Some think of praying in terms of reciting specific prayers. But others also see it as a constant effort to experience God no matter what we’re doing.
That small distinction of perspective brings such a powerfully transforming element to prayer. When we see prayer as a tangible experience, rather than only a repetition of words, we realize how deep and healing it can be. Prayer that springs from a spiritual understanding of God’s inspired message, felt and honored, truly helps and heals. Christ Jesus realized this and lovingly instructed his followers, “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7).
Words, whether said aloud or mentally, certainly can be a good starting point for prayer. Yet we don’t need to stop praying once we’ve reached the end of a sentence. We can always go deeper, yearning to feel and love the meaning behind the words, and then bringing them alive through our actions. The Bible describes this approach in a beautiful way: “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:25, New Living Translation).
How do we do this? If you’ve ever taken a lesson in sports or some other kind of endeavor, you know what it’s like to hear a coach’s words and directions. Then you have to consider those words for a moment and really think about what they actually mean. Next you have to release, or abandon, what you had been thinking and doing previously, and make a change in your mechanics and motions. You have to put the words into practice until they become second nature. A musician once said to me: “My playing doesn’t get any better if I sit down at the piano and just look at the keys. It’s the daily practice that matters. When I play something wrong, I work to correct it. If necessary, I go to my music teacher and ask for guidance about how to do it right.”
Responding to divine coaching, so to speak, works in a similar way. God, divine Spirit, is communicating His love to each of us at every moment. The question is, Are we listening for God’s guidance and letting it lead us? “We have it only as we live it,” counsels Mary Baker Eddy, referring to divine Science in her book The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (p. 126). To “live it” is to immerse ourselves in an inspired truth—not just intellectually, scholastically, or mechanically, but with all our being, with all our heart. It’s to have that truth leading everything that we say and feel. It is to have it color our attitude and outlook. As God’s spiritual creation, which is our actual identity as God’s reflection, it’s natural for us to do this—and to then see it make a difference in our experience.
Here is an example. One day, I remembered a person from my past. I hadn’t thought of this person for a long time, but I realized that he was someone toward whom I still held a grudge. To have that uncovered surprised me because I really thought that I carried no grudges.
As I prayed about this, I came to see that I had to love and forgive this man, but it was hard. Then, in my heart, I felt that I heard God say, “Keep it simple and just behold Me loving that person.”
Each day, we all have opportunities to “walk the talk.”
Wow. That idea was so helpful. God knows us as we truly are, spiritual and good, and His powerful love dissolves resentment and whatever else would hinder progress. I saw that now I had the opportunity to take a fuller approach to prayer and actually experience something of God’s love for that person.
Over the next couple of weeks, I often paused during my day just to behold God’s deep and constant love for that individual. By the second week, a wonderful thing was happening. I started feeling a spiritual love for that individual, too! What a blessing all around. Ultimately I was healed; the grudge evaporated.
Each day, we all have opportunities to “walk the talk,” so that our lives illustrate what we are professing in prayer. I like to think of life as sort of a big classroom where we can apply the spiritual lessons we are learning, even when it’s hard, and really strive to live what is true and right. Often it may seem like the same lessons, in different ways and under various circumstances. Each time we can discover more deeply the inspiration that brings solutions and growth. There’s an account recorded in the book We Knew Mary Baker Eddy of Mrs. Eddy encouraging her household workers at a time when their prayerful work didn’t seem effective; she apparently said something along the lines of: “Never become discouraged, dear ones. This work is not humdrum, it is growth. It is repeating and defeating, repeating and defeating, repeating and defeating” (Expanded Edition, Volume I, p. 263).
We can look to God, divine Truth, to teach and show us the right path. It’s not a question of mindlessly repeating words or mechanically doing good deeds, but of desiring to learn more about God and about our true nature and, yes, “following the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Seeing that path is the answer to prayer, and then, through our thoughts and actions, we take our first steps, walking forward along it.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
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