Recently, when I was thinking about a familiar statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the word all really stood out to me from the phrase “the test of all prayer.” The full passage says: “The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we shall regard our neighbor unselfishly, and bless them that curse us; but we shall never meet this great duty simply by asking that it may be done” (p. 9).
We might ask, “How does this apply to prayer regarding the healing of a physical condition? Aren’t I primarily trying to see myself as the spiritual idea of God and hold to that?”
In praying for healing in Christian Science, we do start with God in order to understand our true nature as His spiritual reflection. So our prayers are primarily about healing thought, not about trying to fix a material body. We are praying to let divine Truth uncover and correct any error in our thought. And often that means praying to “love our neighbor”—other people—more. And it includes considering those questions that “test” our prayers.
Several years ago, while working in a public school, I was alerted to the popular thought that children are the biggest carriers of viruses, indiscriminately spreading dirt and harmful organisms on every surface they touch. At the time, the flu was affecting students and staff at the school, and I was listening to conversations about the issue and about how the adults needed to protect themselves.
I knew I needed to get a better perspective about the whole situation. As I prayed, I realized I was feeling annoyed by my coworkers. They seemed to be accepting that the students would just make us all sick and that we’d just have to deal with it. There seemed to be such an unloving attitude toward the students, viewing them as sick bodies instead of as people. I realized that this attitude was primarily based on fear, and that therefore my prayer about this situation needed to include how I was seeing not just the students but also the individuals working at the school.
I was completely healed of any sense of injury, emotional or physical.
My prayer became focused on recognizing everyone at the school as the image and likeness of a perfect, loving God, who created every aspect of the universe and saw it as good. I held my thought to the fact that God’s creation is purely spiritual, without any element of matter—harmful or otherwise—and that this creation includes each individual.
My annoyance lifted, and I had a clearer, higher view of my neighbor. I realized that this higher view, this love of my fellow man as the child of God, was a protection. I was confident that I would not become ill, and I did not. And the contagion lessened among the staff and students. Through this healing in my thought, I gained a greater love and appreciation for teenagers and my coworkers, which caused my work experience to be more harmonious and progressive.
Another time, I was praying about a physical injury. I had fallen hard on a boulder while on vacation with family, injuring my tailbone. My initial prayer was based on realizing the truth of this statement from Science and Health: “Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind, and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind, in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God’s unerring direction and thus bring out harmony” (p. 424). The pain lessened, and I was able to continue with our activities without hindrance for the rest of our time there.
When I got home, however, there was still some discomfort, and as I reached out to God in prayer to gain a better, more spiritual, view of God and of myself, I received an answer that brought me to tears: “You need to love her. Just love her.” Wow! Although at first that message seemed to come out of left field, I then realized that the “her” was a relative with whom I’d had a disagreement during that vacation regarding my parenting style. I had felt injured by comments that this individual had made.
Along with the realization that I needed to love my relative came the understanding that if God was telling me to love, then I was able to love her just as God does. At that moment, I was able to let go of pride and self-justification, and it was just natural to love her as God’s loved, loving, lovable child. A transformation had taken place in my thought. The pain left immediately, and I was completely healed of any sense of injury, emotional or physical. Since then, my relationship with this relative has grown stronger, and there has been a gentling between us, including a sweet thoughtfulness toward each other, which blesses the whole family.
One of the key factors in both of these healings was that I had to recognize and let go of erring, material views of my neighbor. When I was willing to rise up higher in thought—to let go of personal sense and let my thought be transformed out of a limited view of life in matter—I could see God, Spirit, and His spiritual creation correctly.
Such transformation of thought is a form of repentance. One definition of repent on Merriam-Webster.com is “to change one’s mind.” Christ Jesus told his followers to “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), and Mary Baker Eddy defines Kingdom of Heaven spiritually as “the reign of harmony in divine Science; the realm of unerring, eternal, and omnipotent Mind; the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme” (Science and Health, p. 590). Our willingness to change our thought about our experience and our neighbor enables us to see and experience the reign of harmony.
When we understand that loving our neighbor and healing go hand in hand, we see that prayer is not for fixing something that’s wrong. Prayer lifts us higher in our understanding of God and enables us to see all of creation—which includes our neighbor and us—as spiritual and perfect, all good and harmonious.
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