Prayer – “We Shall Overcome”

“…when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

– Matthew 6

“God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love… God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more?”

– Mary Baker Eddy

 ***

I know there’s some concern about prayer in school. Some folks are concerned about prayer being taken out of school. Some are concerned about prayer being put in school.

Me? Well, I guess I’m concerned about what kind of prayer we’re talking about here, and who, exactly, would be leading these school prayers. Would this be a prayer the students have to recite out loud? Which religious group’s beliefs would be represented in this prayer? And which god or power would our students be praying to, specifically?

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’”  Those prayers that are silent, private, heart-felt, and unspoken – within our mental “closet” – are always available to us. No one can stop us from praying silently. That kind of prayer can never be kept out of our schools. It doesn’t infringe on the conscience or beliefs of other students, doesn’t force anyone else to join in, and doesn’t distract from lessons and learning.

For me, prayer means bringing my thoughts close to the heart of Love and Truth – bringing myself, mentally, into harmony with all that is Good. It doesn’t involve pleading, cajoling, or begging some capricious anthropomorphic being to fix all my problems for me. It doesn’t involve me imposing on some finite god’s time or energies. For me God is, literally, Love –  and it’s not at all an imposition on Love to be Love, or on Truth to be Truth.

Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of mathematics to solve the problem? The rule is already established, and it is our task to work out the solution. Shall we ask the divine Principle of all goodness to do His own work? His work is done, and we have only to avail ourselves of God’s rule in order to receive His blessing, which enables us to work out our own salvation.” God’s work is done. And it’s perfect and beautiful and whole. It’s our responsibility to open our thoughts to Good, to enable our thoughts to be receptive to it.

What, exactly, are we praying for? Mary Baker Eddy asks us, “What are the motives for prayer? Do we pray to make ourselves better or to benefit those who hear us, to enlighten the infinite or to be heard of men?” Are we praying for material gifts, for money or material wealth, or status or power? Are we praying to look pious to other people, or are we praying to become better expressions of Good?

“What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds,” writes Eddy.

For me, prayer starts with gratitude – a recognition of, and appreciation for, all the good in my life.

“Are we grateful for the good already received?” Eddy asks.  “Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.”

I once sent out an invitation to the folks in my community to join me for  a sharing-of-good-thoughts meeting. I was joined by an atheist, a Buddhist, a couple of Methodists, and several Catholics – all there to share their healing, inspirational thoughts. At the end of our meeting we joined hands and shared in a moment of silence together.  That moment of silence was really powerful. I felt something there – a feeling of communal support and confidence and courage. After our moment of silence we sang that wonderful old anthem of the Civil Rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.” There was hope in those words, and a feeling of surety of the power of Good and Love.

That is what I call powerful Prayer.

“We are not afraid

We are not afraid

We are not afraid today.

Oh, deep in my heart I know it’s true

we shall overcome some day.”

–      derived from lyrics by Charles Tindley

Behold, a youtube of the great Joan Baez:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yId_ABmtw-w

“‘God is Love.’ More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.” – Mary Baker Eddy

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