Soon after we were married, my husband and I were invited to dinner at a home in a rural area that wasn't familiar to us. Following the directions, we drove through sage-covered mesa, matching odometer readings to unmarked dirt roads. We were fine until I got to the last line of our instructions: "Turn left where the tree used to be."
Using some deductive reasoning and trial and error, we finally reached our destination and had a good laugh about it with our hosts.
Knowing a place well makes it easier to find your way. Familiarity provides reference points and the security of knowing where you are.
This is true in prayer as well as in navigation.
Feeling at home with qualities that connect us to God, such as trust, affection, and humility makes turning to Him feel easy and natural. Gratitude and a desire to share the good we perceive lead to a greater sense of belonging in the kingdom of heaven.
When it comes to prayer, sometimes we feel we can't get there from where we are. We may not feel strong enough, wise enough, or good enough to claim a place in God's kingdom. Yet, as I found that evening on the mesa when we ran out of reference points, persistence pays off. Insistence on God's presence and care, even when we can't see evidence of it, can guide us home to our permanent relationship with divine Love and the blessings that includes.
This concept became practical in my family a couple of years ago when my husband was faced with a physical trouble that challenged our faith. One of his eyes became red and painful, the pain becoming so intense and consistent that he had to spend portions of each day in a darkened room. Having lost sight in one eye as a result of surgery when he was young, he was concerned about losing his sight entirely.
He knew through his study of Christian Science that prayer can banish pain and sickness; he had seen the healing power of divine Love proved in his life, and it felt natural and wise to turn to God for help. But recurring images of blindness and his childhood loss were hard to overcome.
As I prayed, I began to see that feelings of distance from God or fear that we can't receive His care are not objective or accurate.
It can feel natural to respond with negativity and anxiety to what seem like real and substantial conditions. But then grace - an inspired thought or the perception of divine good - breaks through, and we see that the good we desire is not a far-off or unfamiliar destination but present reality.
Though the physical condition wasn't changing much, we caught glimpses of the kingdom of God within, as Jesus described it - forever intact and wholly good. My husband decided that to persist in prayer - affirm the spiritual sense of himself as whole and free - was the way to true healing. Moments of doubt lessened. I saw his determination to express good to the best of his ability in whatever situation presented itself.
Encouraged by this change, so clearly brought about by the power of Spirit, I thought of these words from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy: "If the disciple is advancing spiritually, he is striving to enter in.... If honest, he will be in earnest from the start, and gain a little each day in the right direction, till at last he finishes his course with joy" (page 21).
I felt sure that our effort to trust God would open the way to finding the joy and healing that spiritual understanding brings. Jesus' words "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), took on new meaning as I continued to affirm the reality and presence of God's goodness.
One evening, I noticed that the day had passed without any sign of pain. The pain lessened, and evidence of the problem began to disappear. A few months later all pain was gone and has not returned.
Reliance on God was not so much a means to an end as a recognition of how things really are. We can get there from wherever we are because God is here. The strength, clarity, and courage we desire are at hand, within.