, and precise in choice of language. It contained no request for a special blessing for health, comfort, or prosperity for herself or her Cause, but was a beautiful declaration of the power of Spirit to bless all mankind. She affirmed that there was no lack of God's promises for His offspring, and declared God's presence, hourly and momentarily. Her audible declaration of the power of good recalled the truth that real prayer is at the very heart of Christian Science.'' 1 Is this approach a retreat into abstractions that leaves urgent problems un solved? Not at all. It relates to current circumstances by strengthening human thought and lifting it above its fears and doubts, its inhibitions, its inertia and indecisiveness, its stresses and strains, its hostilities and prejudices. Then one is prompted to know better what to think, say, and do to bring about right solutions. Human thought is more receptive to divine Mind's direction. Prayer certainly does enable us to cultivate a perception of God's presence. But for prayer to be truly effective, we need also to purify our thoughts and lives in the way taught by Christ Jesus. Then we're able to gain a clear sense of God's nature as infinite, ever-present Love and of man's relation to God as His image, reflecting Him in His wisdom and power. Mrs. Eddy writes: ``True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us. Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good. It makes new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power. It shows us more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all, it shows us what God is.'' 2 So prayer does help. Everyone who prays not only helps himself but others as well, because he brings more of God's power and love to bear on circumstances. 1 Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966), p. 203. 2 No and Yes, p. 39.