‘Let patience have its perfect work’

In today’s column, a woman shares how she found a greater capacity for patience in her interactions with others while patiently and persistently praying for the healing of a physical problem.

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My daughter and I devoured episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” like warm slices of bread fresh out of the oven. The contestants delighted us with their creative baking, and the judges provided expert feedback with warmth and good humor. On one show, one of the judges, a master bread baker, gave a rare piece of advice to the novice bakers: Be patient. Their challenge that day was to make ciabatta, and it was soon clear why patience with the rising process was key to the “perfect bake.” The contestant who waited the longest before putting her bread in the oven ended up with the star loaf.

I came away from that episode thinking about the real-life implications of that advice. For me, an important part of daily life is prayer – communion with God and listening for and following the direction that comes from that practice. So I thought about how this analogy of patience and leaven might apply to prayer in a way that brings meaningful progress and even healing to our lives.

There’s a story in the Bible, a parable, by which Christ Jesus illustrates the nature of the kingdom of heaven. He tells of a woman taking leaven and putting it into three measures of meal. The result was that the entire mass of what was baked was leavened (see Luke 13:20, 21). One thing this conveys to me is that when we quietly seek to understand the wisdom that is from God – the infinite Spirit that created us in its likeness – and internalize the truth we learn, we can undergo a change in thought, transforming us from the inside out. The result is a clearer view of a heaven we can experience right here on earth.

That present possibility of heaven is explained in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy. It defines “heaven” in part as “harmony” (p. 587). So the natural result of prayer to see the spiritual reality of God’s love and care for all includes healing (restoration of harmonious functioning in the body) as a result of spiritual transformation (uncovering a harmonious mental state that’s inherently within us).

Sometimes it can take patience to see such a turnaround. But I’ve found that doesn’t mean there isn’t progress going on under the surface, and knowing that can encourage us to keep up the good work. I recall a problem I had with my leg and foot that prevented me from walking normally. This happened during an active time, when we had our children’s end-of-school-year activities to attend, including our son’s high school graduation. We also had family visiting from out of town.

I knew from experience the power of an understanding of God to resolve such problems, but this difficulty persisted longer than I would have hoped. Despite that, I recall those few weeks of prayer as punctuated by a sweet, growing sense of God’s loving care and protection. The Bible reassures us that “the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3, 4, New King James Version). I felt the promise of this, along with a sense of God’s care for me and a confidence that this condition was no more permanent than rain clouds hiding the sun, because it wasn’t part of my real nature as God’s spiritual and whole creation.

As I prayed with these ideas, there was daily indication of progress. I became less concerned with what my body was doing and more interested in expressing Godlike qualities, such as kindness and joy. And it wasn’t long before I was back to my active lifestyle, participating fully in family events, hiking nearby trails, and moving about with my usual ease. One of the greatest gifts, though, was an increased capacity for patience in my interactions with others, which I’ve felt more consistently ever since.

Science and Health explains, “When we wait patiently on God and seek Truth righteously, He directs our path” (p. 254). Healing isn’t always about patience. I have experienced quick resolution of many problems through prayer. But when patience is required, it isn’t about putting up with untenable conditions. It’s about facing problems with a sense of confidence that God, divine Truth, is always active and helping us gain a higher, more spiritual understanding of life – just as leaven helps the dough to rise. And when patience has “its perfect work,” the result is healing.

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