Christian Science: How Scientific Prayer Can Help You
Dr. Archibald Carey, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Today applied science is rapidly changing our everyday lives. From nylon garments to atomic bombs, modern scientific discoveries are transforming the world we live in. Where our great-grandparents were limited to oxen and horses, we can use powerful trucks and fast automobiles. In the field of communication, where they used messengers to carry letters written by hand, modern scientific discoveries make it possible for us to use the telephone and talk with someone thousands of miles away as freely as we converse with one in the same room.
Just think what the telephone alone does for our everyday lives! It you want to know the time of day accurately, you use the telephone. You can get the latest weather report. You can telephone to an expert on any subject and get accurate information in complete detail. You can call a department store and have the article you wish delivered to you. You can make appointments over the telephone; you can call for help in any emergency. What this one product of modern science, the telephone, has done to transform our everyday lives seems almost miraculous.
Using a telephone may completely
change the picture in a life-and-death emergency. A few years ago a young
Indian was traveling through the wilderness in northwestern
When things looked most hopeless, another traveler, lost in the blizzard, stumbled upon the cabin. He, too, was weak from starvation and in a desperate plight, but as soon as he entered the cabin he saw a telephone. Immediately he called the operator, who connected him with the owner of the cabin. The owner told him of a trap door leading to a cellar in which he would find plenty of food, dry wood, and blankets. A fire being started, they had a good dinner, and waited comfortably until a rescue party came.
What changed this whole picture from desperation and lack to comfort and abundance? The fact that one man knew how to telephone. For ages men have forgotten what Jesus taught about scientific prayer and how it may be utilized in healing the sick and sinning and providing one's daily needs.
Then exactly what is scientific prayer? I think we would all agree that prayer is communion with God. But some people doubt that there is a God, or have heard different conflicting descriptions of God. An honest doubt, a refusal to accept blindly what someone else says, is an attitude of sincerity of thought that is entitled to respect. Then is there a God, and what is His nature?
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, which deals largely with the facts about scientific prayer, we find certain synonyms for God which enable us to understand the nature of God. One of these synonyms is Principle. Principle indicates the unchanging nature of God. The word Principle as a synonym for God also shows us that there is one great Principle governing all through universal law. But someone may question whether there is one Principle governing all through universal law. Is it not necessary that there should be such a Principle? In mathematics, if one law of mathematics were in conflict with another, one law would interfere with the operation of the other, and mathematics would be incomplete. But the principle of mathematics governs through its laws and maintains their harmony so that the completeness of mathematics is assured. Just so the laws of the universe cannot be in conflict with each other if we are to have laws upon which we can rely. That there are reliable laws is accepted by all scientific investigators, because their efforts are devoted to the discovery of such laws. And if there are reliable laws, there must be one great Principle governing and harmonizing them all. It is essential to the existence of dependable laws that there should be such a Principle. So we can see that this Principle must exist.
God as Principle
Are there facts that we know with certainty about the nature of this Principle? Yes, there are a number of things that must be true. Because Principle maintains the harmony and existence of the universe through law, the Principle is therefore good or beneficent to its effects. If all the laws of the universe are based upon this Principle, and there can be no others, there is nothing to which this Principle is not good. Therefore, since this Principle is good, and there is nothing to which it is not good, we must recognize this Principle as wholly and completely good.
Then there are other things that must be true about it. Inasmuch as this Principle governs and maintains an intelligible, understandable universe, including intelligent man, and including also under its control the laws of intelligence by which intelligent man is able to comprehend this universe, the Principle could not be less than intelligent. Being intelligent, it must comprehend the laws and facts that are based upon it. Since all the laws and facts that exist are founded upon this Principle, it must include within the scope of its comprehension everything that exists and can be known. Hence it must be complete intelligence or perfect Mind.
Being intelligent, it must recognize and appreciate the goodness and harmony of the realities that are based upon it. It is the nature of love to discern and appreciate goodness. So the attitude of this completely intelligent Principle towards the good, harmonious realities that are based upon it must necessarily be that of perfect love. The very nature of this Principle must be Love.
Because Principle is the foundation of all the phenomena of life, we can think of it as the very essence of life, or Life itself. Since everything that is true is based upon Principle, and nothing can be true that is not founded upon it, it can be considered as synonymous with truth, or Truth itself. Unlimited by time or space, always and everywhere active and powerful, we can speak of it as Spirit. Because it includes in its eternal oneness and allness everything that exists, establishing and maintaining the identity of each individual, it can be spoken of as Soul.
