Finding Reality through Prayer
Joseph G. Heard, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The search for reality is not new.
Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians along the
During the Middle Ages the "reality" that men lived by was soon transformed by the newer "reality" of the Renaissance.
History reminds us that what men called reality yesterday is not necessarily reality today. Human perceptions of reality change as the human consciousness changes.
But consider the reality preached 2000 years ago in Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. It's a powerful force in the lives of many people today. Why? Is it possible that spiritual reality as taught by Jesus is authentic and unchanging reality?
And if so, this is the reality you and I need to discover.
The desire to know what is real operates strongly in people. Most of us feel that correct sense of reality will supply better motivation and direction in our life. For this reason countless people are seeking the powerful sense of reality presented by Christian Science.
There Are Many Concepts of "Reality"
Today the search for reality goes on constantly and in a variety of ways. For example, a university recently granted a PhD degree in anthropology to a professor for investigating the so-called "reality" of a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. The professor, by inhaling mushroom smoke, experienced what the old sorcerer called "reality."1
Others today seek reality, or escape from it, through a variety of "chemical comforters" − tranquilizers, sleeping pills, alcohol, tobacco, all types of drugs.
But can "chemical comforters" actually deliver the real experience of love, acceptance, self-worth, satisfaction, health, and joy? Not really. And yet, aren't these what we all yearn for?
A growing number of authorities are seeking alternatives to the "chemical comforters." They're seeking fresh perceptions of reality to help them cope with fleshly ills.
According to the Wall Street
Journal a professor at the
Another medical doctor in
Christian Scientists agree. We have been working in the area of healing by spiritual means for more than a hundred years.
But before telling you about this,
I'd like to focus briefly on yet another search for reality. It has produced
some unusual results. A research foundation in
When we become violent, we may stimulate the environment around us accordingly.
For example, in a certain California business office, phones would ring and nobody was on the other end of the line. Typewriters malfunctioned, small objects fell on the floor, supplies in the closet tumbled from shelves - for no apparent reason. Police couldn't solve the problem. No earthquakes were recorded.
Finally a university research team was called in. It noted that none of the mysterious happenings occurred when a certain employee was absent. According to the university team's findings, this particular employee was unhappy in his job, and was somehow converting his disturbed emotions into mental energy capable of moving physical objects without touching them.5
To these observers with human perceptions of reality Christian Scientists could say, "Welcome to the club! − You are observing what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discover and Founder of Christian Science, wrote a hundred years ago, 'Mortal mind sees what it believes as certainly as it believes what it sees.' "6
But we'd also like to say to these experimenters and researchers, "Keep going − you haven't gone far enough − you need to discover the ultimate consciousness of reality, divine Mind, God." In short, the need is to go beyond human inventions of reality to the consciousness that's God-bestowed, the spiritual reality Jesus taught.
We're talking about "the mind
of Christ," as
In other words, the understanding of spiritual reality isn't the outcome of mushroom smoke, drugs, or material energy fields. True reality is God communicating with us through right ideas - just as He talked to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. The New Testament presents Christ Jesus' teachings and demonstrations of spiritual reality as a power that heals. This God-bestowed consciousness of reality gave Jesus dominion over all earthly experience.
Today Christian Science takes up Jesus' challenge − ''Follow thou me."8 It helps us reach toward the same Christly reality he exemplified − a consciousness of God's laws and their intelligent government of man and the universe.
A Wholly Spiritual Reality Satisfies
Based on Jesus' bold example, Christian Science takes a radical view − that God or Spirit is the source and substance of all that is real. This infinite Spirit, or Mind, is the creator of right ideas; it's what man expresses − what actually exists as your life. This authentic reality is infinitely good, intelligent, loving. It's your true and eternal being.
So man is wholly good, expressing spiritual energies alone. God's likeness is not a combination of good and evil, not a welding of spiritual and material forces capable of
malfunction, misfunction, nonfunction. Real man is not an independent dreamer of false dreams creating his own states of reality. Man, God's likeness, expresses a God-bestowed consciousness of reality.
