Effectual Prayer

If a dozen persons were asked to define their individual concepts of prayer, it is likely that their statements would vary, because of their differing mentalities and preconceptions. It is, however, almost certain that all would agree that to be of any value prayer must be effectual. St. James has a good deal to say about prayer, especially in relation to healing, and it is he who gives the wonderfully inclusive statement that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." The verse which contains this statement invites thoughtful analysis. It sustains the argument that prayer does heal the sick, and it proceeds to give some of the essential elements of prayer. It states that the one who seeks healing must be willing to confess his faults, and that he who would help an afflicted brother must be "a righteous man." This is in line with the psalmist's words, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

Mrs. Eddy lays great stress upon the moral demand in respect to the healer when she says, "Better suffer a doctor infected with smallpox to attend you than to be treated mentally by one who does not obey the requirements of divine Science" (Science and Health, p. 235). A window covered with dust and cobwebs would not admit light in the same degree as one that was clean, and the Scientist who would let in the healing light of Truth upon his fellow beings must have "lost much materiality—much error—in order to become a better transparency for Truth" (p. 295). No shadow of self-sufficiency must obscure the light, for the Christian Science prayer is not one of audible eloquence addressed to the human intellect. Rather is it the deepest desire of spiritual longing, an appeal from the blindness and injustice of mortal mind to the one perfect Mind, to God, who is both able and willing to save even those that by the law of mortal belief are doomed to die.

True prayer, as indicated in the epistle already quoted, is to be both fervent and effectual,—the righteousness of the one who prays must be active and vital. We have all known of prayers which asked that the sick might be healed if it were in accordance with God's will; but there seemed to be great uncertainty about the divine will, and where the element of uncertainty was in the patient's favor, it was often dashed ruthlessly to the ground by the decision of materia medica. The one great essential of prayer, from the Christian Science standpoint, is to know the will of God, know it so well that there shall be a divine daring which challenges whatever is not God's will as taught and demonstrated by Christ Jesus. He ever declared for the supremacy of Life, and he proved this both for the dead and the dying, and commanded that his followers should pursue the course so gloriously opened up by him. Christian Science insists that God's "good pleasure" (to quote St. Paul) is at least as ready to heal the sick as to save the sinner, and no one questions the latter. Would any be blind enough to say or to think that one who desire to be freed from sin might not find God willing? Then why doubt the divine will to save to the uttermost those who are sick, if they admit and abandon the "faults" which spring from dependence upon matter and material law and seek spiritual aid through "effectual fervent prayer"?

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Fallen Leaves
November 14, 1914

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