One time in a high school class, my teacher handed a student a coin. He told the student to squeeze the coin in his palm very tightly. The teacher then took a five dollar bill out of his pocket and tried to push it into this student’s firmly clenched fist. The teacher tried and tried—but it couldn’t happen. For the whole class, he made a salient point—teaching us in a memorable way that we can’t grasp new concepts while we’re holding tightly onto something else.
In prayer, as in fields of learning and knowledge, an openness and willingness to exchange ignorance for truth always brings big benefits. Christ Jesus surely understood this and encouraged people, not just to be halfway receptive to progress, but to be as totally willing, receptive—and innocent—as little children are. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:17). That’s a very clear-cut way to put it!
Through communion with God we can experience the kind of transformation that is far beyond just a slight shift of direction. It can result in a radical conversion, a 180-degree change of thought, where all of existence is perceived from a different viewpoint—an entirely spiritual perspective. This can happen to us when we commune with God with childlike humility and learn even a little of the perfection of Spirit expressed in man. Jesus said of himself, “The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (John 5:20). As followers of Jesus, we learn of God’s love for us and emulate the works of Jesus as we grow into the spiritual understanding that he was urging on all of us.
Along these lines, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy makes an observation—and then follows it with some truly life-changing counsel: “Christian Science, properly understood, would disabuse the human mind of material beliefs which war against spiritual facts; and these material beliefs must be denied and cast out to make place for truth. You cannot add to the contents of a vessel already full” (p. 130).
You cannot add to the contents of a vessel already full. Her contrast of material beliefs with spiritual facts is an important one because it relates in a very basic way to prayer and healing. Examples of material beliefs that she is talking about run the gamut—presenting man as naturally sinful and physically flawed, etc.
With the trust and flexibility of a child, it’s rewarding to work with the quality of one’s thoughts, to be willing to release and let go of old concepts.
Gratefully, material beliefs about God’s man are the exact opposite of the spiritual facts about him. Christian Science teaches that beliefs in God’s imperfection and inconsistency are beliefs that are false, mistaken, misconceived. Likewise, the notion that God’s spiritual and perfect creation is vulnerable, lacking, or lost, also is mistaken. Ultimately, it is these faulty concepts of God and of God’s man that make illness, sin, and injustice seem reasonable—and even expected. However, following Mary Baker Eddy’s encouraging counsel in that above quote, when a material belief is understood to be a lie—and is exchanged in consciousness for the truth of spiritual being—the healing, transforming power of God is brought to bear on that lie, and healing results.
As one gains more and more familiarity with true prayer, it becomes clear that actually a God-directed transformation of thought is the essence of answered prayer. You can discover for yourself how the nature of your thoughts, when spiritually enriched by God, results in healing and reformation. “God-directed” is a key concept here. Rather than through human intellectualism, it is only the power and loving influence of God that can transform thought and heal. Willingness to be led by God, and to be blessed with new views of truth and reality—this is one of the great joys of Christian Science.
God’s unchanging perfection is a spiritual fact. God’s creation is God’s likeness, and that’s another spiritual fact. Each one of us, as God’s intact, spiritual idea, is here to express this unchanging perfection.
With the trust and flexibility of a child, it’s rewarding to work with the quality of one’s thoughts, to be willing to release and let go of old concepts. Let them drop from thought just as you would drop a penny from your hand in order to receive a five dollar bill. What will you get in exchange? The Bible promises, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). Reach out humbly to God and grasp the wonder of a new view of spiritual existence that God imparts to your receptive, childlike thought. Then hold to it with steadfastness and gratitude.
As an example of doing this, let me tell you of a significant healing I experienced when I was a small boy. I was invited to go along on a camping trip with some friends. One night after our campfire was out, we were all horsing around, chasing each other between the tents. Barefoot, I stepped on a small, rough stump and a large stick of wood penetrated my foot.
I limped over into my tent and carefully pulled the whole thing out. It hurt a lot, and I began wishing that my parents had come along on the trip. In prayer, though, I turned to the Parent I’d learned about in Sunday School—the Parent who is always with me—my Father-Mother, God.
Within a few moments, as I prayed to be receptive to truth and to God’s help, it became surprisingly clear that my substance is actually found in God, not in matter—not in a foot. It felt so good to see that spiritual fact.
Then, I knew I had a choice to make. My familiar model of myself was that of physicality—vulnerable physicality. There in my tent, to an even greater degree than ever before, I let that go. Gratefully, I grasped and accepted the new concept of myself, the way God had always known me. Identity in God means a spiritual, perfect identity, the only one any of us really have—and I knew I had it. What a wonderful realization. Through the power of God, my thought definitely changed for the better.
As the Bible puts it, God had given me “a new heart” and “a new spirit.” In the morning, although my foot was still a little tender, I decided to hold on to what I’d been given in prayer. So I maintained my thought in line with what God had given me: the spiritual fact of unchangeable substance. I noticed how my love for God helped me retain my newly gained understanding of myself. By the following day, I could walk and run and swim as normally as I always had.
As that student in my chemistry class found, there is no benefit in tightly closing your fist and shutting out something good. Likewise, there is no gain in continuing to mentally clutch on to flawed, unsound, material models of God and His creation. Instead, “Our false views of matter perish as we grasp the facts of Spirit,” explains Science and Health (p. 281). Spirit and its expression make up the sum total of real existence. A teachable willingness to open up and not only grasp—but embrace—this divine truth, makes for healing. Thoroughly and effectively.