The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer. Its motives are made manifest in the blessings they bring,—blessings which, even if not acknowledged in audible words, attest our worthiness to be partakers of Love.
Multitudes followed Christ Jesus for the good news that the kingdom of God is right here, now. But as soon as they learned that there was a cross to be taken up in following him, all mere “groupies”—those there only for the good words, free food, and maybe even a “free ride”—were out of there!
So Christianity is not without its demands. And, at first, these demands can seem daunting. For instance, to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, New International Version) includes every single thought, doesn’t it? And “Pray[ing] without ceasing” ( First Thessalonians 5:17) means 24/7. I have a way to go on both of these, but here’s something I’m learning more every day.
The God whose love enters our hearts and minds, giving us beautiful, solid, sound, healing glimpses of His almighty love, is the same God who shows us His demands are doable, and how to do them! He who demands our affection, strength, and obedience also supplies them. Isn’t our love for and loyalty to God really His love for us reflected back?
For years whenever I heard or read the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “Pray without ceasing,” I’d smile a smirky smile and think that was a nice goal but that only someone who has nothing else to do could possibly do that. Yet it kept turning up again and again in my study of Christian Science. Finally, I realized it must be important—and, if so, it must be doable. But God would have to show me how.
The very next week, the passage “Pray without ceasing” was in the Christian Science Bible Lesson. That Lesson also included Jesus’ instruction to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). That one, too, seemed un-doable for me, a wife and mom (a good part of whose day included preparing three meals and laundering, mending, and buying clothes for two growing kids and my husband). But I was willing to give it my best, since I’d seen evidence of God’s constant, consistent, invariable love many times before in my life.
As the week progressed, I began to see that prayer “without ceasing” is doable, and the way to do it was beginning to open. Here’s how it came about.
First, as I began my early morning prayer each day, turning to God wholeheartedly and listening for His thoughts coming to me, I began to see this as going to a fountain for “living waters,” truths to live by and drink from all day. In a big way, it seemed to me, “praying without ceasing” meant holding on to those God-thoughts that had spoken to me that morning, and being ready with them (vital truths, every one!) right when and where things tried to overwhelm me.
A day or two later, I came across a paragraph by Mary Baker Eddy in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 that includes these words: “Pray without ceasing.” And the paragraph ends with “Forget not for a moment, that God is All-in-all—therefore, that in reality there is but one cause and effect” ( pp. 154–155). Forgetting not for a moment that God is All-in-all surely would constitute praying without ceasing, I reasoned, and would keep my thought focused on the great truth that God is both cause and effect. Since He is Love, only loveliness, lovingness, and lovedness are real.
From then on, I began striving to do exactly that. I saw each day’s happenings as my laboratory. Over the next few months, there were three events that took every ounce of “stick-to-it-iveness” I could muster, but it was good practice.
He who demands our affection, strength, and obedience also supplies them.
First, a measles epidemic threatened at school. Parents and kids were frightened, some angry. What encouraged me to help were these words by Mary Baker Eddy: “At a time of contagious disease, Christian Scientists endeavor to rise in consciousness to the true sense of the omnipotence of Life, Truth, and Love, and this great fact in Christian Science realized will stop a contagion” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 116). It made sense to me that God’s All-in-allness certainly couldn’t include or allow dis-ease of any kind; and based on that great fact, I understood that in spite of how real disease can seem, in fact there is no disease. I stayed firmly with this idea. Having witnessed as a child a mirage (water appearing across the street when we were in the midst of a drought), I understood the deceptiveness of the material senses. There was not one more case of measles, despite the dire predictions.
Later, a tornado cut a swath not far from where we lived, but no one was hurt. Mothers were mobilizing a field trip, taking their kids to view the devastation to help them respect tornadoes. Such a trip, it was certain to me, would not aid my knowing the All-in-allness of God, which must include the indestructibility of all that is real and substantial. Instead of joining this expedition, my kids and I stayed home to acknowledge God’s goodness and His control of all His children. Within a few months every single one of the houses that had been destroyed was rebuilt; and in the meantime, the families affected were lovingly provided for by neighbors and friends. “It brought us all closer together,” they were quoted as saying on the TV news. I feel certain that our prayers contributed in some way to this outcome.
And then, our mailman, Joe, a wonderful man with eight children, was killed by a train. This was the hardest of all for me. But I stuck like super glue to the truth of God’s allness, which had to include no death and no loss of good. While I did understand that Joe was as alive as when I had last seen him—since God is his Life—what tugged at my heartstrings was the picture of that precious family without a dad or husband.
Sticking with God’s onliness all day long, I began to see clearly that the family would always have all the good they shared, and that God—not a person—is the provider of all good. God would “lift the shade of gloom” (Mary Baker Eddy, Poems, p. 75) and replace it with new, tangible expressions of His continuous goodness. The family was abundantly cared for, the children blossomed, and the mother started a prosperous cottage industry and later remarried.
Meanwhile, I was grateful for the progress I was making in learning that I can “pray without ceasing.” As for the “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or put on” part, yes, of course, I still had meal- and clothes-tending duties, but things were different now. The time I spent doing them became even more productive because I used that time to ponder God’s All-in-allness more deeply. Multi-tasking? Yes. And praying without ceasing.
I’m still improving in this area, but a line from Hymn No. 324 is a big help: “Take my moments and my days, / Let them flow in ceaseless praise” (Frances R. Havergal, adapted, Christian Science Hymnal). It keeps reminding me how.