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When prayer replaced panic

From the February 22, 2016 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

I couldn’t remember much of anything. It was 11:30 at night, and I had a journalism exam the next day. What had I learned in class all semester?

I’d studied, done all my reading, followed the syllabus to a T. But now I was having some kind of memory lapse. My stomach was in knots, and I couldn’t even think straight. Should I go to the library? Try desperately to cram?

Then, through all the worry, I heard …

You can pray.

I resisted, because I didn’t think I had the time.

But the thought came again: You can pray.

So I opened my Christian Science Hymnal to No. 134, which begins:

I look to Thee in every need,
   And never look in vain;
I feel Thy touch, eternal Love,
   And all is well again:
        (Samuel Longfellow)  

I read over each line, soaking in the truths like never before.

In the first verse, what stood out to me was the idea that we can count on God. We can turn to God any time we feel lost or afraid, and His help is right there. God’s love is tangible to us—reassuring and healing.

The beginning of the second verse reminded me that I didn’t have to panic:

Thy calmness bends serene above,
   My restlessness to still;
Around me flows Thy quickening life
   To nerve my faltering will.

But what did that term “quickening” mean? I knew it didn’t have anything to do with a racing pulse or racing thoughts!

The Bible talks of being “quickened by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18). Made alive, inspired.

So I saw how a spiritual quickening was a lot different from racing around trying to get things done, even with the best intentions. A spiritual quickening would mean being enlivened by God and inspired to be alert to ways I could express love, even in a tough situation, and to express and glorify God with every single step I took.

The third verse spoke to me with this promise: “Thy hand in all things I behold, / And all things in Thy hand.” Could it be that this exam was an opportunity to see God’s “hand”—to see the power of divine intelligence, or Mind, at work? Some of the panic eased as I realized that my success on this test wasn’t all up to me. 

Studying Scene

With these calming thoughts, I was able to go to bed, and when I woke up, the thought came to walk across campus to a bagel shop on the main street. It was just the squirrels and me, trudging across campus in those early-morning hours. But I felt different—not burdened or worried, but more confident that I really was God’s reflection, and God was the source of all true intelligence. My time studying at the bagel shop was productive. Gradually, the information from my journalism class started to come back to me. But I was no longer obsessed with remembering all the answers. I was feeling more of my oneness with divine Mind, and that was chasing away the fear of failure.

Later, blue exam book in hand, I took a deep breath and read the first question. I knew that! And the next one. And the next. As I wrote, the ideas just flowed. When the professor called, “Time,” I was able to pick up my backpack and walk out of the classroom with a feeling of confidence and peace. 

My good grade was posted a few weeks later. But the victory that stayed with me was the deeper understanding that God really is there in those moments of panic or struggle—to still our restlessness, to quiet our fears, and to love and guide and heal us.

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