Christian Science and Prayer

Boston Times

Inasmuch as the Scriptures teach that prayer is the Christian's means of obtaining divine aid, no question can be of more importance surely, than this: What is prayer? If there is such a thing as legitimate, intelligent, and profitable prayer, surely Christians desire it. In all the affairs of life the efficacy of a method or means is determined by its result. Jesus said, "A tree is known by its fruits." A careful study of the Scriptures must be convincing to all students that the Bible advocates prayer as a means of results. If, therefore, results are not forthcoming in the life of professing Christians, we are compelled to admit that their prayers are wanting. We are taught, "God is a very present help in trouble." "The prayer of faith shall save the sick, ... and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." If our prayers are not answered shall we conclude that resultful prayer is a thing of the past? or shall we stick to our text that intelligent, God-inspired prayer is always in place and always efficacious and therefore the want of results from our petitions is because they are not in keeping with God's way? One declares, "I have prayed for years to be healed, but am still sick; therefore I have lost all faith in prayer." We should not excuse our want of results on the ground that prayer is not efficacious, but should awaken to the fact that there is something wrong with the kind of prayer which we are using.

Christian Scientists seldom pray for things and enterprises since they do not consider their judgment sufficiently mature to determine what special material things are proper for mankind. In time of distress they recognize a want, but the material appearance is only the external manifestation of a far more serious lack. For example, we have been without coal. The coal traffic has been very much obstructed. The price of coal has been exorbitant, and a general calamity has existed because of the coal strike. The coal strike was perfectly natural and unavoidable under the existing circumstances. Therefore, to pray for an end to the strike and seek to bring it about without removing the evils that produce it cannot remedy the situation except temporarily. A lack of true brotherhood; the existence of greed, selfishness, stubbornness, strife, contention, intemperance, ignorance are among the evils which make possible such a calamity as this country has just witnessed. In our immature judgment we might believe the coal strike to be a mistake and therefore pray for its end, while superior intelligence and more mature judgment might indicate to us that a coal strike, under existing circumstances, was an inevitable means to a proper end. If under such circumstances we should beseech divine Intelligence to end the strike, we should surely "ask unwisely" and "receive not." That there was evil at the bottom of the strike is a point which we can all judge righteously, and we can be absolutely certain that it is always right to pray for the end of evil and the establishment of good. Recognizing this, the Christian Scientist is required to pray daily, "Thy kingdom come. Let the reign of Truth and Love be established in me, rule me, and rule out of me all sin." He is also required to pray that this reign of truth and love as taught in Christian Science may "enrich the affections of all mankind and govern them." In our limited understanding of our needs we might estimate that a house, or a farm, or a large bank account is an essential, and pray therefor, when in fact, in the sight of infinite Intelligence, it might be better for us to lose even the little that we have. On the other hand, we can all rest assured that it is proper and right in the sight of God to have more goodness, meekness, faith, more charity and love than we now have. Solomon said, "With all thy getting, get understanding," and he prayed for wisdom. A business man might feel the need of carrying out a certain undertaking. It might seem perfectly right and proper to him, even a necessity, and yet in the sight of wisdom, it might be the basis of a calamity. What he needs, therefore, is sufficient wisdom to determine the right course and sufficient moral strength to carry it out. His prayer, therefore, should be a petition for wisdom and strong Christian character. God is Spirit and Spirit has only spiritual things to give. If we would invoke the divine aid, then, we must pray for spiritual things. If we are sufficiently endowed with wisdom, goodness, meekness, charity, intelligence, we have all that we need to insure legitimate and real success. If we pray for spiritual things, pray to be better and wiser, we shall never pray amiss and shall thereby comply with the Master's injunction, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

A Plea for Fair Judgment
November 20, 1902

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