Bread or stones?
Bread and stones may not seem very comparable in our eyes. But the little brown barley loaves of Bible times could conceivably look quite like stones if they were piled in heaps.
The first temptation Christ Jesus had to face in the wilderness was the suggestion that he should make stones into bread. n1 And later he said to his disciples: ''What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?'' n2
n1 See Matthew 4:3.
n2 Matthew 7:9-11.
Sometimes people feel discouraged by what seems to them to be unanswered prayer - by being offered stones when they have asked for bread. They are quite sure they know what they need, and if God's good things come in a different form from what they expected, they feel let down and tend to blame God for not understanding. Perhaps they are the ones who need to understand better the nature of God and the function of prayer.
First the nature of God. Why does God never give stones to any of His children? Because, as Jesus explained, God is our Father. He is divine Love, unfailingly loving, wise, gracious, impartial. A good parent feeds his children both suitably and sufficiently but doesn't always give them the things they think they want. God is also Spirit, so the things He gives must be spiritual, not material.
The function of prayer? Prayer changes human thoughts, feelings, motives, and aspirations. In its highest form, prayer isn't concerned with getting something material. Rather, communion with our creator awakens us to realize something of what it means to be the sons and daughters of God, satisfied, and not hungry mortals begging for bread.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone, - but more grace, obedience, and love. If this heart, humble and trustful, faithfully asks divine Love to feed it with the bread of heaven, health, holiness, it will be conformed to a fitness to receive the answer to its desire....'' n3
n3 Miscellaneous Writings, P. 127.
It's easy to see that disobedience, hatred, pride, and suspicion make for a very stony heart. And to this stoniness everything and everybody seems to be stony too. But as prayer melts the stoniness, human thought begins to respond to a higher conception of man and his relationship to God. Then it becomes more expansive, more expectant, and more responsive to good, not as just the price of bread, but as a spontaneous expression of man's true nature.
But how does this change of heart help with the bread problems? There is a direct and demonstrable correlation between thoughts and things. Resistance to God's grace tends to be reflected in unhappy conditions. But when divine grace brings about a transformation of human thought, the way is opened for human needs to be met in whatever way best fits the individual case. Thought that is aligned with divine power sees the tangible blessings of that power.
Jesus didn't make the stones into bread to satisfy his own hunger, but insisted, ''Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'' n4 Yet Jesus met the multitude on its own level of thought when he fed them in the desert with familiar and palatable food, showing the practical effectiveness of his answered prayer.
n4 Matthew 4:4.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mrs. Eddy says, ''Christ, Truth, gives mortals temporary food and clothing until the material, transformed with the ideal, disappears, and man is clothed and fed spiritually.'' n5 So when our heartfelt prayer becomes ''Show me how to feel more of Your grace,'' the outcome is never in doubt. And daily bread is assured as well.
n5 Science and Health, p. 442. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Take no thought, saying What shall b eat? or, What shall we drink? or Wherewithal shall we be clothed?...for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6$:31-33