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Improve your communications with God with prompt, skillful and understanding prayer!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Improve your communications with God with prompt, skillful and understanding prayer!
Metaphysical Application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on "God" for January 1-7, 2007
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of Bartlett, Illinois
 
Editor's Note:The following background information and application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for this week are offered primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of daily study of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp  NEW EACH WEDNESDAY: CHECK OUR WEBSITE- www.cedarscamps.org/metaphysical/- FOR A FREE FRENCH TRANSLATION of this weekly "met" offered by Pascal Bujard of Switzerland.
 
Golden Text
"Sing praises in a skillful psalm and with understanding." So reads Psalm 47:7 in The Amplified Bible. The word skillful means, "Knowing; well versed in...hence, dextrous; able in management; able to perform nicely..." (Student's Reference Dictionary). Dextrous means to be ready, prompt, expert, and artful. Some other words for understanding are: knowledge, awareness, insight, skill, expertise, and proficiency. Do these qualities describe your prayer? Your communication with God? This Lesson will help improve your prayerful dexterity and give you some artful ideas that will fill your prayer with understanding.
 
Responsive Reading
Paul's treatise on Mars Hill points out the importance of praying with understanding. The men of Athens were very religious in their own ways. But, they worshipped so many different deities, that they were never quite sure which deity they were praying to and which was responsible if their prayers were answered. So they built an altar to the "Unknown God" to make sure they didn't offend a deity they had not known about. Do you ever feel that your prayers are a "one size fits all" proposition? Rather than working with pinpoint accuracy, do you strafe the whole gamut of possibilities in a haphazard barrage of ethereal hopes? Paul and the Christians knew to Whom they prayed and what to expect. Their God could not be confined in temples, neither in dogmatic or superstitious rituals. Paul worshipped the Creator of the world and of men. "Such a God cannot live in temples, but he can be found anywhere by men who really seek him" (The Abingdon Bible Commentary).
 
Section I: Acknowledging Who God Is
Praying with understanding "begins with worship, because worship is the highest spiritual activity of man" (Dummelow). Worship is an act of reverence directed to a deity. To worship God, is to acknowledge His nature. Psalm 68 (B1) reminds us that God is Father and that He resides in His "holy habitation"-not confined to any physical location. It is a hymn of praise for all the good that God has done. It acknowledges His victories over the centuries "with a consequent hope of his ultimate and complete triumph" (Abingdon). Citation B2 is taken from God's call to Cyrus which promises that "God will protect him even if he [Cyrus] doesn't know him" (Ibid.). We can trust God as a father. There is no limit to the scope of God's care. Christ Jesus expressed his knowledge of God by meeting the human need through teaching, preaching, and "healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (B4). Jesus taught us to address God as Abba or daddy (B5). Do you feel that intimate with God? To hallow God's name is not merely to give him an honorable title, but "to work as well as pray for the day when God's lordship over creation will be both universally acknowledged and realized" (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible). Dummelow echoes this sentiment noting that, "an unspiritual man can ask for benefits, but no one can worship who does not in his inmost soul apprehend what God is." So true worship includes an understanding of God.
 
Mrs. Eddy includes Motherhood as well as Fatherhood, as an aspect of God's nature (S1). She confirms Paul's realization that God cannot be limited by human or mortal concepts. Praying to God as if He were a human personality severely inhibits our ability to see the infinite capacities of divine Love. It is human ignorance that clothes God in human forms, and limits our expectation (S2). The Lord's Prayer is presented as a model for a skillful, efficient, prayer with understanding. Our Leader points out that this type of prayer cannot be reached through material sense (S4). We need to "rise above" sensual thinking into "spiritual consciousness" in order to feel the full benefit of this divine method of communication with our Maker (S5). Here and throughout each of the following sections the Lord's Prayer and its spiritual interpretation become a template for skillful communication with God. Note that it is not a formula but a method.
 
Section II: God Is the Only Authority
Once God is acknowledged as Creator and beyond human confines, the scope of His power is realized. In biblical times it was generally thought that although God reigned in heaven, his power on earth would only be fulfilled in the last days. Jesus however, declared the kingdom of God to be at hand. God's kingdom is heaven realized on earth-"the will of God expressed in human life" (Abingdon). Dummelow understood the third and fourth phrases of the Lord's Prayer (B6) to mean: "May justice triumph over injustice, truth over error, kindness over cruelty, purity over lust, peace over enmity." God, not man, is in control of all things (B7). Man's fate is not "in his own power" (Abingdon.) The presence of God cannot be avoided (B8). God is the initiating power behind every good act. Both the impulse to right action and the power to carry it out come from God (B9). The Centurion who needed help for his servant had done very good things for the people of Israel (B10). He was moved by God to do them and moved by God to acknowledge Jesus' healing power. He humbly realized that even though he was under authority and his men still obeyed him, Jesus being under no authority but God, would surely be able to command healing. Does your prayer acknowledge God as the ultimate power and authority?
 
