Agenda-free prayer

It’s not always easy for me to drop my own agenda—including when it comes to prayer. Maybe you know the feeling. For instance, one time, when I thought I was coming to God with a totally openhearted desire to know what it means to do God’s will, I discovered as I prayed that there was more of a multiple choice prayer going on: “Thy will be done, God, as long as it’s either A, B, C, or D.” In that moment, I was able to laugh at myself and then truly offer an agenda-free prayer: “Enable me to know, God, that You are omnipotent and in control of all of Your creation.” 

So turning to God without prerequisites—that’s really important to me. And one thing that helps me is a deep understanding of what God is, which I’ve been gaining through my study of Christian Science. Knowing what God is allows me to trust God. Knowing God as omnipotent good, lovingly governing all, enables me to trust that I don’t have to convince God to do anything. In that way, you could say my prayers are really more for me than for God. In other words, my prayers don’t function as a kind of jump-start for the Divine, but instead wake me up to, or help me become more aware of, God’s love and power, which are always present and operating. 

Years of practicing this agenda-free prayer have taught me that one of the most helpful things I can do is to be more openhearted in coming to God—to climb into the arms of divine Love with no other desire than to remember that God is the one perfect cause and I am God’s perfect effect. And the more openhearted my prayer, the more powerful the results have been.

The more openhearted my prayer, the more powerful the results.

Why is this so? Mary Baker Eddy lays it out in this statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “One infinite God, good … leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (p. 340). So we don’t need an agenda, because the infinitude of God, good, excludes anything unlike good. How can there be evil or suffering when good is infinite? There can’t be. Even a glimpse of what it means for there to be one infinite God, good, is powerful enough to heal—powerful like light naturally dispelling darkness with no struggle involved. 

So what about those times when we struggle to give up our own agenda? It’s been comforting to me to realize that even Jesus faced such struggles. He taught his disciples what we call the Lord’s Prayer, which affirms the oneness and allness of God and then simply acknowledges that God knows and will supply us with all we need every day. The Lord’s Prayer asks God to lead us away from any temptation of ego, and attributes to God the power, the glory, and the government of all things. It really is the quintessential prayer of yielding. 

And yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed fervently that he might avoid the crucifixion. It took some deep letting go of his own will to finally be able to say, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). 

There’s something so encouraging about that word nevertheless. Even when we feel as though we can’t completely give up our agenda in our prayers, perhaps, like Jesus, we can at least keep yielding up that agenda until we reach the point of, Nevertheless, more than anything else, I want to feel, know, and trust that You, Father, are in control and will always take care of me.

I’ve also realized that it’s equally important to refrain from outlining how God should answer my prayers. If I’m mostly talking to God instead of listening to Him, it probably means I’ve still got an agenda. And then I’m likely to miss the answers of spiritual inspiration, or “angels,” already present to reassure me that all really is well.

One of the hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal says, 

O longing hearts that wait on God 
   Through all the world so wide; 
He knows the angels that you need, 
   And sends them to your side, 
   To comfort, guard and guide.  
(Violet Hay, No. 9, © CSBD) 

Think of that! God not only knows our needs, but He also knows them way better than we do. So often I’ve been breathtakingly surprised by how the angel messages I hear from God seem unrelated to the problem I’m having, yet they uncover and correct the exact misunderstanding of God’s infinite allness binding me to a limited sense of health, supply, or whatever the issue may be. Because ultimately, any problem we face is always some misconception about God and His allness needing to be corrected in our thinking.

For example, while we were on a family trip, I had a slight pain in my lower back when I moved a certain way. Then, after I set up a table, the pain became constant. So even as I went about my busy day, I prayed; I affirmed God’s tender care for me, and this enabled me to keep calm and do everything I needed to do. But later, I found the quiet time to get still and listen humbly to God—to just feel close to God. It was a simple, wordless prayer of gratitude for moments of conviction that God is Spirit and that everything He creates, including me, is spiritual and good. 

God’s angel message to me in this instance didn’t come as words, but more as a feeling of deep joy and profound love—like a warm blanket wrapping me up—and a reassurance that there is no problem in the whole universe that isn’t answered by feeling Love’s omnipresence. And in that moment, the back pain simply melted away. It felt so natural—not like a big “yippee!” but so right and necessary because God, Love, is All. 

In the Bible, the book of Isaiah assures us that God doesn’t need our input in order to care for and comfort us: “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (65:24). The most effective prayer leads us to commune with God and to feel what is already true from the viewpoint of this infinite Mind. For me, the “how” of this powerful prayer is to accept the intactness and wholeness of good—right where we are. No agenda needed.

Honoring our great worth as God’s child
May 13, 2019

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