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Does God answer prayer?

AT one time I really wondered whether God could or would answer my prayers. In fact, sometimes it seemed that He really wasn't listening! Since then I have begun the study of Christian Science, which teaches and proves that God is ``a very present help in trouble.'' 1 I've learned, and in a small degree demonstrated, that He does indeed answer our prayers--but not always in the way we expect.

I found I had to learn what prayer truly is. And learning how to pray doesn't mean acquiring a sure-fire technique for getting a new car or for increasing income. It means learning how to feel God's presence, how to bear witness to His healing might.

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When we pray, we simply and quietly turn our thought completely to God, divine Truth and Love, the only Mind. As we humbly commune with the Almighty, we find that what we really need is a better understanding of Him.

But does this mean that our human needs are not met? Are we condemned to privation, having only prayer's consolation of comprehending God's will? In answering the question ``Are we benefited by praying?'' Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states, ``Yes, the desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void.'' 2

God helps us in tangible ways. This fact was proved repeatedly in the ministry of Christ Jesus. With perfect confidence the Master declared, ``Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,'' 3 before he raised Lazarus from the dead. He healed sin, disease, lack, with absolute faith in God's omnipotence.

We too can come to see that evil is not the power it seems to be. Appearances insist vehemently on their own reality. Materialistic reasoning asserts that God isn't a very real or powerful presence, and that prayer to this distant Deity may be comforting but lacking in any real results.

It would seem to this limited viewpoint that fragile, physical conditions determine life and that good is at the mercy of circumstance. Yet as Jesus' life and works proved, man and all creation are actually spiritual, the work of Spirit, God, the one Life, the one good. And God is not distant; He is ever present. His law of harmony--the law of wholeness--is in fact the only law governing us, even at this moment.

We cannot prescribe exactly how this law will be demonstrated in our experience. But as we pray, consistently seeking a more spiritual outlook, affirming God's goodness and rejecting sin and selfishness, discord's mesmeric illusions begin to fade from our lives.

Through prayer our thought becomes more spiritually oriented, and the fruits of this purification of consciousness are immediate. The humble request for divine guidance--a request that does not include instructions for God--is always answered. One blessing of prayer is that we learn better how to pray.

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The desire to predetermine the results of prayer diminishes as we grow spiritually. And yet, at the same time we find our needs met. We experience the fullness with which God answers our prayers when we seek to do His will alone.

I received a small proof of this early in my study of Christian Science. I cut my foot on some broken glass, and it was bleeding profusely. As I hobbled off to clean it, I prayed, ``God, help me!'' Instantly came the assurance that He would. I accepted this answer as fact, but I was frankly puzzled as to how He could help me. After all, the physical evidence seemed undeniably real and perhaps serious. Yet I felt I could fully trust in the glimpse of Spirit's allness my brief prayer had given me.

As I cleaned my foot, I saw the bleeding had stopped. Was this God's answer to my prayer? Not completely! For as I examined my foot, I found no trace whatsoever of a wound. In humble awe I realized that He had answered my prayer in a way far beyond my imagining.

Looking back on the experience, I realize this healing dissolved a lot of my skepticism toward Christian Science. God's presence and the spiritual nature of reality had been undeniably proved in my life! And as I continue to learn more about our Father, I find that these words of Mrs. Eddy's are unquestionably true: ``In the desolation of human understanding, divine Love hears and answers the human call for help . . . .'' 4 We can trust Love to answer our call. 1 Psalms 46:1. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 2. 3 John 11:41. 4 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 81.

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