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The prayer that makes you whole

From the February 14, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: 
I myself would gracious be, 
And with words that help and heal 
Would Thy life in mine reveal; 
And with actions bold and meek 
Christ’s own gracious spirit speak. 

Truthful Spirit, dwell with me: 
I myself would truthful be, 
And with wisdom kind and clear 
Let Thy life in mine appear; 
And with actions brotherly 
Follow Christ’s sincerity.

Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: 
I myself would mighty be,
Mighty, that I may prevail 
Where unaided man must fail; 
Ever by triumphant hope 
Pressing on and bearing up.

—  Christian Science Hymnal, Hymn 88

There are only a few places in the Bible’s New Testament where Jesus declares, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” One instance is of a woman who had been seeking, from various physicians, a solution for hemorrhaging from which she had suffered for 12 years, but to no avail (see Matt. 9). Finally, desperate to find relief and despite Jewish prohibitions to being in public in her condition, she faced a throng of Jesus’ admirers to touch his garment and was instantly healed. The curative power of the Christ, which Jesus exemplified, made her faith plain, and this spiritual clarity restored her health. Nothing is said in that particular account about how Jesus prayed. But we do know that he was on his way to heal a dying little girl. As the story relates, even his disciples—Jesus’ students and closest friends—were unclear about his frame of mind and chided him when he asked who touched him in the large and jostling crowd through which he was passing.

Regardless of the fact that he was in the midst of a busy marketplace, it’s pretty clear that Jesus was prepared to heal, save, and uplift those around him. He was ready for every circumstance in which he found himself, from feeding multitudes (see Mark 6), to raising people from the dead (see Luke 7), and healing long-standing conditions (see John 5) virtually instantly. What prepared him to do this healing work? 

We know that Jesus claimed a very close relationship with God, his Father, calling him Abba, which means “Daddy” (see Mark 14:36). He encouraged his followers to think of God as their Father, too. With these words, which preface what has become known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus reminded them of the sweet outcome of turning to their heavenly Father: “Pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6). Jesus also spent time alone praying. The Bible gives few details about those prayers, but according to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus “rising up a great while before day . . . went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). 

Mary Baker Eddy, a devout follower of Christ Jesus, wrote in Science and Health, “Jesus prayed; he withdrew from the material senses to refresh his heart with brighter, with spiritual views” (p. 32). From her own experience, Mrs. Eddy knew the importance of stilling thought and acknowledging God’s allness as a means of dealing with and overcoming the difficulties in life, including ill health, betrayal, and grief. Jesus repeatedly confronted mental and physical disease and then healed them quickly and wholly, and Mrs. Eddy followed his example. 

It would have been difficult for Jesus to have specifically prayed about every situation he would possibly encounter. That would have bogged him down in the details of the very conditions he worked to heal. He looked to God for answers, instead of simply relying on a physical picture for identification—a picture which often showed only incredible need. John’s Gospel in the Bible draws an intimate portrait of Jesus’ relationship with God, and the expression in his ministry of that connection. Jesus explains: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth” (John 5:19, 20). In chapter 17 of the same Gospel, Jesus says further, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (verses 9, 20). This large prayer encircled and blessed all of those with whom he came in contact, and it continues to bless and heal those who follow him today.

Our faith, anyone’s faith, can be informed and enlarged by these Christianly scientific laws and produce healing.

Let me explain with a modest example from my own life. A friend, who is a new reader of Science and Health, and I were rehearsing for a community chorus event. This required a lot of sitting and standing, and climbing up and down risers, and I noticed that he was not participating very easily. I didn’t comment, but my friend said he was afraid that if he sat down, he wouldn’t be able to get up again. It was so clear to me in that moment that God’s power and presence outweighed any kind of discomfort that I simply said, “You can make a different decision.” He agreed and gingerly sat down. When it was time to rise again several moments later, he did so with complete freedom. He knew I was a Christian Scientist, and as he did a little twirl, he exclaimed, “I’m healed!” For the rest of the rehearsal he was up and down as easily as the rest of us. 

We didn’t discuss it at the time, but he e-mailed me after the event to tell me that he had been struggling with severe back pain for nearly a week. His father, a physician, had prescribed some strong pain medication for him, which he had planned to take after the performance the following day. Additionally, his father had scheduled some extensive tests for the next week because of his concerns regarding his son’s suffering.

My friend asked me how I had prayed. He indicated he had been praying as he was learning to do through his reading of Science and Health, but to no avail. My response was simple: I came to the event convinced that man is spiritual. I hadn’t prayed for my friend, not even after he indicated his difficulty, although I did quietly affirm God’s goodness. But my prayers that morning before the rehearsal were filled with the acknowledgment that God is the one perfect power and that I—and everyone there—was a representative of that loving power. I knew that God was just as present at the practice session as He is at all times. I was convinced that all was well and that nothing could deter or detract from the rehearsal, or other work to be done.

I also shared with my friend that because he had been praying all along, he had naturally agreed with my simple statement of divine fact, and that agreement had brought healing.

Mary Baker Eddy, in another of her works, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, wrote: “Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited” (p. 210). To me, that statement clarifies what happened that day with my friend. And it also explains the healing power of the Christ—or the divine authority that Jesus possessed, which is still active and available today. 

My prayers were about recognizing and acknowledging the power and presence of God and, because of this, the general rightness of everything that would be happening during the rehearsal and throughout the day. I was convinced that God’s law was in place and active, a law which the Bible says “is the truth” (Ps. 119:142). That truth, I was sure, governed the day’s events. My friend’s prayers were more focused on gaining freedom from a painful condition. Both kinds of prayers are normal and effective in Christian Science. However, since my prayers were a sincere affirmation of general good, they were like an amplifier to my friend’s more specific prayer. There are people of many different religions and faiths all over the world praying for good in this larger way. And these worldwide prayers are a blessing and a resource that each one of us can rely on when we’re praying more specifically.

I knew my friend was actively seeking healing through a system of care, Christian Science, that he had begun to recognize as viable. This Science, elucidated in Science and Health, reveals the divine laws which are readily applicable to today’s situations, just as they were in Jesus’ day. And our faith, anyone’s faith, can be informed and enlarged by these Christianly scientific laws and produce healing. The results are guaranteed when the rudiments, or foundational Biblical concepts lived and taught by Jesus, are maintained. Doing so not only magnifies our prayers but prepares us for healing—in our own lives and as an aid to others.

That’s what makes our prayers for the world so important. When we pray from that more generous standpoint that looks to shine the light of God in all directions, we are actually enhancing the healing effect of those who are praying to meet a specific need. And when our own prayers are closer to home, we can know that we are sustained and lifted by those who are offering their larger prayers on behalf of all. 

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner from Salem, Oregon.

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