The great value of hope, faith, and understanding

Hope, faith, and understanding actually conjoin in Christian Science practice.

It’s beautiful how God provides us with all the tools we need for strengthening our prayers. Christ Jesus recognized this and said, “All things that the Father hath are mine” (John 16:15).

In her writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, often mentions three of these tools—hope, faith, and understanding—together. As an example, on page 125 of the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes, “As human thought changes from one stage to another of conscious pain and painlessness, sorrow and joy,—from fear to hope and from faith to understanding,—the visible manifestation will at last be man governed by Soul, not by material sense.”

Hope opens us up to the prospect of experiencing the goodness and love of God. In the darkest of times, hope can be a beacon pointing a way to improvement and progress. Hope is expectation of a solution and anticipation of healing.

Faith is trust in God’s presence and influence. In genuine faith, there is a constancy and firmness of thought and a dedication to God’s utter authority. Faith is a confidence in the power of God to act, cure, and transform. 

A Roman officer once asked Jesus to help his servant, who was paralyzed and in great pain (see Matthew 8:5–13). Jesus offered to come, but the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”

Jesus was amazed at the man’s response, and said to those who were with him, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” In that same hour, the servant was cured. What a wonderful illustration of both hope and faith!

Understanding is a clear comprehension of the truth of God and God’s spiritual, eternal creation. It is cognizing distinctly what is real, what is good, what is loving, and what is true. Understanding is a solid knowing of spiritual facts. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). To apprehend truth in this way is invaluable to people who are praying, because doing so thoroughly equips them to correct misconceptions about God and God’s creation, including the false impression that such an incorrect view could cause harm.

In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy explains, “Understanding is a quality of God, a quality which separates Christian Science from supposition and makes Truth final” (p. 506). This is very encouraging. If understanding, hope, and faith were brain-based qualities, they would always be limited. But they’re not. The source of understanding, faith, and hope is God Himself. Each one of us is created to show forth all of God’s qualities. Every single quality of God is securely within each of us, waiting only to be practiced and expressed.

It’s important to recognize that hope, faith, and understanding actually conjoin in Christian Science practice. Sometimes people think that spiritual understanding precludes the need for hope and faith. In a way, it’s as though they equate hope with elementary school, faith with junior high, and understanding with high school, and think that once they graduate from elementary school and junior high, they can discount what’s been learned there.

Yet, as an airplane needs both of its wings to gain altitude, the spiritual quality of understanding soars to great heights on the wings of both hope and faith. First, it’s looking up to God in hope that prompts prayer. And it’s heartfelt faith in God that gives prayer strength and foundation. Finally, it’s understanding that brings to prayer logic and conclusion.

I remember when it became clearer to me that understanding, faith, and hope are all necessary components of prayer that heals and transforms. When traveling to make an important presentation, I came down with a cold. Then, an hour later, I found myself with symptoms of food poisoning.

As soon as I turned to God in prayer, I felt hope well up within me. My hope in God’s goodness was backed by something infinitely beyond human emotions. I was drawing on hope as a potent quality of God. Embracing hope immediately had a positive effect on my faith. And just as with hope, I knew that my faith was God-given and that I was showing forth and being buoyed by the quality of faith.

Science and Health states, “Faith should enlarge its borders and strengthen its base by resting upon Spirit instead of matter” (p. 430). So, instead of resting on what I knew personally, I let God, divine Spirit, lead my thoughts and strengthen my perspective. The Bible says, “We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (I Corinthians 2:13).

As a result, it dawned on me that God is absolutely perfect. I realized that the only possible condition for me, Spirit’s outcome and offspring, is to be the reflection of God’s perfect, unalterable nature. This dawning concluded my prayers; it was God’s expression of understanding in me. I noticed that the moment I became aware of my perfection in God, everything was all right, and I was healed. No more cold or food poisoning. I went forward with my responsibilities, and giving my presentation was memorable and joyful. 

Hoping for, having faith in, and understanding God’s overflowing goodness and love comforts so effectively. We can prove for ourselves that by employing these God-given spiritual qualities, we truly enlarge our awareness of the ever-presence of God, good.

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