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Priority-challenged? Start with prayer

From the August 27, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Balance
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Society today is constantly on the go, in a whirlwind of activity. The demands in our lives, however, often seem to exceed the 24 hours we actually have in a day. A lot of us probably wish, “If only I had more time, I could check off even more things on my lengthy to-do lists.”

With an increase in information and availability—through social networking, e-mail, and smartphone connections—many people integrate technology into already busy lives. One wonders, however, whether the barrage of nonstop input actually improves the quality of life. Multi-tasking, one result of our state-of-the-art culture, is viewed as an asset to accomplishing many tasks and projects simultaneously. But there’s a downside, too: Multi-tasking contributes to a dramatic decrease in one’s ability to concentrate. In other words, doing many activities at a time can distract from thoughtful decisionmaking and effective problem-solving. An article in The New York Times put it this way: “As workers add more electronic devices, Web sites, software programs, and apps to their arsenals, there is a point at which efficiency and satisfaction suffer” (December 31, 2011).

In spite of all this emphasis on connectivity and productivity, most people still feel a tendency to procrastinate, stall, or postpone certain activities. Priorities are often placed on the back burner in favor of keeping up with the ongoing flow of information.

Maybe we all need to just . . . slow down. In a short essay titled “Improve Your Time,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Rushing around smartly is no proof of accomplishing much” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 230). This is surely a statement we can take to heart—although written over a hundred years ago. Often it’s less productive to always be doing something rather than to focus on being. It’s no surprise that when we allow little time for quiet reflection—overbooking and overscheduling ourselves, and taking fewer moments with family and friends—we feel harried or out of focus much of the time.

All of this raises some questions for students of Christian Science. We might ask ourselves: With all that is required of me each day, what are my priorities? Which activities tend to strengthen my relationship to God, or on the contrary, detract from it? Where does spiritualization fit into a busy lifestyle? What will unclutter my day—or even, perhaps, my life overall?

In her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “. . . Truth is not fragmentary, disconnected, unsystematic, but concentrated and immovably fixed in Principle. The best spiritual type of Christly method for uplifting human thought and imparting divine Truth, is stationary power, stillness, and strength; and when this spiritual ideal is made our own, it becomes the model for human action” (p. 93).

Christ Jesus spent countless hours—sometimes all night—communing with God. He listened to divine Mind’s direction and guidance for his healing work and ministry. Fortified spiritually, he then met face to face on crowded hillsides with those in need of comfort and healing. Talking about his own relationship to God, and of God’s love for His children, Jesus told his followers (us!): “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, New King James Version). A popular paraphrase puts the passage this way: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiatives, God-provisions. . . . You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Eugene H. Peterson, The Message).

As we make communing with God a priority, we'll perform our tasks and responsibilities more harmoniously.

What a statement about the standard Christ Jesus gave us for making choices in life! Surely he wasn’t suggesting that everyday concerns and responsibilities should be ignored. Rather, he seemed to be saying that as we place communing with God as a priority in our lives, we will realize our ability to perform the tasks and responsibilities we each have more harmoniously and more efficiently.

“Seek[ing] first the kingdom of God” puts us in touch with God, divine Mind. God first! The result: A sense of balance. A more peaceful sense of things, accompanied by new meaning and redefined purpose. As we cherish our relationship to God, we experience better relationships with friends and family, co-workers, fellow church members. We experience increased wisdom in decisionmaking. We are spiritually prepared for wherever healing solutions, direction, and adjustment are needed.

Basic to our successful practice of Christian Science are quiet prayer and consistent study of the Bible and the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. Mrs. Eddy put in place a marvelous support system that included Bible Lessons, the theological subjects of which can be studied during the week, then heard read aloud in Christian Science churches worldwide. These Lessons support and sustain the Christian Scientist in increased spiritual growth, understanding, and the practical application of biblical teachings to daily needs.

A commitment to spiritual study is actually a necessity, not an option! Why? Because we need and deserve the spiritual nourishment the Lessons provide. Like anything of value, devotion of thought to prayer and study cannot be ignored, nor done on the run, nor given a back-seat on our priority lists.

Putting God first sets a standard that allows for adjustment, or a realignment of activities, tasks, and goals as needed. It’s never about shirking our responsibilities or commitment to others as a good spouse, parent, friend, employee, or employer. On the contrary, it tends toward more inclusiveness of others in a loving, compassionate, and unselfish way.

We may need to take a mental inventory of the convenient technological tools of modern society—and, in particular, those we find constructive and useful. If they dominate our time and energies, we may need to adjust to what will allow us to give more attention to our relationship to divine Love, and our interaction with others. We can remind ourselves that God, divine Mind, is always communicating directly to each of us, and we can know this direction when we are consciously listening. This connection never needs to be manipulated, and it doesn’t require programming, upgrading, or downloading. Unlike the on-and-off switches on electronic devices, our Father-Mother God is always “on,” always available. If we’re not expressing balance in our lives, if we’re feeling scattered, always in motion and unable to hear the “still, small voice” of Truth, we need to pause, step back. Then, start with prayer!

Eddy reminds us that the real source of information, creativity, ideas, solutions to problems, and the means for accessing them is always through realizing their original divine source. Good ideas are an outgrowth of the intelligence and unfoldment of the one Mind. She states,“The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man” (Science and Health,
p. 284).

Starting each day with an acknowledgment of the presence and power of God, divine Mind, through prayerful communing tends to give us an increased spiritual strength and an awareness of ongoing good in our lives. It results in a resilience that resists compliance to unjust impositions like stress, fatigue, anxiety. It results in a sense of calm, spontaneity, and accomplishment even when deadlines are fast approaching.

In identifying ourselves with Spirit, God as ever present and all-powerful, we break through limitations that stem from the false sense of ourselves as separate from God’s goodness. We realize that we have the ability to mentally refute any interference in thought that would suggest problems are unsolvable, or too much to handle. As God’s children, we’re created in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27). We’re capable of achieving whatever is necessary in our lives.

Let’s remind ourselves of our primary purpose in life. Eddy tells us, “To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 160).

What rescues us with assurance when we’re over-worked, burdened, or priority-challenged? One simple answer: Start with prayer!

Diane Dailey is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

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