People sometimes complain that they have prayed very earnestly, either for themselves or for members of their family - perhaps at a time of sickness or danger - but their prayers haven't been answered.
A number of explanations may be offered for this apparent impasse. One is that God is inscrutable; that He answers prayer sometimes but not at other times , and there's no way for us to understand why this should be. Another is that it's God's will for some people to be sick or frightened or poor, and we just have to accept this. But can this be the nature of God, who is divine Love?
Perhaps the best explanation is that the petitioner needs to understand better how to pray, and what kind of God he is praying to. Prayer that merely pleads with God to arrest the course of a disease, or rescue someone from danger , or fill some very special need, nails thought to the trouble itself and tends to keep God out.
We can't hope to change God or persuade Him to do something more or something different, since He is already All and all-inclusive. It's always human thought that has to change. And the change needed is a clearer sense of the nature of God. We need to see Him as consistent, understandable, invariably benevolent, because this is His nature as perfect Love. And we need to realize that man is the child of God, inseparable from His care, not an independent, trouble-ridden mortal.
Then prayer comes more easily, and it grows into faith and affirmation as well as simple petition. It starts with a humble acknowledgment of God's unfailing love, coupled with unquestioning faith in His power and willingness to sustain His own creation. It invokes the power of the one divine Mind, of God Almighty, to eliminate fears and misconceptions that would obstruct healing.
Christ Jesus once said to his disciples, ''All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.'' n1 And he proved the practicality of this promise by healing the sick, the blind, the lepers, by quieting a storm and feeding the multitude. Believing in this way isn't a superstitious or blind trust but the opening of thought to expect good, appreciate good, and trust good in all circumstances, always attributing all good to God.
n1 Matthew 21:22.
Jesus' words are sometimes used to justify unanswered prayer. But no one is condemned to unbelief and hopelessness. Belief can always be changed, and faith nurtured, through response to the Christ, God's ever-present healing influence. Faith is never a personal characteristic that some people possess and others can't cultivate. And to have faith isn't to discard knowledge. Faith requires a higher knowledge, divinely derived rather than humanly learned.
The ability to cultivate this faith is inherent in every individual, because it's natural to depend on and trust our creator. Man isn't a doubting mortal, torn three ways between faith in God, faith in matter, and no faith at all. Our true being is inseparable from God, conscious of His constant care, and we can prove this truth through healing, whatever the need may seem to be.
In answer to the question ''Is it wrong to pray for the recovery of the sick?'' Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''Not if we pray Scripturally, with the understanding that God has given all things to those who love Him; but pleading with infinite Love to love us, or to restore health and harmony, and then to admit that it has been lost under His government, is the prayer of doubt and mortal belief that is unavailing in divine Science.'' n2
n2 Misellaneous Writings, p. 59.
The question may then arise, ''Can one individual's faith keep a whole family out of trouble, even if some or all of its members don't believe in the power of prayer?'' Nobody can do anyone else's thinking for him. But if one person understands clearly enough the spiritual truth that man's health, safety, and supply are actually maintained by God, he can be of help to those around him, whether in the family or not. His higher, spiritual view can have a definite healing influence.
When the far-reaching results of prayer are better understood, we begin to see more clearly the need for each one to ask himself the searching question ''How do you pray?'' DAILY BIBLE VERSE If ye have faith, and doubt not. . . if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done Matthew 21:21