Prayer and health: the elephant in the room?



I grew up trading elephant jokes with friends.

“Why did the elephant only wear tennis shoes with yellow soles?”

“I don’t know.”

“To hide upside down in the custard. Have you ever seen an elephant in custard? No of course not!”

“You see!”

Oh the simple triumphs of childhood!

Funny thing though as adults, most of us can think of a time or two when we’ve identified elephants that after all were not in the room (or the custard!).

Take prayer, for instance.

It means different things to different people.  For some, the only context for prayer has been comforting but not too much else.  How many today being given a diagnosis of a serious problem or condition, would think to pray first?

I have a good friend who did just that. This week he told me about a recent visit to his dental hygienist.  She pointed out to him that there was a lump in his cheek and urged him have it examined.  He had been aware of it thinking he had inadvertently bitten his cheek or something like that. Driving home after his appointment, he looked at it for the first time in the rearview mirror.  What he saw made him as concerned as the hygienist!

So he prayed.  To him, this meant deciding firmly not to be impressed but, instead, he turned his attention wholeheartedly to what he understood of God as the Creator of good alone. His prayer was based on the approach described by renowned nineteenth century healer, Mary Baker Eddy, “Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of mathematics to solve the problem? …we have only to avail ourselves of God’s rule in order to receive His blessing, which enables us to work out our own salvation.”(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

My friend was awed when within moments of starting to pray the lump suddenly drained and was soon completely gone.

Like many, the doubt that prayer can heal is one of those silent elephants I encounter in the “room” of my consciousness from time to time.  For example, what if one has prayed but continues to grow worse?

Most of us who regularly choose prayer as an option for our health care can list experiences where doing so has required persistence or has highlighted a need to let go of, or forgive some resentment or injustice.  For me prayer has helped in finding peace with answers that have come (not always those I’ve outlined!) and by bringing me courage to follow logical next steps. But I continue to learn that, yes prayer can heal today just as it has been evidenced to do by individuals over the millenniums.

Despite the options available, many today are still searching for health.  Can we afford to ignore the elephant in the room, healing prayer?

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