Eleventh-hour prayer

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

It's never too late to pray. Never too late to expect God's love to change our lives for the better. Prayer is a dynamic agent of healing at any time, no matter how threatening the challenges we're facing.

Consider the many biblical accounts in which a happy ending might have easily been written off. In each one, prayer brought an unforeseen turnaround, even though tragedy and defeat appeared inevitable. Daniel faced down a den of wild animals. Three Hebrew men, whom a king intended to execute by fire, emerged untouched from the inferno. David vanquished Goliath, an opponent much larger and stronger than he was. Over and over, in-the-crunch prayers pierced tightly held assumptions about reality as material, limited, and out of control.

The convention-shattering prayers of these spiritual thinkers had a common basis: trust in God. According to Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy, Spirit is an essential term for describing the Supreme Being. In defining God as Spirit, she lifted the scriptural statement "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24) to an understanding that Spirit excludes matter and mortality. In other words, turning to Spirit in prayer necessitates turning away from its opposite, matter. "Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true," she wrote, "and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 261). On this basis of conviction she healed countless physical conditions and committed her life to explaining the laws underlying this divinely scientific prayer.

Because God is Spirit, our 11th-hour efforts to call on Him turn us away from dependence on or concern about materiality. A young couple learned this late one hot summer night when a loud knock at their door alerted them to a fire in an adjacent building. A strong wind was blowing flames across their fifth-story window. They had to get out immediately.

Outside, a crowd had gathered to watch the fire. Fascination with the spectacle and hypotheses about its outcome filled the air. The firefighters were tiring, having battled another big fire that night, and the wind was hampering their work.

The couple wanted to turn to God, but the circumstances, including the almost mesmeric focus of the crowd on the impending calamity, tempted them to feel there was little point in praying. They knew from experience, though, that giving in to fear and discouragement never brings healing. And healing was their expectation. So they turned away and found a quiet doorstep on which to sit and pray.

Like the lions' den, the fiery furnace, and the battlefield where David met Goliath, that doorstep became a proving ground for Spirit-based prayer. Decisively, they affirmed the power and presence of God as the only substance, force, and reality of being. They rejected the evidence of destruction and the feelings of desperation. They continued this spiritual reasoning with no thought for time, circumstance, or opinion.

By the time news reached the couple that the fire had been contained, they were already confident in God's control of their circumstances. The fire, wind, and excitement of the spectators no longer had power to scare them into thinking that prayer was pointless. So they were not entirely surprised to hear a firefighter comment on how suddenly and unexpectedly the wind had ceased, enabling his team to quell the flames. Returning home, they found their belongings intact. Only an empty building had sustained any damage.

Heartfelt prayers can bring to light divine reality for anyone in trouble, today, as in biblical times. That kind of spiritually scientific thinking – embracing basic facts about God's allness and power, and rejecting whatever is unlike His goodness – is an entirely dependable means for destroying mortal fears and bringing about healing. Even at what feels like the last minute.

Thou shalt preserve me
from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
Psalms 32:7

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