What it's like to practice Christian healing
Editors' Note: The Church of Christ, Scientist, has been committed to the practice of Christian healing now for over a century. One of the earliest sermons by Mary Baker Eddy was titled "Christian Healing."
Christian Science healing could be described as the consistent practice of Christian healing as Christ Jesus taught and practiced it. Such healing, as Christian Scientists see it, is undergirded by permanent spiritual truth and law.
Those who make the practice of this healing their lifework are called Christian Science practitioners. For this special issue we asked one of these practitioners, Margaret Rogers, to share with us informally her thoughts about the kind of prayer and conviction that goes into this healing ministry.
To begin with, my own prayer often includes the prayer of petition. I've discovered that just asking God for more understanding or more strength opens my thought. That's the first thing, and it's a humbling thing. It shows that I'm not looking to myself for this strength. I'm not looking to my human ability for grace or for love, but I'm looking to the divine source. To me, the power of the prayer of petition is in how it opens thought. It puts one in a listening, humble frame of mind.
This idea of grace is a hard concept for many people to grasp today. I think it's because we've been so educated away from the sense of a divine power. Christian Scientists as much as anyone else need to be careful not to think in terms of an individual as having personal power to heal. Grace means recognizing that there is a sacred power that is invisible to the human sense of things. We look not to "the things which are seen," II Cor. 4: 1 8 . but to that invisible Spirit.
And not in any blind faith kind of way, either. Because what we are looking to is solidly here. I often think of the passage in Hebrews that says, "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Heb. 11:6 .
That's one of the main points of a practitioner's prayer—the sense of conviction that God is, that there is something beyond what the physical senses are presenting or what the human mind is doing.
I feel it's most important that Mrs. Eddy speaks of Christian Science as divine law in operation and says that it "... rests on the conception of God as the only Life, substance, and intelligence, and excludes the human mind as a spiritual factor in the healing work." Science and Health, p. 185 . This point needs to be better understood, because confusion comes in when others would compare Christian Science with forms of faith cure or hypnotism, which are types of treatment that really are using the human mind to attempt to cure what the human mind itself has caused.
Christian Science takes a gigantic leap and says that the human mind itself and its concept of life as corporeal are false representations of what God's man actually is. What all who practice true spiritual healing so much need is that sense of the indivisible, infinite divine Mind, the one God. Because in His presence, that counterfeit, that usurper which says there is a mind apart from God and which says life is in matter, must give up its false claim. There's no place for it.
Healing as Christ Jesus practiced it seems mysterious only because we still reason so much from the basis of materialism as the sole reality of existence. In Christianly scientific healing we're really talking about human consciousness shedding its finite sense of life and yielding to the allness of Spirit. We see the effects of this spiritualization of thought as sickness or sin disappears. And what's actually going on in a healing is the giving up of a finite sense of substance that results from thinking of ourselves as limited mortals separate from God, rather than as God's pure likeness.
The sense of separation from good is what is dissolved in every genuine Christian Science healing. We see that we are not separate, that what we truly are is the constant spiritual representation of the Divine Being.
When we have the yielding of the mortal sense of man, the mortal sense of self, that's what we call healing. It's the revealing of the only man there is—the spiritual man.
A basic question that needs to be understood in healing is, What is it that dissolves discord? It's Truth, it's light. When the practitioner's consciousness is at one with divine Truth, that light is dispelling the darkness of sin and sickness. The action of the Christ in human consciousness illuminates and heals.
We can say to ourselves, "OK, the material senses are wholly dishonest. I'm going to set aside my reliance on them and ask, 'What does God say? What does God see in this situation?'"
To be frank, there are times when that sense of light doesn't come as quickly as one would like. I think that's when we most need the quality of obedience. We've been given rules to follow—they're found throughout the teachings of Christian Science. For instance, our textbook, Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy, says: "When the body is supposed to say, 'I am sick,' never plead guilty." Ibid., p. 391 . Well, that's a rule. Even if you're feeling terribly sick, it's a rule you can obey. Even if you don't feel the spirit of that rule, you can start with humble obedience.
Why is this potent? Because the obedience in itself is a right spirit. It denies a sense of separateness from God. Mortal mind is insisting that sickness is real, that you feel it and see it. Yet even in the face of this, you can actually deny it by declaring that you are not sick. The fact is, no matter what the material evidence of sickness is, man cannot be sick. So you don't plead guilty. Then, through that obedience you begin to build a sense of strength, a strength that leads you more fully to the spirit of what you're declaring—and finally to the truth of your real being as God's reflection. This understood truth rectifies the error, and it brings healing.
This shows how much we need the Science of Christianity. As Paul said, we're not "sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves." II Cor. 3:5 . We're not sufficient of ourselves to know that evil and sickness are not real. But because of Mrs. Eddy's discovery, we have the Science of Christ to work with, which shows us man's true, sinless nature. And we can say to ourselves, "OK, the material senses are wholly dishonest. I'm going to set aside my reliance on them and ask, 'What does God say? What does God see in this situation?'"
Yes, sometimes there is a struggle to break through to the point where we really hear and feel our unity with God. But even in the struggle we can keep knowing that we are in the process of bringing every thought into captivity to Christ and that this is an obtainable goal. One of the subtle forms of the carnal mind's resistance to spirituality is the suggestion that spirituality is not a practical goal, that we can't really bring every thought into obedience to Christ. But God shows us how to begin and how to go forward.
We need to keep on challenging the view that the goal of understanding Spirit and thinking consistently from that basis is unobtainable—and keep challenging it not just for ourselves. All humanity has a stake in this. Paul speaks of the work that is before us "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Eph. 4:13 .
That's the context in which I see the healing work. Of course, you're always tremendously grateful for the relief from pain and fear that comes with physical healing. Yet as this occurs, something much bigger is happening. You have to lift your thought to see what is really going on.
All of humanity is blessed in a degree with each instance of Christian healing; some of the limitations and apparent solidness of matter as the reality of life have changed and been broken through. And the world feels the benefit.
The healing work is the continuity of an eternal momentum. What does the healing is that same Holy Spirit that is talked about in Genesis when "the earth was without form, and void. ... And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Gen. 1:2 . As Mrs. Eddy says: "In different ages the divine idea assumes different forms, according to humanity's needs. In this age it assumes, more intelligently than ever before, the form of Christian healing." Miscellaneous Writings, p. 370 .
That's why healing is so essential. It's the evidence of that spiritual animus, or divine idea. It's the indispensable evidence of it. Mrs. Eddy made it so clear that without healing there is little spiritual energy in Christian life. And she knew that healing had to come from the altitude of spirituality. There's no other way it can happen.