When something bad’s been going on forever

Q: How can I keep praying when it seems like something bad has been going on forever?

A: It can be tough when we feel our prayers aren’t doing any good. But what are our options?

Quit praying? That’s tempting. But seriously, how would that help?

I know that when I used to have severe menstrual cramps, there were times when I felt pretty discouraged. I’d pray and pray and pray. But each month, they’d be back. In my heart I knew this problem could be healed, because I’d had many other Christian Science healings at that point. But at times it felt like it was never going to end. I kept praying, though, and I began to realize that each prayer was bringing me closer to healing. My hope and faith were growing stronger. My fear of the pain began to weaken, and gradually, without really even being aware it was happening, I was healed. My persistence paid off, and I was completely and permanently free.

So, let’s say that you’ve also decided to keep on praying. Now what? Looking at how we pray can help. Maybe there are some more effective ways we can pray. 

As I grew in my own understanding of how to pray, I realized that some of the things I’d been doing weren’t working. For example, asking God to “fix it.” Or repeating a good thought over and over without really thinking about it. I also found that there weren’t any prayer “silver bullets” that would suddenly make everything OK. The problem, I realized, was that all of these ways of praying were really me-centric and that God was . . . who knows where? I needed an upgrade.

I began to realize that each prayer was bringing me closer to healing.

Turning to the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to Scriptures, I found that Mary Baker Eddy gives many concrete instructions about praying effectively. In fact, she devotes an entire chapter to the subject. 

The way of praying that she explains is based on spiritual facts. For instance: God did a great job in creating our universe. This universe, including us, is perfect, spiritual, and only good. As part of this creation, we are cared for and protected by God. 

As we turn our thoughts to these spiritual facts when something seems out of whack, we find our experience conforming to that reality, and things do resolve. Sometimes it happens quickly, and sometimes it takes persistence.

When things seem to take a long time, one idea that helps me keep going is the recognition that every prayer is effective when it’s based on spiritual facts. And anything that doesn’t conform to these spiritual facts is a lie. What’s the destiny of a lie? It has to disappear when the truth becomes apparent. So each acknowledgment of God’s presence is a powerful instance of good transforming our thinking, tipping the scales toward Truth.

In fact, Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health, “. . . progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil” (p. 233). Here we have the promise of progress and the assurance that we have the ability to do what it takes to see that progress happen.

It’s a little like a wave in the ocean. Waves start as small ripples formed by wind blowing across the surface of the water. Over time and distance they eventually become waves, gaining in power as they travel. Finally, when they reach shallow water, they break. Nothing can stop waves from breaking. It’s what they do. 

Similarly, nothing can stop prayers from having an effect. Like the wave, they build until they “break”—or, in the case of prayer, have a discernible healing outcome, just as in my healing of menstrual cramps. As waves inevitably break, our prayers inevitably bless and heal. 

As waves inevitably break, our prayers inevitably bless.

So when discouragement tries to come in, it’s helpful to remember the wave gathering strength and power as it travels over the ocean’s surface. And so, too, do our prayers gather impetus and propulsion as we continue to maintain the goodness and love of God in our hearts. 

Mrs. Eddy sums it up in a line from a poem: “The centuries break, the earth-bound wake” (“Satisfied,” Poems, p. 79). Things will be resolved. The time it takes will seem insignificant. The wave breaks; healing happens. We can trust it. 

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