EVEN as I write this, the ants are probably digging their way upward through our newly repaired driveway. Formerly they had happily marched up and down through holes they had dug in the driveway's asphalt surface. And only a day after we had completed the first stage of extensive repairs, they had dug new holes up from their nests. The completed repairs have, perhaps, slowed them down. But I'm not counting on it. At first, I felt annoyed. Then I began to admire their stick-to-itiveness. I found myself wondering if I would have the persistence to overcome a major disruption in my home and rebuild my road to the outside world in less than twenty-four hours! I couldn't help thinking of the ant's positive image in the book of Proverbs -- ``Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise'' -- and how deeply Biblical figures have prized persistence, particularly persistence in prayer.
Such persistence stems from an understanding of God as One who loves His children, as well as from an inner certainty that God isn't a deity who acts by chance or whim. It rests on a willingness to trust God's plan. The life of Christ Jesus is a wonderful example of the results we gain when we do this. Jesus never worried if God would answer him -- he knew God well enough to be certain He would never condemn man or allow suffering. Yet we, sometimes, are not as certain of God's presence and love. And that's where persistence comes in.
In reality, God is Principle, the source of divine law. Understanding this fact substantially changes our perspective. Instead of thinking of God as changeable, favoring one but not another, we become more expectant of good because we are learning that God is changeless and infinite Love.
Through his own example, Christ Jesus made clear the importance of turning in prayer to God. In addition, Luke's Gospel records his telling specifically of the importance of persistence in human relations. Jesus then extends the point to the human-divine relationship by saying, ``Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.''
In our asking, however, we need to be sure that our longings and our lives conform to the divine plan and law. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Experience teaches us that we do not always receive the blessings we ask for in prayer. There is some misapprehension of the source and means of all goodness and blessedness, or we should certainly receive that for which we ask.''
Persistent prayer includes self-examination -- a willingness to see what aspect of our thought or lives needs regeneration or correction. Perhaps there is a hidden sin or moral weakness that we have been unaware of. Or the need for persistence may simply stem from a misunderstanding of God -- a belief, for instance, that He is a judgmental, punishing God or that suffering is a necessary part of existence.
Honest, self-examining prayer clears away these cobwebs and helps us to perceive our unbreakable unity with divine Love. This point, coupled with a growing knowledge that we are in truth totally spiritual, can make quite a difference. First, it tells us that even when we feel alone and abandoned, the fact is that God -- omnipotent intelligence -- is with us. More than this, through our unity with God we can rely on this unlimited intelligence and love to guide us through each day, even each hour.
Prayer also brings to light any mistaken thoughts or sinful feelings that need to be given up so that we can more clearly express our spiritual nature. For instance, if we have been harboring resentment or anger against another -- whether justified or not -- these feelings are not Godlike. Therefore, to indulge in them is to suggest mistakenly that we can somehow separate ourselves from God.
If, instead, we are willing to accept our inseparability from divine Love, we will see that Love necessarily excludes anger, resentment, and other hateful elements. And since we are inseparable from Love, it also follows that in truth we can only express Love. Recognizing this spiritual fact is the first step. Proving it by changing our lives is essential.
As we are willing to turn from such limited and mortal beliefs and to express more of our actual spirituality, we are freed from whatever mistake we have been harboring about ourselves or about God. As this purifying process takes place, we will be led to the solution to our problem, whatever it is. And besides this, we will also be more conscious of God's continuing and uninterruptible presence in our lives. BIBLE VERSE Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned... knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
II Timothy 3:14-17