For most of my adult life, I was an American living in Africa, in five different countries. It was an enriching experience, whether my family and I were in Togo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, or Liberia. I met many wonderful people there, some of whom remain friends today. During that time I also found out about Christian Science and began to study its teachings. At various times I called on Christian Science practitioners to pray for my family or me when we had challenges, some of which were dire. Sometimes the tangible results of those prayers were seen immediately, and sometimes it took a little longer, but it was clear to me that the consecrated prayers of these dear ones were key in bringing healing in every case. The practitioners’ spiritual fire and understanding of the Christ—the idea of divine Truth, which Jesus had evidenced as the basis for healing—burned brightly.
It’s interesting to note that the practitioners I reached out to happened to be living back home in the United States, just as people in the US can reach out for help to practitioners on other continents, including Africa. Impartial, universal divine Truth is able to displace any darkness of thought and bring healing and needed solutions, regardless of how many miles separate the one praying and those they are praying for. Location and distance clearly weren’t factors in the powerful impact of the prayerful help we received. What did matter was that I was receptive to divine Truth, to the universality and eternality of the Christ.
The kind of prayer that can heal regardless of distance is grounded in a spiritual understanding of God as ever-present Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love—synonyms for God that Christian Science teaches express His nature and wholeness. And such prayer is outward-facing, embracing individuals and the whole world in an unselfed love with the kind of Christlike affection seen in Jesus’ instruction that we love one another in the way that he loved us (see John 13:34). Living this commandment is prayer that Mary Baker Eddy, a devout follower of Christ Jesus and the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, describes as “true prayer,” which, she says, “is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection” (No and Yes, p. 39).
One way I like to think about such prayer is this: When the sun passes through a magnifying glass, the light becomes so focused that it can burn a hole through paper or even set things alight. Similarly, dedicated, consecrated prayer brings healing ideas into focus. When we earnestly and prayerfully acknowledge God’s goodness and allness, we’re magnifying the powerful light of the Christ, which dispels darkness and reveals God’s ever-presence and care.
God’s intelligence and love are universal. And as someone once told me, when Christly inspiration warms you and causes you to better understand and feel the message of God’s deep love, others are blessed by this warmth, too.
Eddy certainly felt the call to express this expansive reach of spiritual love. In 1897 she told followers in Concord, Massachusetts, where she lived: “I shall be with you personally very seldom. I have a work to do that, in the words of our Master, ‘ye know not of.’ From the interior of Africa to the utmost parts of the earth, the sick and the heavenly homesick or hungry hearts are calling on me for help, and I am helping them” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 147).
While Eddy’s role and responsibilities as the Leader of the Christian Science movement were unique, there’s something so inspiring and deeply relevant in her clear sense of the impact to be had on “the heavenly homesick,” wherever that call originated. She knew, without doubt, that prayer does in fact reach hungering hearts, whether nearby or on the other side of the world. And it is pretty interesting that this was before modern-day forms of communication such as smartphones and the internet. It points to a communication that is not material but mental, inspired and empowered by the divine Mind, God.
This is why we never have to hesitate to take up prayer, right where we are sitting, for issues or circumstances that come calling on the doorstep of our thought.
Eventually, while living in Kenya, I became a Christian Science practitioner myself, and others called upon me for prayerful help. Oftentimes these were people in Kenya, but they also included people outside the country and on other continents reaching out to me, in Africa. Now, living again in my home country of the US, I continue to pray for people in Africa and everywhere on the globe, wherever “the heavenly homesick or hungry hearts” might be searching for the light of the Christ. Sometimes I just stop and ask God, “What should I be praying about today?” Nothing gives me more happiness than to play a part in meeting a call for divine Truth.
Sometimes the way seems hard and the problems seem too big, and I doubt the effectiveness of my prayers. At times like this I am reminded what humility Jesus had in saying, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30), and that Eddy also expressed that quality. Both knew that God is the only true healer and that they were but humble servants of the infinite Spirit. It was through their God-reflected spirituality that they were able to lift and enlighten the lives they touched.
Whenever I am faced with big problems myself or on behalf of those calling me for help, I think about that humility. I am reminded that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and because God is Spirit, our true nature is, therefore, completely spiritual. And as God’s expression, we reflect God’s ability. Eddy writes, “Man is God’s image and likeness; whatever is possible to God, is possible to man as God’s reflection. Through the transparency of Science we learn this, and receive it: learn that man can fulfil the Scriptures in every instance; that if he open his mouth it shall be filled—not by reason of the schools, or learning, but by the natural ability, that reflection already has bestowed on him, to give utterance to Truth” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 183).
Understanding this even a little enables us to enlarge and enlighten the lives we touch, to reflect God’s healing love toward others, regardless of where they are, or where we are. Each of us can respond to the call of those hungry hearts searching for healing, whether in our town or on the other side of the world. I believe that if something comes to our thought that seems troubling, it is there to be healed. Our work is to answer that call and pray about it. To me, this is what it means to live my faith, to follow the path Jesus pointed out. There is great healing power in recognizing and affirming the supremacy and ever-presence of the Christ that meets every need.
Much more than distance and location, what makes the difference is that we step up to answer the call. Each of us, wherever we are, can do this.
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