Have you ever wanted something so much that you detailed it in your prayers so God could get it exactly right? You should know about the endearing story of a little girl who prayed for a pony. When someone commiserated with her about her prayers not being answered, she said, “Oh, but God did answer. He said, ‘No.’ ”
Once, as I watched a much-desired, detailed plan fizzle out and fall apart, one on which I’d spent much time and effort, I felt all my work had been in vain. I had to remind myself of the humility and innocence of that little girl.
Listening is a very good way to pray.
When I called my daughter and almost whined into the phone, “I really wanted that project to work,” her response startled me. Now, my daughter is not a cold person. But, to make a point, she offered this: “Who cares what you want?” She went on to say that I’d always taught her to ask what God wanted her to do. I was reminded that my favorite author, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,“That which we desire and for which we ask, it is not always best for us to receive” (p. 10).
Although I didn’t like my daughter’s answer at first, she was right. Of course our prayer should be to serve God, and mankind, in whatever way He outlines for us. We don’t outline a course of action for God, telling God how to do His work. Instead, we should listen for God’s guidance. Listening is an important way to pray.
Christian Science teaches us about seven Bible-based synonyms for God, found in Science and Health. They are: Principle, Soul, Life, Spirit, Truth, Love, Mind—each one bringing out specific aspects of God’s nature, which you and I express as the spiritual reflection of our creator.
When we need answers, or direction, in our lives, we can listen to divine Mind. Mind, God, guides us, as we listen with heartfelt desire to know how to go forward, what to do or say, and how to take the correct steps in our day-to-day lives. God, the loving Maker of His idea, man, created us, protects us, guides us, and cares for us. God unfolds what is best for us, cares for each one’s needs, and fulfills all right desires.
The textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health, says on page 1, “Desire is prayer …” and says elsewhere, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (p. 4).
Growth in grace … is that really what’s most needed? How about a car that starts every time? Or peace at work? Or finding a girlfriend or boyfriend to spend time with? Or passing that math test? Those are not wrong desires. And yet, as we desire grace, fervently, we cultivate spiritual qualities and find joy in expressing them. This enables us to keep our human desires subordinate to our trust in God. As we trust God, we begin to see how precisely and appropriately the right things come about in our human experience. And how things that are not right don’t … like the wished-for pony!
On Sunday mornings, in my local branch Church of Christ, Scientist, I like to ponder two statements written on the wall of my church. One is from the Bible: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The other is from Science and Health: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). My job, I’m learning, is to do what the Bible statement says, to know that truth! To know that God, or Life and Love, is all around, ever present, and is caring for me. To understand, trust, and lean on God. That’s my job. Because, yes, God does know what we need.