Ignoring answered prayer?

SOME years ago in the couples' group of a church to which I then belonged, the conversation turned to prayer. One of the fellows remarked somewhat defensively that he didn't believe in prayer. He used to pray sometimes, he admitted, but he couldn't think of a single instance in which his prayer had been answered.

I felt impelled to ask if he could share with us a specific example. His response was a bit defiant but also humorous and telling. Back in the fifties, he explained, he had stood on the deck of a troopship bound for the war in Korea and prayed fervently that he would return safely.

This announcement was delivered in a tone that said, ``See there! See how useless prayer is!'' It was met with a moment of silence followed by startled looks, until someone gently voiced the obvious: ``But you are here, aren't you?''

How often the good we have longed for comes to us so naturally and so in the normal course of events that we fail to recognize that it is present -- much less that our prayers, our longings, have been answered. What a great deal of good comes to us each day unacknowledged! Almost as subtle as not seeing the good we've hoped for is the thought that comes when we do notice, and that is: ``Oh, well, it would have happened no matter what. My worries were for nothing.'' And in that dismissal of blessings we also dismiss God as having anything at all to do with the positive outcome.

Christian Scientists, as all Christians, are challenged to be ever alert for these ``little foxes, that spoil the vines.'' 1 We learn that gratitude for all good is important, and that no good anywhere is accidental. Good is natural, because God is good and infinite. Good, not evil, is the reality of being, despite evidence to the contrary, and we have the opportunity daily to acknowledge this truth and to prove it, at least in some degree; to prove our unity with God and His goodness.

Striving to be obedient to Christ Jesus' teachings keeps us on the right path in our efforts, for Jesus said, ``I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.'' 2 Jesus taught his disciples and followers -- and that includes us -- to be pure and loving. And he taught us to look always to the thought governing an attitude or action. An attitude of thankfulness tends to strengthen our expectancy of good, and since we actively look for what we expect, we naturally see more for which to be thankful. Thus we draw ever closer to God as we acknowledge Him as the source of all good -- however small, however incidental, it may appear in our lives. And the more we see and acknowledge of good, the more we are demonstrating the reality of God's creating to be the only reality.

A hymn says, ``All good, where'er it may be found, / Its source doth find in Thee.'' 3 And Paul speaks of the importance of ``giving thanks always for all things unto God.'' 4

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.'' 5

Desire is prayer. How important, then, to trust our every least desire to God, that it may be purified, aligned with His profusion of blessings for us. And how important to love the appearing of every fulfillment of our desire for good as having its source in God -- to maintain an attitude of gratitude and let no good go unacknowledged! 1 Song of Solomon 2:15. 2 John 14:6. 3 Christian Science Hymnal, No. 224. 4 Ephesians 5:20. 5 Science and Health, p. 1.

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