"Lambie" accompanies her owner, a 2-year-old girl, everywhere she goes, and has become required company at bedtime. Every so often, though, it needs a good wash, and on one of these occasions, a very nice donkey sat in for Lambie at naptime. After about 40 minutes, it was obvious that sleep was eluding the little girl. When her mom opened the bedroom door to see what all the singing was about, the little one, holding the donkey on her lap, looked at her mother and declared, "It's not working!" Clearly, the donkey was no substitute for Lambie.
Her declaration, humorous as it is, actually serves as a useful reminder when praying about an issue. How often do we pray and too soon declare, "It's not working"? If we're tempted to allow thought to rob us of the inspiration that prayer brings, we need to turn again to God with increased humility and recognize that it's not what we are doing, but, rather, what God has done that brings a solution.
Christ Jesus, who prayed more effectively than anyone, taught the lesson of persistence when it comes to prayer. He taught this point in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, "Ask, and it shall be given you … knock, and it shall be opened unto you … seek, and ye shall find…" These instructions imply mental striving and stretching.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, also emphasized this need with her students when she wrote: "… self-denial, sincerity, Christianity, and persistence alone win the prize, as they usually do in every department of life" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 462). In fact, as one looks at her life's work and accomplishments, it's a story of persistence.
Why do we resist this need for persistence? It may come down to a kind of fear – a fear of asking repetitively and then not finding an answer. You can take these fears right to the promises that populate the Bible and lay your trust there. Time after time, example after example, the surrender of the personal will for the divine will brings resolution and healing. These proofs of care where there seemed to be none did not come about with the wave of a magic wand. The characters in the Bible were stretched; they persisted, and they won.
A movie released in the 1990s, "Shadowlands," brought out a very important point about prayer. The main character was facing what seemed an insurmountable problem. A friend of his knew that he was praying, and finally asked him why, in the face of such hopelessness, he continued to pray. The man answered that he didn't pray to change his situation, but to be changed himself. He found that the practice of communing with God, which transformed his very nature, was the real point.
The good news is that this kind of transformation of thought and outlook affects everything we include in our lives and begins to bring into view how God is seeing His creation as perfect and purposeful. That's what healing is – a change of viewpoint from the material and hopeless to the spiritual and bright.
Turning from material sense to what is spiritual is actually natural to us, and the resistance to doing so is foreign and imposed. A favorite example of this natural, persistent prayer to God is when Paul and Silas were held in stocks in prison and sang praises to God. That doesn't necessarily imply that they sang in order to escape prison, but that they did so just because they knew God was there with them to be praised. This pure prayer, of course, resulted in their release (see Acts 16:19-40).
So, next time you're ready to declare, "It's not working!" you can remind yourself that the goodness and love of God are ever at work, and your role is to agree, and agree again, and then again with the spiritual facts that confirm this, as Christianity teaches.