Affection as Prayer
MOST people surely appreciate and acknowledge the importance of human affection. But there is a higher and purer affection that can actually be prayer. This spiritual affection is God's love expressed by man. And because this affection has God, divine Love, as its source, it can relieve and remove physical suffering as well as mental anguish.
Jesus' followers witnessed the immediacy and fullness of his prayers. He healed the blind, the lame, the insane, the greedy, as well as lepers and adulterers, and even restored to life those who had died. He exemplified the healing power of divine affection. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says of Christ Jesus in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Out of the amplitude of his pure affection, he defined Love."
When we pray, ``Give us this day our daily bread," from the Lord's Prayer (found in the Bible in Matthew's Gospel), we acknowledge our need for spiritual nourishment. Taking in God's love, we are nourished by it. This enables us to love others with holy affection. Science and Health gives the spiritual sense of this line of the Lord's Prayer in these words: ``Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections" . . . . The broad applicability and availability of this prayer to all mankind is an import ant aspect of its powerful effect.
When we confront pain or illness, injury or disease, we may at first look upon prayer as a pleading with God to take away the discomfort. Affection may be the farthest thing from our thought. However, a close look at Christ Jesus' way of praying shows us how important affection that is based on divine Love is. Prayer for grace, for a more spiritual affection, enables us to express to some degree the divine, unchanging, perfect Love that actually is God. This affection goes far beyond mere human kindness,
a human effort to be good, or a plea for mercy. It reforms and transforms us. Accepting divine Love as Parent, we acknowledge our own capacity for pure affection. The infinite impartiality of God, divine Love, does feed ``the famished affections," which is always our most urgent need. During this process of redemption we are sustained, comforted, and healed.
Some years ago, during the night, our son, then seven years old, cried out in pain, complaining of a severe earache. When I went to his bedside to comfort him and pray with him, he exclaimed, ``I can't pray. It hurts too much." Instinctively, I knew that his help was close at hand, and that it came from God, Love. But at first my sympathy for him seemed to paralyze my ability to help. Then I prayed with this question in my heart: ``Can I love this child even more than I already do?"
The answer came, but not in words. It came in a feeling of being filled up with a universal love that was spiritual. It included me and all mankind, as well as my son. I turned completely toward a full affirmation that God is Love, as the Bible assures us. The only love that exists at all, anywhere, comes from God. And God, divine Love, is everybody's Mother and Father. My child and I could never be left out of God's love or separated, even for a moment, from it. The boy was crying loudly, so my mental a ffirmations were accompanied by the tenderest affection for him. I also asserted, with grateful conviction that because we were both the actual likeness of God, we must include love, not merely be recipients of it.
The child's pain subsided in response to this earnest prayer. And I gained a quiet assurance that all of us are really in the presence of Almighty God, Spirit. We are formed by His power and express His glory, wholeness, peace, and perfection. God is the Parent who nurtures and maintains, protects and guides everyone. I felt a deep assurance that my vigorous prayer to meet my own child's dire need truly must be reaching out to bless the world, as well.
That night with my young son, the affection in my heart was unlimited and spiritual. Not only did it reach beyond the walls of my home, it embraced a concept of God as truly infinite, filling all space. It filled me. It filled my son. It seemed to me that it filled the world and was absolutely available to everyone. In a short time my boy fell peacefully to sleep. I think I must have been smiling--not only for his peace and comfort but for the conviction of God's presence that I had gained, and for what I had learned about loving others. He woke the next morning a comfortable, happy, and grateful child, and he attended school as usual.
Later I noticed this passage by Mrs. Eddy, in a little work entitled No and Yes, that well describes my nighttime prayer: ``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 a ll, it shows us what God is."
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:1, 2