A recent healing of an aching tooth really got me thinking about my definition of successful prayer.
If we are immediately healed, we acknowledge that prayer was successful—and I’ve had many healing experiences like that. But what about when we’ve been praying and something still hurts? Or we’ve been praying for five days but have still gone through all the cold symptoms? Or we’ve called on a Christian Science practitioner to support us through prayer and that doesn’t seem to help either? That’s when the suggestion enters thought that prayer is not successful. And agreeing with this suggestion opens the door to discouragement and defeat.
In the situation with my tooth, I found myself challenging the conclusion that prayer wasn’t working, for two reasons. One was that I’d had many proofs that what the material senses report is not spiritual reality, and that aligning thought to the spiritual reality—in spite of the report of the material senses—brings a change that is tangible to those very senses. In other words, material sense cannot inform reality, but reality can and does inform the senses. Second, I knew that a change of thought from focusing on the material evidence to the spiritual reality is the harbinger of physical healing.
This brought me to the recognition that even in the midst of what seems to be an unrelenting situation, prayer is being successful if thought is yielding to spiritual sense. So I began to look for evidence of this and realized that although I was in quite a bit of pain, I was doing the following:
- maintaining a sense of gratitude for God and His goodness
- refusing to go down into the mire of negative thinking
- acknowledging God’s presence in the midst of trouble
- being quiet and really listening for spiritual ideas
- entertaining the spiritual ideas that came to me, and not arguing with them.
A wonderful sense of gratitude and peace came over me as I let go of the troubling suggestion that prayer was having no effect. I joyfully acknowledged the very powerful effect it was having in thought. The tooth pain lessened. Soon it was daylight, and I was able to get up and go about my usual activities. By evening I realized I had become entirely free of the pain sometime during the day. That was over a year ago, and there has been no further problem with that tooth.
The claim that prayer has no effect where laws of matter and physics are involved weighs heavily on human thought. Mary Baker Eddy explored this phenomenon thoroughly and exposed its fraudulent basis in her teaching and writing. But she also warned her students to challenge the claim of evil—and not ignore it.
Mrs. Eddy wrote in a notebook, under the heading “Rules for overcoming animal magnetism”: “1. See what it [animal magnetism] is trying to do. 2. Know that it cannot do it. 3. See that it is not done” (Diary EF113, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library).
In the situation with my toothache, I ultimately realized that a lack of confidence in spiritual healing could not influence me or become my opinion—if I rejected it. My rejection of “what evil was trying to do” strengthened me to carry on until the physical evidence yielded completely to the spiritual reality on which the prayers of the practitioner and myself were founded.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord” (29:19).
I feel meekness played a great part in this healing. We do need to stand up to pain and the negative thoughts that can follow on its coattails, but sometimes the way to do this is just to be very meek before God and agree wholeheartedly with the spiritual facts. Then joy returns—with healing in its wings.
Kailua Kona, Hawaii, US
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