To recognize spiritual creation as true reality enables you and me to cleanse our thought of the destructive stimulus of a finite and false sense of reality − what doctors call the "fight or flight" response. It's a spiritualization of thought − or baptism − which purifies us. It opens the way to higher freedoms and healing. It satisfies. Really satisfies.
Here's the story of a young man who found this out. He says:
You wouldn't have recognized me two years ago. I had very long hair, wore a big silver earring in one ear, . . . I was addicted to heroin and supported my habit by burglarizing houses in the nearby area. This way of life wasn't new to me. I had been addicted either to alcohol or drugs for years.
I was arrested on
a charge of burglary, and sentenced to a
This young man began to discern reality in spiritual, not material, terms − as God's intelligent goodness and love at work in his life. Communion with the Mind of Christ became his consciousness of reality. A great change in his thinking was brought about.
As light displaces darkness, this authentic reality or Christly consciousness displaces finite and false views of reality − that man is alienated from good, that he is alone and doesn't fit, that physical sensations are his only source of joy, peace, satisfaction.
Instead we become conscious of what has always been real, but seems to us a new universe. We see our unity and at-one-ment with God, good, as His likeness. We recognize that our life is complete because God is complete; that we are loved and accepted expressions of God's creation, of all that really exists.
This spiritualization of consciousness is what our young friend experienced.
As this Christly consciousness or spiritual reality replaced his drug-induced fantasy world, his life changed. He found healing and freedom.
And each of us can experience the same transforming reality. We can see that God's loving and intelligent ideas operate as powerful spiritual law − absolute law forever sustaining our life in perfect quality.
This authentic and unchanging reality satisfies us. It dissolves the frightening dreams that arise from belief in a mind other than the Mind of Christ, a mortal or carnal mind, to use St. Paul's term. It helps to be on friendly terms with ourselves and our neighbor. It helps us to love and be loved. It reveals our unity with good.
Prayer Leads Us to Spiritual Reality
If the reality that satisfies and heals is wholly spiritual, is a state of God-bestowed consciousness, how do we go about discovering it?
Through intelligent prayer.
Prayer is our connection with reality − a ladder up to that more abundant life Jesus promised, toward that new heaven and earth the Bible speaks of.
Now words alone don't make a prayer. But they can lead our thought to that point of spiritual inspiration where we awaken to what God is, and to what He is already doing. This fresh universe exists now. To discover this reality brings better motivation and direction into our human affairs.
In other words, prayer doesn't change reality. It removes our ignorance of what is already true. It dissolves myths and mists. It lets in the light. It's spiritually mental action that dissolves mental stress and anxiety, the false sense of reality that is so destructive to the human system. Prayer turns our thought from evil to good, from bondage to freedom, from fear to love, from discouragement to hope.
Prayer is the chemistry of Spirit that empties the sufferer's thought of the false stimulus of wrong thinking. In this way recuperative energies of divine Truth are released to regulate human affairs harmoniously.
Nor is prayer always a formal petition or affirmation. Spontaneous joy, gratitude, love, forgiveness, purity − right thinking − can be prayers.
The most satisfying prayer is one that fulfills our desire to know and express God, that removes our sense of separation from Him, that tells us evil is unreal − in short, the most satisfying prayer awakens us to spiritual reality!
To illustrate how prayer enlarges our consciousness of spiritual reality, I'm going to be talking about three prayers as examples. The first two are probably familiar to most of you. They are the Lord's Prayer, by Jesus,10 and the 23d Psalm, by David.11 The third prayer is more recent in its origin. It's known and loved by Christian Scientists as "the scientific statement of being," by Mary Baker Eddy.12 The 23d Psalm and "the scientific statement of being" may not be thought of as prayers in the usual sense but they certainly are prayers when we consider they affirm great spiritual facts.
All three of these prayers were recorded centuries apart under quite different circumstances. Yet there is a basic similarity. They all lift our thought toward reality − spiritual reality - unchanged by time and place.
