It is interesting that Mary Baker Eddy discredits long prayers this way in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Long prayers… clip the strong pinions of love, and clothe religion in human forms.” The Bible even says in Matthew 23:14, “Woe unto you… for making long prayers.” All this suits me since I have long been a fan of the short prayer.
One of the best prayers I know of is, “No!” backed by the understanding that since God is infinite and good there is no room for his unlikeness. There is much power in immediately refusing negative suggestions as they try to impose themselves. This heals physical challenges, averts accidents, disciplines negative tendencies, and overcomes character flaws.
Recently, a friend during a triathlon, realized as she approached the water, that, “the water knows nothing about my age,” and this short prayer freed her from weariness and comparing herself to the younger competitors. A favorite short prayer of another friend is, “There is not a spot where God is not;” she applies this effectively to all sorts of hurts and fears.
I often remind myself of spiritual laws that govern our existence. One favorite, for example, is, “What blesses one blesses all.” Another I apply a lot is, “Progress is the law of God.” “Error must destroy itself; it cannot destroy one iota of good,” is also helpful to remember. These short prayers I’ve adapted right out of the pages of Science and Health. There are many, many more in there, and they are a delight to discover and apply. That beneficial effects of applying such thoughts can be proved by experience, which is what makes this work scientific.
When asked to teach us to pray, Jesus taught the Lord’s prayer, which Mary Baker Eddy says, “covers all human needs.” This prayer qualifies as short, but none is more powerful when thoughtfully considered. The Christian Science Daily Prayer is also brief: “‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” None of these prayers are formulas or vain repetitions, but opportunities for deep communion with Soul.
Gratitude is a short prayer too; saying or thinking “thank you” does not take much time but packs a lot of power. Gratitude can get us unstuck, improve our outlook, and release the flood tides of good to gush in, unrestrained.
When I worked as an engineer in New York City, I’d call it my “playground for Christian Science.” I amused myself by putting this stuff into practice. When I walked past any imposition, I would quickly reverse it in my thinking. Anything that was wrong that I would see, I claimed the counter-fact of the apparent counterfeit. I’d look for good everywhere and acknowledge it wherever I saw it, giving silent credit to God. When I saw someone with admirable qualities and attributes, I’d remember that their source was in God, and that if one person expressed that, we all also had that by reflection. It was fun doing this, mentally correcting and amplifying as I went my way.
My Christian Science teacher, who prepared me to do work as a spiritual healer, made us promise not to get out of bed until we has spent five minutes on what he called our daily identification work. In this short time we were to remember God and our indelible, inseparable relationship with Him. God is guiding, guarding and governing every aspect of everyone’s life.
I work on little ways to get small prayers more habitually infused in my day. Every time I touch a doorknob, I remember that the Christ has gone in before me. When I answer the telephone, I ask God to be with my mouth. Stopping at a red light is a good moment to regularly pause for a short prayer behind the wheel about whatever preoccupies me at the moment. This is also true of a moment of gratitude before each meal. Eddy tells us to “square our accounts every hour.” Are we doing that and what does that mean?
When Jesus talked about praying without ceasing, I don’t think he meant extending a really long prayer until it never stops. I think it is more like integrating together an earnest tapestry of instantaneous, myriad short prayers so frequently that they merge into a life ever-conscious of God.
It seems to me that this is how Jesus thought and prayed. He didn’t always get his mountaintop moments. He was busy in the throng, like we are so often. But he turned to God over and over, quietly and repeatedly. The dividends of short prayers accrue exponentially like compound interest. If this is true individually, imagine the effect collectively! Will you join me in this life of the short prayer?
…and may God bless you and keep you, and make his face to shine upon you, and give you peace!