Overcoming discouragement

When we appear to be getting no answer to our prayers, perhaps we need to gain a new understanding of what prayer is.

If, despite our prayers, things don't turn out as we think they should, it's tempting to become discouraged. At one point after a difficult experience, I felt disappointed and began to ask myself why my prayers hadn't been more effective. For weeks this thought taunted me: "Maybe I don't have what it takes and should just give up."

Then a testimony given at a Wednesday evening meeting in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, caught my attention. The testifier, too, had not been wholly successful in hearing and following God's answers to his prayers in a particular situation. Instead of losing hope, however, he was grateful, because through the experience he'd realized some progress in his understanding of God. Considering his and my contrasting responses to less-than-ideal situations showed me this: he was seeing his human experiences as opportunities to improve his understanding of God; I'd been seeing an understanding of God as a way to improve human experiences. Somewhere along the way, I'd got my priorities confused.

My experience as a teacher in seeing the difference between successful and unsuccessful students has helped me further clarify the relationship of prayer and study to healing. I taught English to foreign students, most of whom had to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in order to enter universities in the United States. Occasionally a student would arrive who was so obsessed with passing the TOEFL that he would refuse to attend any beginning-level classes; to pass the TOEFL, he'd explain, he needed only advanced English. Despite many hours spent studying test-preparation books, this type of student rarely did as well as he expected and was often discouraged. Successful students focused their efforts on learning English and eventually succeeded on the TOEFL without putting undue effort into the test itself. After all, the primary goal of learning English wasn't a high test score. Rather, the goal of the test was to measure how well someone knew English.

May 25, 1987

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.