So these synonyms for God, which we find in the Christian Science textbook, enable us to understand the nature of God, divine Principle, Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind. We see that there can be no intelligent doubt of the existence of God as He is so described. And we see, too, that there can be no logical denial that these synonyms accurately set forth the nature of God. Here is a God who must necessarily exist, to whom we can pray.
The Nature of God
There can be only one God, one Principle of harmony. If you had two principles of equal power, you would still need another principle to harmonize these two; so there can be only one ultimate, supreme, infinite Principle, God. It we are to pray to God, our prayer must be directed to this one God. Prayer directed to anything less than this one God could not produce results. Some people doubt the efficacy of prayer because God has been misrepresented to them, and they may have tried praying to a God who does not actually exist. There is no God who maintains a hell in which some of His children are everlastingly punished. There is no God who loves some of His children and is cruel to others. There is no God who sends sickness and death to some and health and happiness to others. Prayer directed to such a God would lack the efficacy and power to heal that we find in scientific prayer directed to the true God who really exists. That is why some well-meaning religious people who do not understand the nature of God find it impossible to emulate the healing of Christian Science. They are not directing their prayers to the one supreme, infinite, unchangingly good God, who is unvarying Love, who is infinite Mind.
Because God is Love, unchanging Love, He is always ready to help His children. Because God is infinite Mind, He has unlimited resourcefulness to meet their needs. Because God is eternal Life, there is in fact no sickness or death. To commune in scientific prayer with God, who is infinite love and wisdom and abundant life, who is able to help us, is surely worth while. God loves man. It is His purpose that you should reflect harmony and abundance. Should we not open the way to receive God's abundant blessings through scientific prayer?
Man's True Identity
In the scientific consideration of prayer, as in the scientific consideration of any subject, it is important to make an intelligent distinction between your real self, which intelligently knows scientific facts, and mortal mind, which temporarily seems to accept as true, things that are not scientific facts. For example, you know how to add. But your false self may temporarily accept and put down a mistake in addition. You really know the facts with scientific accuracy, and can detect and correct the mistake. A mathematical mistake, all in your own handwriting, may be lying on the table in front of you, but you still know how to add. You would not say, "Now I don't know how to add." You can correct and dispose of the mistake and so get rid of it, because the false self and its mistakes cannot resist the power of Truth. In any science, you must constantly correct the false testimony of the false mortal self with the facts which you intelligently recognize. It is important and scientifically accurate to recognize your real self, the true self that knows the truth, to distinguish it from the false mortal self that seems to experience mistakes in mathematics and other things that are not based upon Truth, God. So in scientific prayer we recognize our real selves in the words of the Bible, "Now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2).
So that answers two questions which naturally come up in a scientific consideration of prayer. First, "Is there a God who is willing and able to answer prayer?" There can be no intelligent doubt that the answer is "Yes." The second question is, "Can you or I commune with this God in prayer?" And the answer is "Yes."
The Nearness of God
You can open the way for God to help you through scientific prayer. God is not far away, but is here now, closer than the air we breathe, because man, the expression of God, cannot be separated from ever-present Principle, Love. God's love and power are all around you, and He loves to help you.
Then can we use prayer and get definite results? Yes, but we must know how to use it. The young Indian in the cabin during the blizzard could not get help because he did not know how to use a telephone. To get results with prayer we must know how to use it. Many deserving Christian people today are not receiving help because they do not know how to make use of scientific prayer.
How do we learn how to make practical and effective use of this prayer? When we approach any scientific subject we naturally turn to books that deal accurately with the subject, and we can learn about the use of scientific prayer in just this way. We are all familiar with the Bible and its collection of experiences of those who have understood the nature of prayer and how to use it effectively. The study of the Bible is indispensable to anyone who wishes to be thoroughly informed about what has been accomplished through the use of prayer, and Christian Scientists use the King James Version for daily study. Another book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the textbook of Christian Science, is of much later origin and is of equal importance to a student of this subject. It explains the Bible and shows us how to make practical use of it.
Mary Baker Eddy
The discovery of Christian Science and the establishment of its organization is an interesting story. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, was a highly intelligent woman. Her writings show that she was familiar with ancient and modern philosophies and religions, as well as the most advanced scientific thought of her time. She was reared in a Christian home, and from her early years she was deeply religious. As she grew up and began to think for herself, she could see no reason for the conflict that seemed to exist between science and religion. If science is based upon an honest search for truth, if religion deals with the truth about God and man, why should there be any conflict between them? If the goal of science is an understanding of facts and laws, and if Christianity is setting forth the facts about the nature of God, why should not Science and Christianity be one? And why should not a scientific understanding of the laws of God enable us to make use of these laws in prayer, as they were used by Jesus and his apostles?
