August 25, 2013
Have you ever noticed how a feather duster doesn’t really pick up the dust – it just sort of redistributes it? Seems to look good short-term, but once the dust settles you either need to do it again right away or give up and live with it. Real dusting requires some elbow grease.
Prayers can be like that too: either they just sort of move things around a little bit, without really getting at the issue to deal with it. Or they confront it head on and wipe the trouble away.
In the Bible book of Luke, Jesus tell the story of two pray-ers: one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee’s prayer is grandiose, wordy – and made for his fellow-man to hear. Jesus says that he “prayed to himself.” The publican, on the other hand, speaks only to God, asking for mercy. Jesus approves of this latter prayer. (see Luke 18:10-14)
Does this mean that praying out loud is self-centered while praying silently is more godlike? No. Of course not. But audible prayer can sometimes be more about impressing those around us rather than gaining peace or spiritual insight.
Mary Baker Eddy gave a simple explanation of effective prayer when she wrote, “what we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.” (see Science and Health page 4) This kind of prayer, she explained, more accurately follows Jesus’ commandments, one of which is to love each other.
Both Jesus’ and Eddy’s point is that prayer is not just for making us feel good about ourselves – a feather duster prayer – but for the deeper task of healing our own and others’ lives, and improving our communities and the world.
This kind of prayer is practical and possible, right here.
Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.