Is prayer about getting what we want?

True prayer is a growing and profound understanding of God’s true nature as divine Love.

The east coast of the United States had been hit hard by a powerful hurricane, and a huge tree had crashed onto my house, damaging it substantially. As soon as the storm abated, family and neighbors helped me take steps to prevent further damage and to contact a familiar and trusted contractor. Repairs began quickly, but soon all work stopped. My contractor had been injured and was unable to work, and major roadwork on my street made it difficult for workers to even reach the house. As the days dragged into weeks, I became frustrated over the delay and angry about pressure from others to hire a different contractor to finish the work.

However, a transformation from frustration and anger to prayer and patience began in church one Sunday morning.

In the calm of that Sunday service, I took to heart the Bible Lesson-Sermon (found in the Christian Science Quarterly) that included the account of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. In spite of enemies wanting to stop the work, it went forward as Nehemiah assured the city’s inhabitants and officials of the presence of God: “I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me” (Nehemiah 2:18). In a moment of silent prayer during the service, I realized that I, too, could both affirm and accept the spiritual fact that God’s hand, the power and presence of His goodness, was upon me.

Was I filled with gratitude simply because my need had been met—just relieved that I had what I wanted?

Similarly, from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy came these words of assurance: “All is under the control of the one Mind, even God” (p. 544). I realized that I could wholeheartedly commit the situation to God, the divine Mind that creates and sustains its own creation. I could also trust that the work necessary to go forward rested not with human timetables, personalities, or conditions; its progress and fulfillment were governed by divine Mind’s order, control, and protecting presence.

Two days after this Sunday morning inspiration and transformation, I learned that the contractor was able to return to work. Also, my road was cleared, and the restoration of the house and grounds was quickly completed.

After the last worker said goodbye, I sat quietly with my thoughts. I was filled with gratitude for the complete restoration of my home, so I was caught by surprise when this question came to me: Was I filled with gratitude simply because, through prayer, my need for a repaired house had been met? In short, was I just relieved that I had what I wanted? 

The question brought me to my spiritual knees. I wanted to answer it unselfishly and honestly. I knew that prayer is not simply a means of receiving something we want or need from God. True prayer—the very core of it as I understand it in Christian Science—is a growing and profound understanding of God’s true nature as divine Love and of each of us as reflecting this true nature. Prayer is a deep realization and acceptance of God’s love holding each one of us and all creation in His eternal care—before, during, and after the resolution of a situation.

Second Corinthians says, “All things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him]” (5:18, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition). Christ, the manifestation of divine Love to all humanity, reconciles us to God and His protecting and sustaining presence—to the overflowing and ever-flowing generosity of unlimited divine Love. 

Science and Health explains that Christ Jesus “unveiled the Christ, the spiritual idea of divine Love” (p. 38). It also explains, “First in the list of Christian duties, he taught his followers the healing power of Truth and Love” (p. 31). Through the presence of Christ in human consciousness, we realize that at the very heart of prayer is the understanding that God is Love itself. It is God’s love, acknowledged in prayer, that harmonizes and brings solutions to difficult situations.

It is God’s love, acknowledged in prayer, that harmonizes and brings solutions to difficult situations.

As I sat there quietly communing with God, it was humbling to realize that true gratitude lifts thought beyond the solution of personal difficulties to the recognition of the ever-present Christ, which is the expression of God’s eternal love for all His creation. It is God’s deep and abiding love that enables each individual to know in prayer that “the hand of my God [is] good upon me.” And here was the answer to the question of what I was grateful for. I had a deep and profound gratitude for the spiritual fact that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and continues to love each one of us.

For a single moment
August 1, 2022

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.