An incident occurred which brought a practical answer to her questions. She met with an accident that was expected to prove fatal. She took her Bible and studied the account of the healing by Jesus of a palsied man. She caught a glimpse of the fact that this must have been due to the operation of law, and that the same divine law of God which was applied by Christ Jesus must be available to her. This realization of the unchanging nature of the law of God made such an impression upon her thought that a remarkable thing took place. She was instantly healed. She saw immediately that this was an indication of the method of healing used by Jesus. She realized how important it would be to mankind if Jesus' method of healing could be discovered; so she dropped all other activities and devoted her entire attention to a study of the Bible, giving special thought to Jesus' teachings and works.
By applying to Christianity the scientific method which looks for facts and laws instead of emphasizing the supernatural and miraculous, she discovered the divine laws that Jesus had used and the methods of practically applying them to human needs. This was truly the Science of Christianity, and she called her discovery Christian Science. In order that this healing truth might be made available as quickly as possible to the great numbers who were ready for it, with the cooperation of those who had been benefited by her teachings she founded the Christian Science movement. So Christian Scientists recognize Mary Baker Eddy as the Discoverer of Christian Science, as the Founder of the movement through which this Science is reaching mankind, and as the Leader whose dear perception of Truth has led them, and continues to lead them, to health and harmony, success and happiness.
Her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," explains the Bible teachings. It makes a distinction between the Christ, defined as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (p. 583), and Jesus, defined in part as "the highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea" (p. 589). Because Jesus so fully exemplified the eternal Christ, he was known as Christ Jesus. The eternal Christ always has expressed and always will express the true nature of God. Perhaps one of the simplest ways to understand the practical nature of the ageless Christ is to think of the Christ as a way of living, the perfect way of living. Both the Bible and the Christian Science textbook speak of the Christ as the Way. As our way of living approaches more and more the divine manifestation of God, incarnate error is destroyed and true salvation is attained.
Salvation, then, is a present experience. The power of God, understood and demonstrated, saves us from all evil, including disease and lack as well as sin. This is true salvation, complete and eternal.
How do we make practical use of scientific prayer? In music, in mathematics, or in any of the sciences, in order to improve our own ability to get results we naturally turn to the methods of those who have been most successful. The records indicate that the most effective prayers of all time were those of Christ Jesus. He was able to demonstrate through prayer divine power that has been unparalleled in history. His disciples naturally wished to learn how to use prayer as he did, and in answer to their questions he gave them an example of effective prayer, which is known as the Lord's Prayer. It is the outstanding example of scientific prayer.
The Lord's Prayer
This prayer begins, "Our Father which art in heaven," which is explained and interpreted in the Christian Science textbook as, "Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious" (Science and Health., p. 16). This is the one God, divine Principle, Soul, Spirit, Mind, Life, Truth, Love.
The next part of the Lord's Prayer identifies the one who is praying. He is identified by his attitude toward God, and we find him expressing his complete acceptance of God's will: "Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." The word "hallowed" comes from the same root as "hale," "healthy," "whole," "holy," meaning perfect and complete. The word "name" as used in the Bible frequently refers to "nature"; so when Paul found that his nature had been changed, he changed his name from Saul to Paul. So the words, "Hallowed be Thy name" express our desire that God's nature should be fully and perfectly and completely manifested as expressed. The following statement, "Thy kingdom come," shows, complete acceptance of God's government, and the next one, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," reiterates this acceptance of God's government in every detail of experience.
The next statement is, "Give us this day our daily bread." We look to God, and God alone, for everything good, for everything that is needed in our daily experience to bring out health and abundance and happiness. We look to God for right desires, and for the fulfillment of these right desires. We look to Him for inspiration and vision. In the Christian Science textbook (p. 17) this is interpreted and amplified: "Give us grace for today; feed the famished affections." True prayer acknowledges God as the only source of good, realizing that He has lovingly supplied all good and abundantly met our every human need.
The next two verses deal with the problem of evil: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." As we are willing to forgive and release those around us, God releases us from any results of evil in the past or present. As we accept God's guidance, we shall also be enabled to avoid and overcome all temptation and evil in the future. Neither sin nor suffering has power over you as a child of God.
