In all the thousands of pages in Mary Baker Eddy’s published writings there is one paragraph that especially stands out to me. It begins: “When will Jesus’ professed followers learn to emulate him in all his ways and to imitate his mighty works?” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 37), and continues: “May the Christians of to-day take up the more practical import of that career!” This paragraph uses exclamation points and italics multiple times, and employs exceptionally strong rhetoric for emphasis.
Mrs. Eddy tells us specifically in that passage to: “Hear these imperative commands.” It’s important to note that her comments are directed to “every child, man, and woman,” imploring all to be obedient to Jesus’ commands: “ ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature!’ ‘Heal the sick!’ ” I am unaware of any other paragraph in all of her writings that has such emphasis and is such a motivating call to duty.
I was in my teens when I began to be a devoted student of Christian Science. The powerful commands and demands of that paragraph had a great impact on me. Reading that paragraph felt like having a private meeting with Mrs. Eddy—as though she were placing her hands on my shoulders, looking me straight in the eyes, and saying, “My dear, this is what I especially want you to understand and to do.” Also, I realized that, in point of fact, healing is itself an effective way to preach the gospel, making the biblical promises real and of service to mankind.
It’s telling that Mrs. Eddy includes children in the paragraph above, reminding us that young people can and should be healers, too. I remember hearing the basics of Christian Science in Sunday School, including the nature of God and my status as His expression. I remember initially thinking that Christian Science was theoretical—“adult stuff” for the future, you might say—and not practical for the here and now. However, even as a young student, I saw tangible results from Christian Science. An early experience was significant: I had just entered a new Sunday School class, and in getting acquainted, I mentioned to my teacher that I was selling papers as an after-school job. Without hesitation he said that next week I could expect to sell more papers than usual. I was surprised and questioned how he could say that, but that next week I did sell many more papers than usual as a result of my Sunday School teacher’s prayer. That event gave me confidence that spiritual healing was not just talk. It also gave me encouragement that I, too, could heal with prayer.
Looking back, I recall when I first reached out to someone to heal. I was in Midshipman School when I saw a fellow midshipman trip on a stair. I was a few steps higher than he was, and could see that he was going to hit his head against a cement wall. I immediately and emphatically said, “No,” not just articulating, but mentally denying the picture that matter was presenting. He hit his head solidly, but expressed no pain or shock. He simply picked himself up, and we went our different ways. It was several days later when I overheard this fellow saying incredulously to his companion, “What I can’t figure out is why my head never hurt.” What a nice confirmation. I should add that I had no classes with this student, so the likelihood of passing in a hall at the same time he talked about the incident must have been extremely small—but divine Mind handled it.
Later, on my first real job with a large manufacturing firm, I was appointed to manage a department. One of the clerks had warts on her hands, and I knew that she had tried to remove the warts through conventional means without success. After we were comfortable with each other, I asked her how long she’d had the warts, and I recall she said since she was a teenager. I told her that I would like to pray about the situation, and she agreed. Over the next week or so, I simply held to the thought that she truly represented God’s perfect expression. In about ten days, the warts were all gone, and she gratefully acknowledged the healing to me and to her family.
At another time, I met a former employee at a party. After we exchanged greetings he mentioned that he was going to have surgery the next day to remove a growth. He was aware that I relied on prayer for healing, and it was clear that his announcement was really a request for help. I remember telling him, “I will think about that.” My prayers consisted mainly of an immediate, silent declaration that a growth or condition of any kind was not part of man’s perfection, since the Bible tells us that man was created in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27). About a month or so later, I saw him again and was so pleased when he informed me that the growth had dropped off that same night, eliminating the need for surgery.
Healing is a way to preach the gospel, making the biblical promises real.
At another time, I had a customer who was always complaining about his job. When he would answer the phone he sounded just like the old radio program character, Digger O’Dell, who always sounded so down in the mouth. We were good friends, and one day after I heard him offer his usual litany of complaints about his work situation, I mentioned that I would like to pray about it. I held to the healing thought that the man’s proper identity was one of completeness and joy. When I called him about a week later, he was bubbling over with excitement about all the things that were happening at work, including his superiors getting him all the equipment he wanted for his job. His concept of his employment had taken a 180-degree turn.
Each of these healings was a bit different in nature (and there were numerous others I could relate, as well). The first was instantaneous protection for my midshipman classmate; in the second, prayer was offered; in the third, “mental surgery” was indirectly requested; and in the fourth, the employment situation involved other parties. But in each case, God, divine Mind, met the need at hand perfectly.
In going about our lives, it is to be expected that we will be presented with healing opportunities. Some may hesitate about reaching out to others. Or the thought may come, “What if I am not successful in effecting a healing?” Don’t hesitate! Be assured that you can witness healing in all sorts of situations. Seize the opportunity. In obedience to Jesus’ commands, which Mrs. Eddy so strongly urged each one of us to obey, we should not hesitate to take the initiative and offer to pray for others when an opportunity presents itself. Through our healing prayers, we play a role in the fulfillment of biblical promises, acknowledging the gift the active Christ brings to humanity.
It is only practical, affirmative, healing activity—presenting the Christ in an expanding display—that enables us to increasingly and effectively “preach the gospel” and “heal the sick.” It’s important for every Christian Scientist to be obedient to those imperative scriptural commands. Healing is not a role exclusive to Christian Science teachers or practitioners listed in The Christian Science Journal. In fact, it’s not even exclusive to adults. My experience in Sunday School prompts the hope that more students can be encouraged to identify challenges in their lives and routinely shown how to pray about them. If healing is regularly experienced in Sunday School, the student will carry it with him the rest of his life.
Christian Science serves humanity more or less depending on how we fulfill the “duty and privilege” requirements Mrs. Eddy emphasized. And as a consequence of affirmative healing, the Christian Science movement will grow to reach more of mankind and fulfill the purpose she outlined: to “reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing” (Church Manual, p. 17).
Affirmative prayer is an act of obedience, a sincere expression of love for your neighbor—and it is rewarded. It is also a loving thank you to Jesus along the lines of what he said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Bob Bilhorn lives in Chicago, Illinois.
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