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Does God hear our prayers?

From the April 2, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

As we were flying into Philadelphia one stormy night, the pilot announced that we would have to circle the city for an hour before we could land. Moans and muttered grumblings broke out among the passengers. I prayed to know that we were all safe in God’s eternal care and that we could be sure our disrupted plans for the evening would be resolved harmoniously.

Moments later, the pilot said, “Somebody back there has done some powerful praying! We just got clearance to land and should be on the ground in a few minutes. Thank you, whoever you are!” I was sure I wasn’t the only one who had prayed, and I smiled, giving God the credit for the good news. But some, on reading this, may wonder, Could prayer really do that?

We read in the Bible that the God of love is everywhere, filling all space. “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? … Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:23, 24). But when I was a child, someone told me that if I prayed really hard, my prayers would be answered. So when I really wanted something, I’d close my eyes and pray with clenched fists and a scrunched-up face, straining as hard as I could. And that didn’t work. 

So prayer puzzled me. It was either hard or easy or a last resort for those who pray only when things begin to boil. In Sunday School, I remember learning how Christ Jesus made it seem so easy, stating that mountains could be moved with faith as tiny as a mustard seed, and that if I believed in him, I could do what he did, such as still a storm or raise the dead. I wondered, Could prayer really do that?

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, resolved my boyhood bewilderment. On page 14 of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she makes a remarkable declaration that set me on a lifetime course of searching for—and finding—answers to my questions. She wrote: “Become conscious for a single moment that Life and intelligence are purely spiritual,—neither in nor of matter,—and the body will then utter no complaints. If suffering from a belief in sickness, you will find yourself suddenly well. Sorrow is turned into joy when the body is controlled by spiritual Life, Truth, and Love. Hence the hope of the promise Jesus bestows: ‘He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; ... because I go unto my Father,’—[because the Ego is absent from the body, and present with Truth and Love.]” 

Our Maker gave us divine dominion to prove His power over anything that opposes His perfect rule.

This passage made me see as I had never seen before the correct starting point for prayer. Christian Science holds that God, Spirit, did not create matter, but made man in His image and likeness, spiritual, pure, and perfect. Hence God did not make needy mortals in fragile bodies, who were left to struggle in a chaotic world of random danger, pleading for help with endless challenges He neither caused nor allowed to happen. Instead, our Maker gave us divine dominion—God-given authority—to prove His power over anything that comes up in human experience that opposes His perfect rule.

Here’s a modest example: One bitterly cold morning when my wife and I were running late for an appointment, our car wouldn’t start. A friend’s jump-start got the engine going, but it triggered the anti-theft alarm, and we couldn’t shut it off. Awakened neighbors looked out from their windows.

I prayed, “Father, please show us what to do.” I wasn’t asking God to manipulate a mechanical malfunction to meet our need, but only that I might demonstrate that discord of any kind has no place in His perfect kingdom. Right then, a practical angel thought inspired my wife: “First, lock the doors electronically, then open them electronically.” 

Although this seemed counterintuitive, we obeyed the odd order, and instantly this action reset the alarm system and turned off the horn. Until then, it had not occurred to us that locking and then unlocking the doors could affect the alarm system. But when we yielded to divine guidance, the inharmonious situation was made right. My wife and I rejoiced in this small proof of how turning to God in prayer and acknowledging His harmonious kingdom can bring a quick solution to any problem. Whether facing a giant warrior, a fiery furnace, a den of lions, horror in the belly of a whale—even a balky automobile—God is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

God’s spiritual creation stands forever, so nothing can ever change our status as children of God who have been given divine dominion. As crying children run to their parents’ bed at night, seeking comfort from scary nightmares or spooky shadows, we turn to our Father-Mother God for solace. Our heavenly Parent won’t leave us afraid in the dark. Jesus proved that, like bad dreams, the evils we fear are not realities but simply beliefs arising from a mistaken, material view of existence.

The role of prayer is to help us gain a deeper, clearer sense of the divine reality of spiritual being.

God’s perfect kingdom is spiritual and needs no improvement. The calamities that beset human existence do not exist in the reality of God’s spiritual kingdom. God doesn’t make them or ignore them—they simply do not exist in the realm of the real. The role of prayer is to help us gain a deeper, clearer sense of the divine reality of spiritual being. Science and Health states, “Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it” (p. 2).

God’s endless flow of thoughts can wash away our earthly doubts and fears, but this stream of divine consciousness is God to man, not man to God. As we embrace these holy thoughts that bless and guide us, prayer is profoundly answered. For example, in my experience on the plane, did God “hear” the fears and pleas of a plane full of worried travelers? “God is not influenced by man,” Science and Health tells us. “The ‘divine ear’ is not an auditory nerve. It is the all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, to whom each need of man is always known and by whom it will be supplied” (p. 7).

Prayer is effective when it is a mental turning to God, Truth, allowing God to lift our thoughts, which reveals the good already present, and unlocks the untold treasures He has for all of us. Through the divine influence of God in human consciousness, thought is spiritualized, and this has a profound healing effect in human experience. Mountains of sickness and sorrow can move off through this kind of prayer—when we behold and adhere to the wonders God has wrought. Humble prayer allows our thought to be lifted to the realization that God meets all human needs—including even the need for clear skies on a stormy night or the resolution to an electrical problem in an automobile!

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