The closing statement of this prayer is filled with meaning: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever." "For Thine is the kingdom." God's government is supreme, controlling everything, including ourselves. In order to accept God's government we must know what His laws are and how they can be applied to our ordinary everyday decisions.
Listening to God
This brings us to one of the most important considerations in scientific prayer, namely listening to the voice of Truth. Moses listened to God and received the Commandments which have greatly influenced the concepts of mankind. The ancient prophets listened to God and spoke with authority, "Thus saith the Lord." The remarkable things which they accomplished, as well as the mighty works of Christ Jesus, show that they were the result of listening and responding to God. The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says in one of her hymns (which is also a prayer),
"I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray."
So it is highly important to listen for Truth.
There is nothing mysterious or supernatural about listening to God in prayer. Whenever we give our attention to receiving right ideas from infinite Mind, God, we are listening to God. In order to pray understandingly and sincerely, "Thine is the kingdom," we must constantly listen to God, accept His government in every detail of our lives, and respond to His directions.
"Thine is the kingdom, and the power." Because God's power is supreme, governing us and everything around us, there can be no inert substance or matter that can resist it; there can be no power that can oppose it. We accept and respond to God's government as we use this power effectively. This spiritual power of God heals sickness, as Jesus demonstrated. It is a power infinitely above the limited claims of drugs and antibiotics hampered by allergies and uncertainties, deficiencies and cumulative aftereffects. It produces results that are far beyond anything that can be accomplished by the well-meant efforts of surgeons and mental manipulators. I wish there were time to tell you of even a few of the remarkable healings that are constantly taking place as a result of the scientific prayer of Christian Science. But you can find testimonies of healing in the Christian Science Sentinel or in The Christian Science Journal; you can hear them any Wednesday evening in a Christian Science church. Sickness is healed, desperate business problems are solved, happy and successful relationships with others are established, through the power of God in scientific prayer. The results are satisfying to anyone who has ever resorted to spiritual scientific prayer.
An abnormal growth appeared on a young woman's face, and it increased steadily until it reached alarming proportions. There was a difference of opinion as to whether it was a malignant growth, and she was told that the only safe course would be to have it removed at once by surgery and that there was no way to escape a disfiguring scar.
She had heard of the healing by Christian Science of similar cases, and with the help of a Christian Science practitioner she earnestly turned to God in scientific prayer as taught in the Christian Science textbook. She constantly studied and used the spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer found on page 16.
In the chapter on "Christian Science Practice" in this book she found on page 390 specific instructions how to deal with disease. She was greatly impressed by the words on page 393, "Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good," followed by the statement, "God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man."
As she conscientiously endeavored to put this into practice it made a great difference. She began to realize that she was God's idea, perfect and spiritual, governed wholly by God and by nothing else; that neither disease nor sin belonged to her or could be any part of her; that the diseased condition that appeared to be so real and substantial had no actual reality but was as unreal as a mistake in mathematics, and that it could no more resist the power of Truth than could a mathematical mistake; that divine Life is ever present, overcoming and supplanting anything that seems to have substance or activity opposed to God.
As she continued to use the power of Truth in this way, the growth gradually disappeared, without leaving the slightest trace of a scar. But her constant scientific prayer and her effort to follow the instruction in the Christian Science textbook to "resist all that is unlike good" produced even more far-reaching results. Her disposition changed, so that a willful and ruthless disregard of the happiness of others gave way to loving helpfulness. Malice and revengefulness were replaced by undisturbed kindliness as she was controlled by divine Love. She was living a new life; it was like being born again. The spiritual power of the scientific prayer of Christian Science healed both disease and sin.
The Power of God
How does this power of God operate? Through the power of Truth over error. "Two plus two equals four" will destroy any mistake about that fact. Any mistake must be a mistake about a fact; there is always a fact to correct any mistake. The reversal of the mistake by the use of the spiritual idea destroys a mistake with the irresistible power of Truth. So the truth about God and man constantly poured into thought with love and gratitude will destroy and remove conditions of sickness and sin, inharmony and lack that appear to be as real and powerful as a mistake in mathematics seems to be before it is corrected.
The practical use of this power of God, Truth, is called Christian Science demonstration. The utilization of the intelligent ideas that come to us through scientific prayer produces remarkable results. These ideas understood, faithfully declared and applied, not only improve our subjective attitude toward people and things and conditions, but actually change the objective circumstances around us.
