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"Ask, and it shall be given you"
JOHN ELLIS SEDMAN

 
         Frequently the question is asked: Do Christian Scientists use petitions when they pray, or do they rely entirely upon denials of error and affirmations of truth? In answer, it may be said that Christian Scientists unqualifiedly accept Christ Jesus as their Way-shower and Exemplar in all things; and the great Master proclaimed in unmistakable terms the importance which he attached to the right kind of petitions. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus not only said, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," but also, "Ask, and it shall be given you."

         Christian Science makes plain the fact that since God is perfect, it is impossible for Him to change or to be changed. God is always sustaining and governing His creation aright; and since He knows all that can be known, He needs no information or advice. But so-called human minds and lives need to be transformed by the divine power. On page 360 of "Miscellaneous Writings" Mrs. Eddy writes, "Human lives are yet uncarved, — in the rough marble, encumbered with crude, rude fragments, and awaiting the hammering, chiselling, and transfiguration from His hand." An earnest sincere turning to God in prayer, asking for His guidance and blessing, plays an important part in this transfiguring process.

         When Solomon became king over Israel, he realized that the human mind could find within itself nothing that could prove adequate for the solution of the difficult problems which would devolve upon him as ruler over a great nation. He therefore turned to God, the divine Mind, for help. It is recorded that when God said, "Ask what I shall give thee" the young king replied, "Give . . . thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people." Solomon's appeal was answered by an inflow of wisdom which not only blessed him and his people, but continues to bless us today through the pages of the Bible. Centuries later, James, a faithful follower of the Nazarene, gave to all mankind the inspired counsel, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

         Since God is ever present and impartial in His loving-kindness, His guidance is always at hand to lead each of us in the right way. But we do not always avail ourselves of His guidance. This failure on our part is often due to the fact that we do not pause for a moment to listen for the divine voice before we speak or act. Nehemiah set an example, good for all time, when he stood before the king of Persia explaining to him the hardships and degradations which were being forced upon the Israelites at Jerusalem. Suddenly the king said, "For what dost thou make request?" Here was a situation fraught with momentous possibilities. Nehemiah turned to God, seeking His guidance in silent prayer. Then he answered the king's question, and promptly received permission to go and build up the wall of Jerusalem and to deliver his people from their oppressors.

         It is a fact widely known that, shortly before he was elected President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln confided to a friend that he firmly believed in divine guidance, and that he never undertook to decide an important matter without first seeking God's guidance in prayer. Was not this one of the chief reasons for Lincoln's remarkable success as a statesman? Christian Scientists, generally, realize that they make fewer mistakes and do better work when they keep the prayerful attitude. On the first page of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" Mrs. Eddy writes, "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds."

         While denials of error and affirmations of truth play a very important part in the prayers of Christian Scientists yet there are times in the experience of every student of Christian Science when he must rely a great deal on petitions because he does not know what he should affirm. When Saul of Tarsus lay in a state of mental and physical blindness at Damascus, he knew not how to affirm anything which would prove beneficial. It had been revealed to him that he had done great wrong in persecuting the Christians. Just wherein his mistake lay he could not see, for he had carried on those persecutions with the firm belief that he was complying with the will of God. Accordingly he prayed for light; and Ananias, a devout Christian, was instructed to go to his assistance. Even before Ananias arrived, Saul received the comforting assurance that his prayers had not been in vain, and that Ananias was coming to help him.

         Ananias entered, and without a word of reproach or condemnation, without one reference to past misdeeds, said to the repentant man before him, "Brother Saul, the Lord . . . hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight." By that love which is the reflection of the one infinite Love, Saul was instantly healed. He saw very plainly wherein he had erred. Previously he had believed that God both loved and hated. Now, in the love which reached him through the spiritualized consciousness of Ananias, he perceived the true quality of God's love, which cannot vary or change, and which blesses all and harms none. Saul's outlook upon life was completely transformed, and a new era of usefulness and happiness opened up before him. Years afterwards, when he had borne the comforting, healing message of divine Love to thousands of people, it was quite natural that he should write with assurance the inspiring words: "Be careful for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

         Christian Science not only teaches that we should turn to God in prayer when occasions of great moment present themselves, but also lays stress upon the importance of regular and systematic asking. On page 127 of "Miscellaneous Writings" Mary Baker Eddy, our God-appointed and God-inspired Leader, gives to all her followers this profound counsel: "One thing I have greatly desired, and again earnestly request, namely, that Christian Scientists, here and elsewhere, pray daily for themselves; not verbally, nor on bended knee, but mentally, meekly, and importunately. When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone, — but more grace, obedience, and love. If this heart, humble and trustful, faithfully asks divine Love to feed it with the bread of heaven, health, holiness, it will be conformed to a fitness to receive the answer to its desire; then will flow into it the 'river of His pleasure,' the tributary of divine Love, and great growth in Christian Science will follow, — even that joy which finds one's own in another's good."

 

"Ask, and it shall be given you" by John Ellis Sedman
Christian Science Sentinel, September 27, 1924


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