Knowing and Experiencing God as He Is
Now let's consider how prayer helps us break through to awareness of God as spiritual reality. Jesus had this awareness and he made it possible for each one of us to have it also through the prayer he taught to his disciples.
The Lord's Prayer tells us God is "Our Father which art in heaven." The term "Father" as applied to God implies power, authority, strength, wisdom, love; One who originates, designs, creates; One who guides benevolently. The concept of "Our Father" knocks down barriers of race, color, creed, age, sex. We're all His children, His likeness, expressing His design. He is the Father of us all. Nobody is excluded. Christian Scientists greatly love the Lord's Prayer together with Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of it. Both are part of our church service.
The God of the Lord's Prayer is also the God of the 23d Psalm. "The Lord" who "is my Shepherd" is none other than "our Father which art in heaven." Again, the nature of God is clear. The Almighty is a loving power tenderly caring for all His creation. Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer brings this out in that it refers to "Our Father" as "Our Father-Mother God."
In "the scientific statement of being," Mrs. Eddy introduces us to God as Mind. We're told: "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all." In other words, the Lord who is our Shepherd and our Father-Mother is the one and same divine intelligence, the Mind that leads us in paths of righteousness, to green pastures, beside still waters, and delivers us from temptation and evil. In short, Mind's loving, intelligent direction is present to help us. The Almighty is Father-Mother to us all.
And these prayers also show us that the God or Mind who is our Father is a God who is good, completely good. In the 23d Psalm, the great Shepherd leads us beside still waters, restores our soul, prepares a table for us, anoints our heads. And the psalm ends with his great conviction: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Because the Lord is our good Shepherd, we can break away from false images of reality to what is actual, the facts of our being.
"The scientific statement of being" continues the theme that God is good, intelligent, and loving. There we learn that God is Spirit − overruling matter and its cruel limitations of time, space, fear, sickness and sin. We're told: "Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal."
God's Kingdom Is Come
To understand reality as Spirit, God, good − not matter − lifts us out of the destructive fantasies of materialism into paths of righteousness − into a truly meaningful life, a fresh and vigorous sense of our own being. It is the reality of Spirit that prepares a table for us in the presence of lack, fear, loneliness. Spirit fills our cup to overflowing. Here is vital spiritual reality that blesses and heals us, − a force far stronger than drugs to quiet what doctors call our "hyped-up systems."
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," said Jesus. We need not wait for our heavenly Father-Mother, God − for divine reality − to get started in our life. His kingdom is already come − His will is done. His power is already here and now, working His purpose out.
Wherever our problem seems to be − in time or space − it really is not! Malfunction, misfunction, nonfunction are nowhere. At no time do they function. God, good, the divine Principle of man and the universe, functions at all times and all places. This is reality, God's spiritual creation eternally present here and now.
So remember, God's kingdom of good is right where the problem seems to be − yesterday, today, forever.
The 23d Psalm assures us, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
And "the scientific statement of being" further shows the triumph of the divine Mind or Spirit over any burdensome earthly experience. We're told: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter."
Here's a bold denial of the materialism that would crush us. It simply is not real. God has given us dominion over matter. It cannot limit or torment us. Our life and being are out of matter's range. Our reality is determined by God's will and His kingdom is come. God's reality is good, powerful, ever-present, because it is the only reality there is.
Unity With God, Good
Not only does prayer fulfill our desire to know and express God, what He is, what He does − it also removes our sense of separation from Him, helps us discover a "newness" in our unity with Him as our source of good.
In the Lord's Prayer we've already seen that Gods kingdom is forever come. So we cannot be alienated from our loving heavenly Father-Mother whose good purpose, or will, is already done. Here's a power and presence from which we simply cannot become separated. "The scientific statement of being" proclaims our ever-present unity with good, God, in this way;
"Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness." To be God's image and likeness is to be at-one with Him. We simply cannot be separated from the spirit of God, of divine Life, Truth, Love. Think of it! Think of your life as God, good − as all-powerful and ever-present. This good is your very being. You can never be cut off from it.
