How long will this take?
Someone asked me online why some healings through prayer take longer than others. Here’s my response from the heart, and from my own experience, which is the only way I can see to answer such a sensitive, and often angst-filled, question. Someone also asked if I thought healing through prayer is going on as readily and rapidly as it did in Christ Jesus’ day, or even a hundred years ago. This prompted me to list for myself, on paper, every “major” healing I have had. In the end I had quite a number—from walking pneumonia, to broken bones, to a growth in one breast. I left off the bouts of flu, colds, or family arguments that evaporated quickly after prayer.
As I reflected on these experiences, I realized that there are two ways one could tell their life-story. One is as the history of the catastrophes, large and small, that they have encountered, and how they have been overcome. The other is by tracing the thread of spiritual growth and revelations of God’s goodness that have unfolded through daily experiences with prayer. I think that what we focus on as our story line speaks directly to this question of “Why is my healing taking so long?”
In every one of my own healings, consecrated prayer has resulted in a perception shift. Healing prayer involves looking at life from a divine perspective and being willing to work from this new point of view. Prayer develops spiritual sense, and spiritual sense is a capacity we all possess to understand and see divine reality without the encumbrances of fear, pain, or doubt. When one understands that what he sees and feels through spiritual sense is the actual state of true being, consent occurs, evidence changes, and we call this change a healing. To my sense, the book of Ephesians in the Bible gives a good explanation of what occurs in healing prayer: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:22–24).
However long or short the period of time for the shift, healing is never an act of magic. The time required for a healing is also never problem-driven—that is to say, one problem is not inherently more difficult or time-consuming to heal than another. Healing is the result of a perception shift, spiritual growth, and progress in putting what we know into practice—the three most natural things in life.
The subject of my prayers had very gently shifted from my problem to one of exploring what God really is and does.
I had a long-standing relationship problem during which I worked with a number of Christian Science practitioners to resolve the problem through prayer for a number of years. Then one day, when my thought was occupied elsewhere, the healing came. I was mad. Why now? Why was this healed on a day I had been praying about something else (in fact, praying for someone else)? Why hadn’t my first prayers been enough? I posed these questions to the last practitioner I had worked with. She suggested I ask God and await an answer. Six months later, I knew why. It took that full six months for me to let go of my life story as one long line of relationship troubles and to see that, in fact, my perspective had been steadily growing more spiritual, less self-centered, and my heart had been opening, more and more, to forgiveness and love. The subject of my prayers had very gently shifted from my problem to one of exploring what God really is and does. The day of my healing, I saw, felt, and accepted God’s total goodness and the fact that blessedness is the only true state of God’s man. And this view apparently washed me clean of a lot of long-standing problems, the relationship issue included.
The healing didn’t occur over time. It occurred out of time, or rather, when I took myself off the mortal, limited timeline of humanhood with its ups and downs, and consented to ever-present blessedness and the divine state of God’s man.
The healings that have had the deepest impact on my life have brought with them some of the most significant life-lessons. Yes, many of these have taken a while. But the time element fades when weighed against the spiritual growth and the increased capacity to help others. When Jesus’ disciples struggled to heal a problem that had gone on a long time, Jesus healed it by rebuking the devilish, “faithless and perverse generation” of questions, “How long has this gone on?” “How long will this continue?” that weighed on the case. Then he spoke of the power of mustard seed faith (see Matthew 17:14–21). Mustard seeds seem small and insignificant. To me, Jesus teaches us not to be distracted by the length of time, or size, or any other mortal measure, of a problem. We are to get away from the problem entirely and nurture the seed of prayer with the all-powerful, present Christ. The message of Christ is that an understanding of God through prayer, and a life lived consistently with that prayer, moves mountains.
Speaking of Christ-healing, Mary Baker Eddy—the discoverer of Jesus’ method of healing prayer—wrote from experience: “Whoever would demonstrate the healing of Christian Science must abide strictly by its rules, heed every statement, and advance from the rudiments laid down. There is nothing difficult nor toilsome in this task, when the way is pointed out; but 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).
Don’t be cornered by the clock or a mortal timeline. Don’t let a problem be to you a fixed, stationary mountain. Don’t think of your faith, and the power of your prayer, as too small. Your life story and healing potential is infinitely greater than that. Pray. Persist. Grow. Express God. You won’t miss out on your healing. It is unfolding outside of time.