I was standing near the dryers in a London laundromat. A man came up to me and asked if I would change a pound coin for five 20-pence pieces. I only had two 50-pence coins on me, so I couldn't help him. Soon afterward a woman asked if I could change a pound coin for two 50-pence pieces, and I gladly gave her the coins she needed. My response had nothing to do with having goodwill toward one person and not toward the other. I couldn't help the man because I didn't have what he wanted. I was able to help the woman because she asked for what I had.
To me, that's analogous to God's response to prayers. It is always a loving response. God freely grants all that is within God's power to give. The loving Father and Mother of creation doesn't withhold a single good thing from anyone, ever. On the other hand, God doesn't have a material storehouse from which to supply money, romantic relationships, a snazzy car, or a beautiful house.
The good that the divine Parent has to give is spiritual, because God is Spirit. For instance, God gives insights and intuitions that enhance a person's ability to be wiser, more loving, less afraid, more useful. And acting on the leadings of the divine Spirit doesn't leave a person destitute of practical good. Rather, happy and fulfilling experiences naturally result when things are seen from a more spiritual viewpoint. And when impulses to be and to do good are followed.
I spent a long time longing, hoping, praying, to find a marriage partner. At the same time I was increasingly aware that I needed a more solid grasp of spiritual ideals that would enable me to be of better service to others. As I thought about how to achieve this, I felt impelled to devote a lot of time to spiritual study and prayer. This gave me many precious insights, including a new understanding of how unconditional my happiness is as part of God's creation.
Following this, a fond friendship blossomed into a romance that soon led to marriage. I felt the sequence of events was no coincidence.
This is one experience that has shown me that it isn't wrong to have desires, or to expect them to be realized. But what prospers their realization is allowing them to be shaped for the better by God. A loving parent guides a child's budding idealism into constructive channels. God responds to prayers by shaping the life of the pray-er in practical ways. As a speaker I heard recently put it, Trust God to open doors that should be open and close doors that should be closed, and to help you see which is which.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, pointed to this concept in "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" (pg. 1).
God molds heartfelt yearnings in accord with His good purpose, and fulfills them. Sometimes I've felt that this fine-tuning of my desires was taking longer than it should, and I've thought my earnest prayers were going unanswered. But I'm learning that the answer to prayer comes first in God's improvement of my aspirations, and then in these aspirations being satisfied. This has helped me see the value of praying patiently and persistently for a transformation of my desires.
Praying successfully is praying for a better - a more spiritual - outlook. This kind of prayer is attuned to God's gracious will. It shows the way to a deeper consecration to the service of others. And a more godly life brings to light whatever specific provisions are needed.
When you want what God has to give, you get gifts better than you ever imagined.
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