Mary Baker Eddy had dramatic proof that "Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness." Her recovery from painful injuries caused by an accident was for her the "falling apple," the decisive event that led her to discover the timeless Christly reality that healed her and enabled her to heal others.
Discernment of spiritual reality brought her into a new world of light, into a fresh universe. This had practical meaning in her life and in that of others.13
It is her clear perception of spiritual reality as ever-present which underlies "the scientific statement of being."
And prayer arouses us to the heaven of Spirit, authentic reality, just as it did Mrs. Eddy. This spiritual vision changes depression to hope and discouragement to gratitude. It purifies and it heals.
Deliverance From Evil
We've seen how prayer fulfills our desire to know and express God and be at-one with Him. Prayer also shows us that evil is not ultimate reality. It is not reality at all. In fact evil is unreal because good is real. Here is a radical insight that delivers us from evil's domination in our experience.
Jesus prayed, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Jesus is assuring us that God delivers us from evil. Divine Truth is more powerful than evil, for Truth alone is real.
The Psalmist confirms our immunity from evil. God is presented as an active power leading, delivering, triumphing. Out of dark valleys and shadows, God's presence leads us in paths of righteousness, toward green pastures, beside still waters. He restores our soul, our confidence in His good purpose for us. To see that we are the likeness of Spirit, God, lifts us out of the limitations and ills of the flesh. In short, a glimpse of man's spiritual identity as God's likeness brings us deliverance − preventive and curative − deliverance from forces of evil.
And "the scientific statement of being" further confirms our right to dominion over evil in these words: "Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual." And this is powerful, spiritual fact.
A College Student Healed
Let me give you a practical example of how this type of prayer awakens us to reality − to what's really happening, to what actually exists in our life.
A college student I know was troubled by a malfunctioning, swelling, condition on her body that reached an aggravated state. She had to leave the campus and come home. Through prayer she was helped to establish two spiritual facts as reality in her consciousness, namely, that:
− good, God's love, is all powerful and present in her life.
− unity with good eliminates evil.
Christian Science treatments or prayers − whether silent or audible − could be likened to an attorney's arguments and summations in behalf of his client. There are spiritual rules, laws, that help us plead our case − help us conform to a fitness to receive the blessings of divine Life, Truth, Love.
Prayer for the student went like this: God, our Father and cause, creates man lovingly, intelligently, as His likeness. His spiritual creation, the only creation, is "Thy kingdom come." Here's the true and final reality governing us. We're not waiting for His will to be done − we're expressing it, as His likeness. These thoughts are a good beginning to any prayer. They established God's authority, power, law, and immediacy in the student's life.
Next, prayer continued something like this: "God, divine Principle imparts to us harmony, divine Mind governs us intelligently, divine Life maintains our perfect being. Love is the only reality in our life, our all sufficient grace for today."
This is pleading our case − our unity with good. It eliminates fear of evil.
The treatment or prayer also specifically denied evil on these lines: "Spirit is the real and eternal . . . man is not material, he is spiritual." No malfunctioning, misfunctioning, nonfunctioning action of matter can overrule the might and control of the Holy Spirit, God, which man expresses. Truly God prepares a table before us in the presence of enemies. He causes our joy to overflow.
I hope that by now you see how prayer becomes a powerful tool for putting us straight with reality − what God is doing in our life.
With righteous prayer, we can be "tough as nails" with evil. God, divine Love, delivers us from sin and disease. Jesus said powerfully, "Deliver us from evil." The Psalmist said, "I will dwell in thy house" − the presence of good, God, forever. To the college student these prayers meant: stay conscious of reality − only intelligent action, infinitely good action, is going on. The college student and her family persistently prayed along these lines,
Using our three prayers as springboards of spiritual law from which to plead her case, the college student discovered what God was already doing in her life. She found her unity with good, her redemption and salvation from evil.
In a matter of days the student was enjoying a normal campus life and the physical difficulty was eliminated from her experience.
The prayers we've been considering fulfill our desire to know God and express Him − find out what He's like, learn how He works out His purpose in us. They are important guideposts directing our upward journey toward reality − health, peace, and true identity.
