RECENTLY a friend asked me how I could be so sure God hears my prayers, adding wearily, ''I pray, but I don't think God hears me.'' She said she wished she could have a feeling that He did hear her.
I hope she went away comforted by my spontaneous responses. I told her about some answered prayers in my own life-of illnesses healed, and of needs satisfied. All that day I kept remembering my friend's longing to feel that God heard her. I do know that there is such a feeling, unmistakable and reassuring, full of confidence, that comes when we pray.
When I first became interested in Christian Science, one thing that moved me deeply was repeated references to God as Father-Mother. I learned that He is not a human-like Being of judgment and punishment, who might or might not hear prayers; He is alert to His children's needs, and we see Him, not just as Father, but also in qualities often considered feminine and maternal. Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, wrote this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ''Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man'' (p. 256). Describing the practice of Christian Science, Science and Health says, ''The poor suffering heart needs its rightful nutriment, such as peace, patience in tribulation, and a priceless sense of the dear Father's loving-kindness'' (pp. 365-366).
Many passages in the Bible help me know without question that God does hear us. For example, writing to the Ephesians, Paul prayed that Christ would ''dwell in [their] hearts by faith; that [they], being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that [they] might be filled with all the fulness of God'' (3:17-19).
This article itself is an example to me of God's ''hearing'' our prayers. When I began it, I did not know which of my uncounted, answered prayers I would use as an illustration of my theme. The first two I chose seemed not as effective as I had hoped, and I searched my memory for one that would be more ''dramatic.'' Not one came to mind. After a few days I became a bit discouraged. At last I prayed simply to know clearly what to say.
Almost instantly I had a sweet, familiar feeling that God was hearing me. The answer that soon came did not involve the remarkable resolution to some dangerous situation. Instead, it was the detailed recollection of a recent weekend in which several problems had come up. These hadn't exactly been frightening emergencies, but they were unpleasant. That Friday I began having symptoms of flu. I prayed and was healed quickly. A family member who had been grieving deeply over the death of a loved one was slipping into deep depression; I prayed for her, simply knowing that God's love enfolded her, whether she was aware of it or not. For the first time in three years, she began to be quietly joyful. She herself started looking after another loved one who needed her help. That same weekend a long-standing family misunderstanding was erased. And when I unexpectedly needed to prepare and serve a large family meal, along with many other duties, I prayed about that as well. The day of the meal was full of happiness, and I had no feeling of weariness.
None of these answers to my prayers had been dramatic. But I saw that I had needed to include in this article the point that God does hear us when we call on Him-not just in dramatic situations, but whenever guidance, strength, ideas, and answers are needed. They come as naturally as when a parent answers a child's calling in the night.
It shall come to pass,
that before they call,
I will answer; and while
they are yet speaking,
I will hear.