Marconi refused to accept the general impressions regarding electricity, and we have radio. Not long ago a few clear thinkers challenged the usually accepted scientific theory that an atom could not be divided, and today we have the atomic bomb and the tremendous possibilities of the use of subatomic energy. A more intelligent subjective attitude has changed and controlled the objective things and conditions around us. Think of the possibilities of subjective thought in constant communion with infinite Mind through scientific prayer!
As the statesmen of the world more consciously accept God's guidance and make more effective use of scientific prayer, we shall find the justice of Principle and the tender helpfulness of divine Love bringing peace and security and progress to each individual and to all mankind. We can support this liberation with our own scientific prayers. As those who are engaged in the scientific research of natural science develop their breadth of vision and their depth of discernment and penetration through scientific prayer, how the barriers of materiality, the limitations of time and space, will yield to the unlimited freedom that God gives to His children! As those in the business world are governed by God through scientific prayer, how the brotherhood of God's children will find expression in respect for the freedom of individual progress!
This power of true prayer is what Jesus and the prophets demonstrated. Moses, Joshua, Elijah, did things that were called miracles because the power of scientific prayer which they used was not understood. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the multitudes, stilled the storm, with the power which he received from God in prayer. He gave this power to his disciples, as he taught them how to pray. Through this same power of scientific prayer, Christian Science is today healing sickness, raising the dying to health, replacing lack with abundance, changing natural phenomena, bringing peace and happiness. God is Love and Love is the greatest power there is. Through prayer the love of God reaches us and all mankind, lifting us to harmony and loving cooperation.
Then we come to the very climax of the Lord's Prayer - gratitude to God. "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever." Thine is the glory! Jesus, the master of scientific prayer, who raised Lazarus from the dead, even after four days, began his prayer, "Father, I thank thee" (John )! Paul, who through prayer also raised the dead, healed desperate disease, opened prisons, said: "Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks" (I Thess. ,18). Through gratitude we maintain our constant communion with God.
Does healing seem to come slowly? Does your sense of divine power appear feeble? Try more gratitude. Gratitude maintains our close communion with God. Try giving constant thanks to God for all your blessings, little and big, for all the good of the past, every evidence of His goodness and power that has come to you or to others, and see how it breaks through the illusion that you cannot feel God's presence and power.
In this atmosphere of gratitude, in which God is close to us, we thank God that He is "Our Father which art in heaven;" thank God that we can sincerely pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven;" thank God that He is ready to give us everything necessary for daily human needs and for progress and inspiration - "Give us this day our daily bread;" thank God that He lifts us above the bondage and the consequences of sin in the past or present and will lead us away from temptation and evil - "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We thank God that we can say, "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever;" that His love and wisdom constitute the supreme government of men and nations, conditions and things; that His good power is irresistible and that we can use it to heal and bless; and to crown it all we thank God that He has given us the gift of gratitude. "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always" (John ,42).
Possibilities of Prayer
Here are the tremendous possibilities of scientific prayer, ready for us to use. But we must use them. Only as we use it can scientific prayer help us. We can make constant use of it, and through daily study of the Bible and Science and Health make ourselves more proficient in it. As we do this we find that it brings to us the infinite wisdom of Mind to make wise decisions, the unlimited power of God to heal sickness and solve business problems, the irresistible influence of divine Love to establish sound and happy relationships with others and with other groups and nations. God's great power works with us and through us to bring out results that seem marvelous and miraculous to those who do not understand the possibilities of working with God through scientific prayer.
You will find that even the short time we have spent together listening to this lecture will have a definite effect on your experience. These truths never leave us, but they will continue to operate in your consciousness, bringing out a clearer sense of your oneness with God, of His presence and power as Truth, as Life, as Love.
Our loving, wise Father-Mother God is here now. He will be with us each minute of every day. We can go forward, with confidence and power, letting the good of each day unfold as we keep close to Him in grateful prayer. In the words of a beautiful hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal:
"Day by day the manna fell:
O, to learn this lesson well.
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give me Lord, my daily bread.
"Day by day the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs:
Cast foreboding fears away;
Take the manna of today.
"Lord, my times are in Thy hand:
All my sanguine hopes have planned,
To Thy wisdom I resign,
And would mold my will to Thine.
"Thou my daily task shalt give;
Day by day to Thee I live;
So shall added years fulfill
Not my own, my Father's will."
[Published in The Grosse Point (Michigan) News, Oct. 15, 1953.]