EXPECTATION OF GOOD is an important element of prayer. Bible figures such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, and Christ Jesus certainly expected good. They all loved God and turned to Him. The Bible shows they trusted their prayer to reach God and trusted Him to answer it. They knew their God—His all-presence, all-power, unstoppable love—and must have worked hard to keep their thought close to Him. No wonder they expected and experienced divine help in times of trouble.
Take David. He expected God to save him from Goliath. "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear [in his shepherding], he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine," he said (I Sam. 17:37). And God did.
Likewise Daniel. He fully expected safety in the lions' den. And Daniel was unhurt by those hungry lions "because he believed in his God," as the Bible puts it (Dan. 6:23). Believed in Him—don't you love that? Daniel believed in God's love so much that he trusted God's complete control over both him and the lions.
No expectation of good was greater than that of Christ Jesus. He never gave up on his God, who he knew was the Life of man, nor on his prayer. Even when his friend Lazarus died, he prayed, and went to Lazarus' tomb, first thanking God "that thou hast heard me" (John 11:41). Then he added, "And I knew that thou hearest me always" (verse 42). And Lazarus came forth alive.
Prayer—whether from the highest pinnacle or from the deepest pit—is our connecting point with God. It's how we hear Him.
Jesus taught us to have the same expectation of good when we pray—to believe we will receive what we ask for in our prayer. "Have faith in God," he said (Mark 11:22).
Have faith in God. "Easy for Jesus to say," I blurted out when I was in distress years ago. But what if we so want to trust God—so want to expect healing—but our reaching out to Him is more in fear than in faith, in doubt than in certainty, in despair than in devotion, and we feel far from God? Are we then up a creek without a paddle—without hope or help? Never.
Prayer, whether from the highest pinnacle or from the deepest pit, is our connecting point with God. It's how we hear Him. And a God who is Love (and God is!) meets us right where we are—at our point of need, no matter how huge that seems; and at our point of understanding, no matter how slight that seems—and lifts us higher.
It's never too early, and never too late, I've learned, to realize we do have faith in God, and often it's in our greatest extremity that we discover it. We don't have to drum it up. Faith is "the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). And when our prayer begins with what we know of God (even if it's only one thing—"God is Love," for example), and we hug, hold, and cherish that, it grows and grows, and crowds out fear and doubt.
When we stop and think about it, isn't our faith in God really our trusting His faithfulness to His children? And isn't our trusting God's faithfulness to us really His love for us reflected right back to Him?
One evening years ago (the same night I blurted out in distress, "Easy for Jesus to say"), I began to learn all about this last point.
I'd become an earnest student of Christian Science, loved what I was learning about God in my study, and was striving to put it into practice. Our family had had several healings through prayer. Then I became very ill—fever, weakness, chest pain, and coughing fits that wouldn't quit. I overheard our neighbor, a physician, downstairs at the front door saying to my husband, "Your wife should be in a hospital. That's pneumonia if I ever heard it."
Soon my husband came up to see how I was. I could tell he was worried, and he said if I wasn't better the next day, he wanted to take me to a doctor. He was not yet a student of Christian Science, and while he'd been respectful of my choice to rely on God for my health and well-being, I felt pressured to "make it work."
As ridiculous as it sounds now, I somehow felt I had about 12 hours in which to "cram"—get to know everything there was to know about God in order to have the expectancy and faith (as if they're "out there") that would enable me to be healed. There I was, books all over the bed—my Bible, Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy's other writings, concordances. It would be a busy night! After going from one book to another, as if trying to find a needle in a haystack, I felt a yearning to just feel close to God. My Bible was open, and I noticed this prayer of Jeremiah's: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise" (17:14).
"If only it were that simple" was my first thought. And I dismissed it, returning to my cramming. But Jeremiah's prayer kept coming back. Straight to me from God, it turned out. Finally, I stopped my desperate searching and began to ponder his precious petition. More than petition, to me it was a feeling-close-to-God prayer. It was:
• A prayer of expectancy—he was expecting God to be God, omnipotence! Nothing about feeling he was responsible for making omnipotence work.
• A prayer of conviction—a conviction that God was the only cause, the only controller, the only Mind.
• A prayer of certainty—nothing "iffy" in there.
• A prayer of affirmation of his inseparability from God—acknowledging that nothing could cut him off from what God gives.
• A prayer of understanding—knowing that God is all good, and All, and He will make that plain to us.
How pure and simple! Yet deep, rich, full of love for God. And the key to his expectation, I now saw, was that last phrase—"for thou art my praise." Jeremiah's concern was not on the side of "How big is my need?" but rather on the side of "How great is my God!" He was filled with what he knew of God's ever-present, unfailing love. No room for fear or doubt there. No wonder he was expectant, joyful!
Right about then, I remembered another Bible passage: "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jer. 29:11). Why, of course! God would give us every thought we needed to expect and experience complete healing. That fit with what I felt I knew, really knew, of God—that He is Love.
The rest of the night until I fell asleep, one remembrance after another kept coming to me from my own life-experience, from childhood to the present, of God's protecting, directing, healing love. I don't think I departed from Love, that name for God, with a single thought. Finally, feeling so loved, I fell asleep.
In the morning I was markedly better. The fever was gone, I had energy, and I could speak without coughing. Within a couple of days I was totally cured. As grateful as I was for the physical healing (and my husband was grateful, too), this spiritual growth was an even greater blessing.
This was a profound lesson in the Scriptural counsel "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). My seeking of Him was diligent, and His love for me dissolved all sense of desperation, doubt, fear, and false sense of responsibility, until nothing was left but a sweet, expectant sense of God's great love for and faithfulness to His children.
Judy Olson is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Westport, Connecticut.
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