Mrs. Eddy followed the logic of Psalms. If God is everywhere, how can he ever be absent? (S6). It is only the false authority of "man-made systems" that declare man to be helpless and separate from his Maker (S7). "Space is no obstacle to Mind" (S8). Sometimes people find this hard to understand. But, healing is realized, not because of the proximity of one praying to one in need, but because of the realization that the one who seems to be in need is never outside of God's loving care or separated from Him in any way. This is an element of insightful prayer that brings healing results. "The world must grow to the spiritual understanding" of this type of skillful prayer (S9).
 
Section III: Address Specific Needs
"Our daily bread" (B11) has been defined as that which is "necessary for existence", "sufficient for the day", or "for the following day" (Abingdon). It is not a prayer for luxuries, but an appeal for no more or less than what we really need. It shows that we continuously depend upon God for all that we could have or wish for. All our needs find fulfillment in glory-in the heavenly realm-and reach mankind through the activity of the Christ (B12). There has been a lot of scholarly debate over whether or not the loaves and fishes were actually multiplied, or whether Jesus' sharing of his supplies sparked a general sharing by everyone. This type of reasoning misses the point: Nothing is impossible to God. Whatever the specific need is, God is able to supply it.
 
Science and Health explains that a "miracle" does not break but enforces the "primal order", or God's Law (S11). It's not our asking that causes our need to be met. "Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it" (S12). God is always supplying our need. The more spiritually minded we become, the more we will see this fact proven in daily experience (S13). Here is a key point to skillful prayer: "When we realize that Life is Spirit, never in nor of matter, this understanding will expand into self-completeness, finding all in God, good, and needing no other consciousness" (S&H 264:15). Do we realize this? Can we imagine the fulfillment we would experience if we did? As we awaken to this reality, we spontaneously share this information with others (S14). This inspiration never runs out. It isn't confined to a few, but blesses everyone skillfully, artfully, and understandingly (S15).
 
Section IV: Leave Sin Behind
Skillful prayer requires consistency. "Unless we forgive, we cannot be forgiven; unless we put away all malice and bitterness and hatred and revengeful feeling from our hearts, we are yet in our sins" (Dummelow). The word translated as "debts" in citation B14 includes sins of omission (things you should have done but didn't) as well as those of commission (things you should not have done, but did) (Abingdon). The line in the Lord's Prayer asks for forgiveness. In the parable of the Prodigal (B16), the younger son devotes "his whole fortune and all his powers to the pursuit of pleasure..." (Dummelow). His attaching himself to a foreigner symbolizes his rejection of the law. Before he can come home and be forgiven, he needs to see the error of his ways and repent. Once he decides to return, the young man limps home. The father eagerly awaiting his return runs to meet him and fully restores his status in the household. Have you ever found yourself in such an experience? If you have, what was it that finally turned you back home? If you haven't, what do you think it would take to do so? The elder son has his own problems. He represents those who may be doing the right thing, but their hearts aren't in it. The elder son calls himself a "perfect slave" to his father (Abingdon). His jealousy shows that he isn't doing good for the love of it. He feels bound by the work and, in fact, is jealous not only of the younger son's treatment after coming home, but also of his exploits away from home. Have you ever felt that way? Have you thought, "not only does this guy get rewarded, he got to have fun in the first place." Take heart. The suffering caused by sin exceeds any temporary pleasure it claims to offer. If the younger son had not repented, he would not have been forgiven and would have continued to suffer. The older son, though doing what appeared to be the right thing, was suffering not for doing good, but for his own sins of jealousy, anger, arrogance, and dishonest motives.
 
Science and Health emphasizes that prayer cannot be used as a "safety valve for wrong doing" (S17). Sin is pardoned only as it is destroyed (S18). Sin may appear to be appealing or even rewarding for a while, but that's part of the lie. Sin has no "origin or rightful existence" (S19). The only way to recognize true sonship is to leave sin and mortal selfhood behind (S20). Whether we believe ourselves to be good or bad, sin will get in the way of our prayer. One who prays with understanding desires to be like God-pure, forgiving, sinless-abhorring that which is evil and loving that which is good.
 
