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Prayerful preparations: in sports and life

From the June 19, 2017 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

In interviews, reporters ask athletes about a number of things, but these inquiries don’t always include pregame mental preparation. That aspect, though, is actually a leading factor in sports—and all kinds of other endeavors, too. Time and time again, the world has been inspired by examples of how effective preparation can bring out excellence beyond what simple athleticism might help us achieve.

Does that mean that before practices and games we are just to sit there alone with our thoughts? Yes and no—there is a good kind of being alone and a bad, or limiting, kind.

The bad kind is to see ourselves as doing everything on our own, just using human will. It may appear courageous to attempt to triumph alone, on one’s own merits, but in the long run, trying to will ourselves into success doesn’t take us as far as we can go; and in fact, it can definitely stand in the way of success. It’s the desire to glorify God, to acknowledge Him as the infinite source of strength and ability, that invites true success.

Pregame preparation that includes listening to God is the best kind of preparation.

I remember once explaining to a Little Leaguer how being more relaxed in the batter’s box would help him both see the ball better and increase his bat speed. So what he did next was step into the box and repeat to himself, “Relax, relax, relax, relax!” He didn’t feel at all relaxed; he just repeated the word. But in order to prepare to play the way he wanted, a better mental approach was needed—something he couldn’t just generate on his own.

Here’s a verse in the Bible that really opens the door to effective preparation: “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). It’s so encouraging to know that the elements of successful mental preparation come from the Lord, always-present Love and infinite Mind. 

In contrast to the self-will kind of being alone are the loving inspiration and guidance we receive when we’re prayerfully alone with divine Love. Pregame preparation that includes listening to God is the best kind of preparation; lifting our thought away from self-concern and toward God brings a joy and freedom that enhance our ability to express confidence and joy in our everyday activities.

St. Paul wrote, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us;” that is, let us put aside material self and sense, and seek the divine Principle and Science of all healing.

—Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 20

We do this by being mentally quiet and still, being open to whatever inspired ideas God is providing us for the day. Mary Baker Eddy describes this in a colorful way: “Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause,—wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 323). After receiving the Christly truth that God is communicating to us at every moment, we can keep it securely in our heart, remain conscious of it, and go all day on the strength of it.

Here’s an example of putting this into practice. That same little boy who tried repeating “relax” soon learned about effective pregame mental preparation—he learned to pray and listen for God’s inspiration before games, and even during at-bats. At one point, in a game that was very important to his team, he was waiting for his turn to hit, and, as he prayed, it came to him that he could truly relax now—relax for real. Why? Because man’s ability has its source not in a mortal body but in God, and so this boy’s potential could never be less than anyone else’s. Our potential for good is infinite. Even a modest understanding of this spiritual truth opens new possibilities.

This new way of viewing himself as God’s capable spiritual reflection made him feel so happy—and it continued while he was hitting. He ended up hitting a home run that not only went over the fence, but completely out of the stadium! 

Man’s ability has its source not in a mortal body but in God.

The quality and goodness of that uplifting message that came to that boy in prayer show how much better divine inspiration is in comparison to trying to do things on our own, through human will. Consistently staying with the strength of that inspired idea helped him, not only during all of the other parts of that game, but also in the other parts of his life, too.

After we prepare by opening up our thought to God’s loving messages, it is natural to stay consistently with these inspired messages. Consistency is a quality of God expressed in His spiritual creation. The Bible puts it this way: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

I’ve heard a saying along these lines: If you succeed in preparing, prepare to succeed. Christian Science takes this concept to the next level, showing that striving to express and glorify God in all we do brings freedom and dominion. Watch what happens when you succeed in preparing prayerfully and in staying consistently with whatever God’s inspiring message is to you. And once you open the door to doing this in sports, have fun exploring how the benefits of prayerful preparation carry forward in all aspects of everything you do!

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