My prayer of “Yes”

The prayer of “Yes” shifted my gaze away from the belief that I existed apart from God toward the light of the true, spiritual being that I am.

Some years ago, I went through a dark time that ultimately taught me about light.  It began one winter with a vague gloominess that I assumed would just go away. Instead, it got worse. By springtime, when life around me was bursting with renewal, I was mentally shriveling. At night, I felt anxious and slept fitfully or not at all. Come daybreak, I could hardly get out of bed.

I had a spiritual foundation for this practice, one that took it beyond positive thinking—my study of Christian Science.

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I was away from home, guest teaching at a small college. Three weeks into the semester, when I’d sunk to what felt like my lowest point, an old friend arrived on campus to give a lecture, and he phoned me to set up a visit. Normally, an opportunity to see him would have filled me with joy. But I could hardly muster the energy to greet him. He invited me to take a walk just beyond the campus through farmlands atop limestone bluffs that rise from the banks of the majestic Mississippi River.

I feigned happiness and didn’t speak of my misery, but my friend sensed it. Soon after we began our walk, he recommended an inspirational practice based on a devotional posting on titled “The Prayer of Yes” (Brian Doyle, Daily Guideposts). He explained that it’s the simple act of going through your day consciously looking for what you can say yes to—and then saying yes out loud.

I had a spiritual foundation for this practice, one that took it beyond positive thinking. That foundation was my study of Christian Science, in particular its concept of knowing the truth about the relationship between God and all of creation. For me, knowing this truth means affirming that God, the loving Principle of all life, is the one true cause and creator and that every living being is a distinct effect or manifestation of that cause. And it means digging below the surface to discern one’s deep, original, spiritual identity as the offspring of God and then claiming the wholeness, harmony, and freedom that come from that relationship. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, “Truth is affirmative, and confers harmony” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 418). This echoes Jesus’ declaration, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Lying in bed the next morning, I buried my head under the covers, resisting the start of yet another miserable day. But then, remembering my conversation with my friend, I peeked out, tentatively. It was early, and the window shades were drawn, but I saw a crack of light along the bottom edges. After a long pause, I whispered, “Yes,” to the rising sun. One of the windows was partly open, and a breeze wafted through, slightly lifting the shade and revealing a bit more light. “Yes,” I said to the uplifting wind. Later, biking to campus, I passed by my favorite tree. “Yes,” I said to that sturdy, sky-reaching friend. In class, I found students eager to learn, and I could say, “Yes,” to the pull toward understanding and insight. And so it went throughout the day. There were emotional slumps, but I “yessed” onward, deliberately recognizing and giving thanks for each expression of God’s, divine Life’s, beauty.

The next morning, I felt a slight, barely perceptible relief. That tiny lifting prompted me to continue with this affirmative prayer. Within a week, finding more to say yes to became a lifeline. I became aware that there was divine light, inspiration from God, expressed in each yes, and before long, I grew so attuned to that light that I could sense it dissipating the darkness that had enveloped me. It also occurred to me that my very desire for joy indicated that I knew something about joy. It was already part of me, integral to my being as an idea created by God, the divine Mind.

As the gloom dissolved, I wondered where it had come from and why it had grown from a thin gray pall into something so dark and dense. Maybe it had come from feeling closed in on a small, remote campus. Perhaps it was the world’s struggles pressing in on my heart, or a hole of some personal hurt that needed filling. Then again, it could have been an unseen garden of blessings demanding to be noticed, tended, and built upon.

For me, the most liberating explanation was the last one on that list. Rather than looking for some situational or psychological cause for this entrenched heavy-heartedness, I began thinking of it as a clarion call to seek out and bear witness to the wholeness and beauty of God’s creation. The prayer of “Yes” was simply an aid in helping me to see what I’d been missing. It shifted my gaze away from the shadow—the belief that I existed apart from God—toward the light of the true, spiritual being that I am. And I found therein serenity and a new sense of joy.

Reflecting on this experience, I see how a commitment to look for and say yes to the good, to the light, fueled my effort to know the truth about what I am. It helped habituate me to turning toward the light­—to consistently recognizing the spiritual essence of all being, including me.

Science and Health says “. . . the leaflet turns naturally towards the light” (p. 240). When weighed down by gloom, beset by heavy-heartedness, be it a vague feeling or a profound sense of despair, we can practice turning toward the spiritual light illumining our consciousness, until doing so becomes as natural to us as it is to the leaf.

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