OVER the years I have become ever more aware of the unfailing, infinite nature of prayer. When we pray rightly, we are dealing with a sure thing.
Despite the many decades I have depended on God for physical healing, courage, strength, comfort, I still have moments of fresh awe and astonishment when I marvel at the answers to my prayers. An example is an incident my large family and I experienced a few years ago. Early one Saturday morning we were all informed by telephone that a beloved sister had to have emergency surgery immediately and probably would not survive.
Several of us arrived at the central city hospital about the same time, long after the surgery had begun. We were all shocked, worried, fearful. We were also of different religions. The patient herself, a medical nurse, was a loving antagonist to my own deep faith, as a Christian Scientist, in the power of prayer to heal.
Several other people in the anteroom were waiting for verdicts about their own loved ones in emergency care. At first I was so frightened that I had trouble thinking clearly enough to pray. But as I reached out to God, I humbly remembered Christ Jesus' simple and tender instructions to his followers about praying. He told them, the Gospel of Matthew records: ``Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.'' (6:8, 9).
Thinking of God as my loving Father, and the Father of all-- including each of us in the waiting room--I found I was able to pray, not specifically for my sister, or even for myself, but for all who needed to feel God's love, the Love that is God.
The words of a familiar hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal ran through my mind. ``Everlasting arms of Love, / Are beneath, around, above . . .'' (No. 53). I recalled at once the Bible verse in Deuteronomy that the hymn echoes: ``The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms'' (33:27). At once I felt God's love as our refuge so strongly and powerfully that I knew it must help us all, no matter what our human situations might appear to be.
A passage I knew well from Mary Baker Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures came to mind with new vividness. It's where the Discoverer of Christian Science speaks of God as divine Love, writing: ``Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need'' (p. 494). I had taken comfort from those words numberless times, but never before had I felt so certain of the nature, reality, and presence of that ministering Love. The ensuing peace I experienced was what, to me, prayer always is: the immediate and personal, renewed awakening to the omnipresence of God, infinite Love.
Our sister did survive, despite the earlier fears. That same afternoon, several hours later, while she was still in the intensive care unit, she asked for me to come. In the brief moment I was allowed with her, she said to me and her husband with a sense of wonder, ``I knew you were praying and I want you to know that every time I fell, there were arms, there were arms, and they lifted me up!'' Even today, years later, the gratitude and relief I felt at hearing her words, her expression of the same truths I had heard when I prayed, is difficult for me to fully convey! This memory has become for me one more precious proof that prayers that acknowledge the ministering of divine Love are always answered. They bring an even fuller understanding and awareness of God's omnipresence and tender love for His children.