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THE SIMPLE PRAYER THAT TRANSFORMS

From the June 2, 2008 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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While teaching Sunday School, I asked my class of first graders, "What would you do if someone wanted you to pray for them?" A visitor to the class, a young girl, spoke up and confidently said, "I would tell them they were safe in God's pocket." I appreciated her comment.

After church, my phone rang. It was a man asking for Christian Science treatment through prayer. He wasn't familiar with Christian Science, yet had heard that it healed. He was suffering physically. To my surprise, the first words out of my mouth were, "You're safe in God's pocket." He began to cry and hung up, without giving his name. A week later, that man called back to report that he'd been healed of the physical situation he'd called me about—the instant he'd hung up the phone.

The uncomplicated work of the Christ, of God's healing message to humanity—expressed in the sweet confidence of that young girl in my Sunday School class—had taught me a valuable lesson about the effortless nature of healing prayer. I learned the importance of keeping my prayer simple. God knows His children. "I know thee by name," he declared to Moses (Ex. 33:17). This means to me that we are on familiar terms with God. As divine Mind, or infinite intelligence, God knows you as His spiritual idea. Not only that, but as divine Love, God treats you as a valued son or daughter—with utmost compassion, respect, and care. And He maintains your health and well-being. This tender treatment, this divine message of love speaking to each of us, is called the Christ.

How God cares for His children was fully exemplified in Jesus' treatment of the multitudes that came to him for healing. All his thoughts and actions were infused with love. His complete yielding to God's will earned him the title Christ Jesus, and those who were receptive felt the animating power of the Christ.

At the end of his ministry, Jesus promised that a final revelation, a Comforter, would come. Well, the Science of Christ has come, and it's inspiring and healing people around the globe today. Christian Science, discovered by Mary Baker Eddy, can be easily practiced by you and me daily. It isn't reserved for those who've achieved a certain level of intellectual prowess, as my young Sunday School student proved.

Mary Baker Eddy was once interviewed by a journalist named Arthur Brisbane. He wasn't expecting to find out about the benefits of prayer that's based on a solid trust in God. But during the course of their conversation, he mentioned to Mrs. Eddy how tired he was feeling. She simply responded by asking him if he'd like to have a Christian Science treatment. He told her he would like that. Later, he explained to friends, "All I can say is that it was a most unbelievably beautiful experience ... that treatment proved to me the great need in the world for Christian Science" (Yvonne von Fettweis and Robert Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, p. 217). I think Brisbane must have felt something of the Christ-power. He may not have understood how Christian Science healed him, or grasped the full significance of its message. But simple acceptance did bring healing.

SOMETIMES A CRY FOR HELP is all that is needed for healing to blossom. The cry means we are noticing our need for God.

In my own healing practice, I've found that the most effective treatment occurs when I affirm in my prayers the natural goodness of God. Just as a plane uses its engines to move down a runway in order to achieve lift, we can employ prayer to help move thought, in order to really feel the elevating spirit of the Christ that heals. When I strive to value God's children as God values them, my prayers stay simple, yet effective. Both inspired reasoning and quiet listening for God's directing help me discern what's true. They also keep me from reciting phrases or quotations that just entertain the human mind. I've found a long, wordy prayer treatment often tends to make a reality out of a problem, which should instead be seen as an imposition on thought. This barrier to progress needs quick dismissal.

There is often a resistance to the simplicity of Christian Science treatment. Thoughts, such as "I'm not good enough," "I don't know enough," and "What I'm thinking couldn't possibly help someone," can all vie for the attention of the spiritual healer. But I've come to recognize this as the human mind just giving me its usual flak. Confusion and reluctance to accept the Christ-message disappear when I value the spiritual fact that divine Mind's ideas naturally express dominion over anything opposed to good. Trying to put right what God never created (an illness, a breakdown in family communication) unnecessarily tangles up treatment. If I attempt to fix something through prayer, instead of affirming that spiritual perfection is a permanent fact here and now, I accept that weakness, sickness, and sin are real—and incorrectly associate them with those I'm helping.

When I don't hear back from someone I've treated through prayer, I don't need to be confused about when to stop praying for them, or worry that I haven't done enough. I like to think about it this way: It's clear to me when I've finished mowing my lawn. Similarly, I know when I've concluded a treatment by staying in tune with the mental signs of healing; feelings of peace, joy, and spiritual conviction inform me that the Christ has done the healing work. If I'm inspired later to pray a bit more, I'll do so. But, I've realized there's no need to mentally go over the whole ground again, so to speak, just as I would not re-mow the entire yard simply to touch up one spot. My understanding that God directs my thoughts inspires me to pray about anything that needs to be addressed further, while at the same time confidently demanding and trusting that total healing is inevitable.

Is there a difference between Christian Science treatment and prayer, one might ask? Yes. Every Christian Science treatment is prayer. However, not all prayer is treatment. When someone contacts me for Christian Science treatment, they are giving permission for my specific prayer to spiritualize their thought. Because disease and inharmony of the human condition are manifestations of thought, I help the patient see that material beliefs can't imprison them and stop them from moving forward.

But it wouldn't be wise or loving for me to treat someone without their consent. That doesn't mean that I stop being caring. No one should ever feel abandoned. If a friend casually asks me to pray for them, unaware of the distinction between treatment and prayer, I can still pray. Prayer, with less of a personal flavor and more of a general sense, is a desire for others to experience the best. In this light, I can always affirm God's love for all His children, everywhere.

Someone might ask if prayer can ever be too simple. Is it enough to just cry, "God, help me!" Or do I have to know or do something more? Well, sometimes a cry for help is all that is needed for healing to blossom. The cry means we are noticing our need for God. In his first beatitude, Jesus said: "God makes happy those who know that they need him. The kingdom of heaven is for them" (Matt. 5:3, Worldwide English Version).

Yes, such a cry may seem simple. But it can have big consequences. Even if I reach out both quickly and wholeheartedly to God, I will benefit from His grace. And even if my concept of God feels "small," or I'm not sure I deserve His care, I still receive the infinite light and eternal might of the Christ.

I'm learning not to get discouraged if total healing doesn't take place after my first declaration of truth in treatment. This is not a time for self-condemnation, but of surrendering any sense of human will to the divine. It's an opportunity to discover more about God, Love itself—to be more honest, pure, loving, and patient. And then to rest in the fact that the Christ is doing the healing.

In Christian Science treatment, the Christ embraces both the patient and practitioner tenderly and compassionately. Doubt and fear get the boot. Prayer, which begins with God's love for His ideas and accepts that this care constantly extends to those in need of healing, will be effective. The goal is to keep prayer so simple and transparent that the Christ can be tangibly felt—and healing takes place. ♦


Keith Wommack practices and teaches Christian Science healing in Corpus Christ, Texas.

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