Section V: Fortify Your Position
As the previous line of the Lord's Prayer petitions for forgiveness of past sins, this line requests protection from future sins (B17). In Jewish apocalyptic writings is found the belief that just before the final victory over evil is achieved, there will be a period of trials and persecution "with the attempt to turn men aside from the way of faith and obedience..." (Interpreter's). Some feel that this was what Jesus was referring to. In any case, prayer needs to be kept pure. In hours of trial and triumph alike, Jesus knew that "insidious perils and moral dangers" beset our path (Abingdon). Our prayers need protection from malevolent influences. One cannot blame God for one's temptations (B18). Neither can one blame sinful desires on heredity or environment. One must take responsibility for the evil that arises from one's own heart. James urges us to "resist the devil" and to "draw nigh to God..." (B19). This will give us the strength to overcome temptation. God's promise to Jeremiah (B21) gave him the strength to stand alone even though his message was unpopular and everyone turned against him. In our prayer, we are making our stand for the right way. Included in the skillful prayer is built-in protection to see the prayer realized.
 
Christian Science teaches that there is only one evil, and it is a liar (S22). The only power is God, and the "evil one" is powerless to make us "sick or sinful" (S24). In skillful prayer, we leave no stone unturned. We not only declare the truth in our prayer, but we work to know that the truth of our prayer, originating in God, is maintained, sustained, and protected by Him. In so doing, we become resolute in our efforts. Failure is not an option. In the board game Risk®, each turn is finished with the player fortifying his borders. A prayer of understanding does the same thing. Before you finish, you fortify your position.
 
Section VI: Give God the Glory
Skillful prayer ends up right where it started-acknowledging God as ruler over all. In modern times a prayer is often followed with an "Amen" meaning "so-be-it" from the congregation. In the ancient Temple, prayers were concluded with "Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever" (Dummelow). This may explain the inclusion of the last phrase of the Lord's Prayer (B22) as we know it today. The passages from Daniel (B23) and First Chronicles (B24) have similar wording. In the first, Nebuchadnezzar is praising God for the hard lessons he had learned. The second is David's prayer of praise before Solomon began building the Temple.
 
Whether or not the original prayer had the ending we have today, the spiritual lesson stands. Skillful prayer with understanding starts with perfection and ends with perfection. It requires, "an absolute faith that all things are possible to God". This means "independent of anything extraneous, complete, positive, unconditional" (SRD). This implies an understanding of God and an "unselfed love" (S27). If we truly understand God, our prayers will be more proficient and fruitful (S28). God needs to be acknowledged as the Source of all things. Everything good and real belongs to God. If it isn't from God, it doesn't exist. Everything is a "manifestation of Mind" (S29). The prayer of understanding begins with God, acknowledging His nature and authority. It addresses specific needs. It calls for consistency-freedom from sins of the past and protection for the future. It winds up as it began-with perfection-acknowledging God as the only power. Now use this model of skillful prayer for yourselves. Let your prayer be filled with the true knowledge of God and awareness of His power. Let your spiritual insight unfold the answer to every need. Let your understanding of God make your prayers artful and skillful, able to withstand all that would oppose it. Then rejoice in healing and sing His praise.

Camp Director's Note: The above sharing is the latest in a long series of CedarS Bible Lesson "mets" (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians. This document is intended to initiate further study as well as to encourage the application of ideas found in the Weekly Bible Lessons as printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms. * Originally sent JUST to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets" are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson in the books. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension, background and daily applicability to some of the ideas and passages being studied. The citations referenced (i.e. B1 and S28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "met" (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible (B1-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. (S1-30) The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of these ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.)  Spirituality is your innate estate that connects you moment by moment with God.  (See S&H 258:30) Christ is the gift of light that Jesus gave.  This Christ light of spiritual understanding comes with and reveals infinite blessings. So, have fun unwrapping and cherishing your very special, spiritual gift(s)!  Then, wherever you are, share them with all as big blessings that make the Infinite difference!
 

The weekly Metaphysical Newsletter is provided at no charge to the 1,200 campers and staff blessed each summer at CedarS, as well as to CedarS alumni, families and friends who have requested it.  However, current and planned giving contributions are a big help and are greatly appreciated in defraying the costs of running this service and of providing needed camperships, programs and operations support.  Click http://www.cedarscamps.org/givingYou can also just mail your tax-deductible support to:
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1314 Parkview Valley
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And, we're thrilled to announce that, through January 1, 2007, a Matching Fund Grant will double your gifts (up to $25,000) for needed "Maintenance Musts!" ($2,000 to go as of 12-31-06)

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