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Pray daily for yourself

From the April 1982 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Praying for yourself can be a daily joy. It's a bringer of inspiration and peace and a means of resolving problems. It's a necessity for spiritual growth and demonstration. Surely we need feel no reluctance to avail ourselves of this heavenly opportunity for refreshment and renewal.

People sometimes wonder, Is it selfish to pray for oneself? Not if the motive is to glorify and worship God, and to know how to truly bless others. The desire to express the nature of divine Truth and Love is unselfish, because it leads our thoughts away from self-centeredness and toward God. When we pray for increased ability to help and heal our fellowman, we are seeking our good in what we share with others. Divine Love answers such prayer.

Should we pray for material things? Consider Christ Jesus' counsel: "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." Matt. 6:31, 33.

The fruits of Christ Jesus' prayers were tangible and specific; they included healing, supply, and character reformation for others as well as his own triumph over death. Indeed, the Bible as a whole abounds in accounts of answered prayer—prayer resulting in protection, healing, deliverance from adversity, the resolving of conflicts.

The Master made plain that the very foundation of enlightened prayer is an acknowledgment of the all-power and goodness of God, and a recognition of the divinity of man's being— his inseparable relationship to the all-loving God. In Gethsemane his prayer included the humble petition: "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee....Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." John 17:1, 5.

In these simple words our Exemplar acknowledged unreservedly the fullness of God's being and glory. He acknowledged the real identity of man reflecting the divine nature. He affirmed man's purpose to bear witness to all that God is. From this we may conclude that correct identification of ourselves is essential in prayer for ourselves.

One may demur, "Am I worthy? I fall so far short!" Christ Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the publican gives the answer. The Master denounced the self-righteousness of the Pharisee, whose prayer was a self-preening recital of his personal virtues. But of the publican, who poured out his honest yearning for divine mercy and forgiveness of his sins, Jesus said: "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke 18:14.

Burdened with mortal suggestions of sinfulness, one may persist: But who am I to pray for myself? Wouldn't it be presumptuous?

On the contrary, isn't it presumptuous (the presumptuousness of the fleshly mind that is enmity against God) to insist that in our true nature we have a private mentality apart from infinite Mind, and a carnal nature contrary to the pure likeness of infinite Love? Man truly is made in the image of God, who is infinite Mind, Spirit, Life, Love.

Christ, Truth, has come to divest us of sin and its consequences by awakening us to our true sonship with God—an awakening whose inescapable demand upon us is to repent and reform, as well as to give God the glory.

We can draw a lesson here from Jesus' rich-in-meaning parable of the prodigal son. In direct repudiation of his original status, the son had left home and indulged in excesses and sins, wasting his own life and diminishing the good he might do for others. Nevertheless, when he finally decided in genuine repentance to go home—shorn of his interest in sinful living—he found his father already reaching out not just to welcome and love him but also to awaken him to his true status of sonship.

Divine Love's welcoming influence is ever at hand to make itself felt in our hearts and so in our lives. Love awaits only our receptive prayer of genuine repentance. Such prayer is the pathway to the understanding of God that heals and saves.

Some might ask, How shall we pray for ourselves? The basics are all given in Christ Jesus' teachings and example. The Christian Scientist finds them shown forth in practical detail and clarity throughout the writings of our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy. A good example is this moving paragraph:

"One thing I have greatly desired, and again earnestly request, namely, that Christian Scientists, here and elsewhere, pray daily for themselves; not verbally, nor on bended knee, but mentally, meekly, and importunately. When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone,—but more grace, obedience, and love. If this heart, humble and trustful, faithfully asks divine Love to feed it with the bread of heaven, health, holiness, it will be conformed to a fitness to receive the answer to its desire; then will flow into it the 'river of His pleasure,' the tributary of divine Love, and great growth in Christian Science will follow,—even that joy which finds one's own in another's good." Miscellaneous Writings, p. 127.

Through our Leader's writings we gain much light on what it means to identify ourselves correctly. We find the contrast clearly made between the mortal concept of man as subject to sickness, full of sin, soon to die, and the true spiritual man of God's creating. We learn how to reject as unreal the illusions of mortal sense, and to understand as real the glories of God's creation—including the immortality, purity, grandeur, and individuality of our own real being as His image and likeness.

To illustrate: We read in Science and Health, "The continual contemplation of existence as material and corporeal—as beginning and ending, and with birth, decay, and dissolution as its component stages—hides the true and spiritual Life, and causes our standard to trail in the dust." Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 550.

What to do about it? On another page we read: "We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives. Let unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love— the kingdom of heaven—reign within us, and sin, disease, and death will diminish until they finally disappear." Ibid., p. 248.

There is, of course, much more than can be mentioned here. If one were to look up all passages containing "daily" or "each day," he would find in Mrs. Eddy's writings a wealth of inspired guidance on how to pray spiritually, scientifically, specifically for oneself—all we could possibly need for systematic daily work, and much more than most of us have fully explored and consistently fulfilled.

Does it take time to pray for oneself? Frankly, yes; but such prayer uplifts our lives and speeds our progress both spiritually and in daily concerns. Taking time for quiet communion with God and systematic prayer is essential; but a good deal of praying for oneself can be done throughout the day's round—by reversing the suggestions of mortal sense with the truths of Science.

Faithfully praying for ourselves daily, we gain new and clearer glimpses of the nature of the real man reflecting God— our own real individuality. What could be more important than finding out what God is, and who and what we ourselves truly are?

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