People are sometimes interested in the concept of praying for the betterment of their lives. But often when they don't see changes resulting from prayer, discouragement creeps in. The Bible asks, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jeremiah 8:22). I've often thought of this verse when I've been praying. I've thought about it in connection with the yearning for healing of physical and of mental wounds -- for destruction of violence, hatred, and anger. I've thought most about this verse when I've been praying and praying and praying; if nothing seems to be improving, I have asked along with Jeremiah, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?"
Through my study of Christian Science, though, I've learned that the healing balm of God is always present. I've learned that the great Physician is God, and that He is always present to help. What we need to do is to yield to Him. Yielding to God means listening to His direction and then following it. It means being humble, prayerful, obedient. We do these things by gaining a clearer spiritual understanding of our unity with God -- with all that is good. Giving up our doubts and oppositions to this unity isn't always easy, but it is practical because the result is that our thoughts and actions are in line with Him. This inevitably brings healing.
But what if you've been praying and healing hasn't come? What do you do if you feel you just can't hear God's direction? That is not the time to give up, to stop praying, or to distrust God. Just the opposite, in fact, it's the time for persistence in prayer -- something known as importunity.
Persistence and faith are qualities we all can and must express. They are necessary to healing. Faith is the substance of a prayer. It is always out in front of what we see and do. It gives hope and expectation that are based upon spiritual facts and not on mere human wishes. To God, who is infinite goodness, all is well. Faith recognizes this fact and exists as an assuring reminder of what God has already accomplished.
Because faith is the substance of prayer, it is an essential element of importunity. To have faith, or expectation of good, helps us to persist in all efforts to understand God better. This persistence keeps us obedient to the First Commandment, which says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Whenever our attention is divided between good and evil we are having other gods. Having no other gods but the one God, then, forces us to stick with prayer -- to continue trusting God and to keep knocking at His door. To never give up. This holds true even if the visible evidence is that healing is not taking place.
According to the book of Luke, Christ Jesus taught the importance and rewards of persistence. He told the story of a man who goes to a friend's home in the night and persistently knocks to borrow some bread (11:5-8). Jesus said that even if bread is not given because of friendship, it will be given because of importunity -- persistence in asking. According to this example, persistence is commendable because it keeps us focused on what is essential. When prayer focuses on what is most important -- God's total power -- this results in healing, evidence of what is true of God.
Success must follow praying importunately. It does not come through mere repetition of words, rites, or verses. It is the answer to the heart's deep desire for spiritual understanding of God's love for us. It brings the ability to feel this love.
These ideas are ones presented by Christian Science, the explanation of Biblical truth discovered by Mary Baker Eddy, who also founded this newspaper. Her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures says, "The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible" (p. 199). Our prayers -- our devotion of thought to finding God -- are that "balm" that heals. If you're faced with something that needs healing, you can pray. Your persistence, your devotion of thought to prayer, will see you through.
A monthly magazine, The Christian Science Journal, contains articles and features on Christian Science.