Prayer shows why evil − separation from good − is unreal. Prayer delivers us from evil.
Prayer removes our sense of separation from God, reveals our unity with good.
In short, prayer awakens us to the authentic reality that governs our life.
The Discovery of Spiritual Reality Satisfies
Down the centuries men have prayerfully searched for spiritual reality and just as prayerfully overcome the resistance to it which appears from time to time in human thought. Because they recognize almost intuitively that spiritual reality is the only reality − that it motivates and directs them and greatly improves the quality of their life.
The resistance shows itself in many ways. To the new searcher it may appear as skepticism: "What happens if I discover reality is spiritual? Will it make a difference in my life? in my human affairs"? To that person let me say, I know very well from my own experience that spiritual reality is solid, satisfying, being − and also that it makes a big difference in meeting human needs. Let me cite another personal example.
One day I was aboard a small boat cruising along at a rapid speed. The water was choppy and the boat seemed to bounce, pitch and roll. I was thrown against a bulkhead in such a way that I injured my back. I couldn't move or lift anything without great pain.
As the days went by I prayed over and over again the 23d Psalm, the Lord's Prayer, and "the scientific statement of being." My need was to "witness" to the authentic spiritual reality that "Our Father which art in heaven" is always loving, intelligent Principle guiding me in paths of righteousness; I was forever at-one with divine Love, could never at any time or place be separated from His goodness and mercy which followed me "all the days of my life"; because "man is not material, he is spiritual," I was untouched by any violent action of material forces and therefore entitled to be delivered from evil and pain.
Now we all experience resistance to the spiritual facts from time to time. And it can appear in a variety of guises. In this instance it came as moments of discouragement and fear. During these moments I learned to pray, "Lead me not into temptation." And I turned more and more to God, Spirit, and away from matter. Gradually I saw that the great power of infinite Mind that maintains the universe also sustains me. I saw that I am forever included in His harmonious creation; that my unity with good is always intact.
The painful difficulty gradually subsided. Within a short time my back was normal.
Prayer puts us in tune with a deep spiritual reality that harmoniously corrects human problems. And this is no mystical abstraction that only a chosen few can understand. Spiritual reality − God's love − is universal for all comers. He is our heavenly Father-Mother − our Shepherd who leads us − our infinite Mind and intelligent source of being.
Spiritual reality is free to all.
It satisfies us. It makes us whole. It brings us peace and new energy. It gives us solid reason for being.
Healing Points to Spiritual Reality
Earlier in this discussion, I referred to Mrs. Eddy's healing of a severe injury as the decisive event in her discovery of Christian Science. She writes, "In the year 1866, I discovered the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and named my discovery Christian Science."14 In gratitude and humility she gave her life to sharing this discovery with others through healing and teaching.
Some received it eagerly, but
others resisted the wholly spiritual reality she had found. For instance, one
day, as Mrs. Eddy relates in her autobiography, she was to give a talk at
But Mrs. Eddy did not give up. She knew that the universe of Spirit was real, though unseen to the physical senses; and she held firm to the spiritual reality she had discovered. Through her teaching and healing, others caught the vision. The result was the widespread growth of Christian Science as a world religious movement, and a continuing tide of spiritual healing.
And healing in Christian Science is much more than getting well in body and mind, important as that is. It includes a new understanding of ourselves and of everyone as wholly spiritual. By learning our true nature as the loved sons and daughters of Spirit, God, infinite substance, we all can find enduring satisfaction and joy. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Christians rejoice in secret beauty and bounty, hidden from the world, but known to God." 16
Resistance Not New
Opposition or resistance to spiritual reality is not new whether it appears to be in our own consciousness or someone else's. A brief reading of the history of Christianity bears this out. Beginning with Jesus, dedicated witnesses to Truth have triumphed over antagonists bent on destroying God's message of reality and His messengers. But they all stood their ground - the Apostle Paul, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Wesley − to name only a few. Neither the resistance within or without stopped them. They prayed their way through it. They fulfilled their tasks. And so should you and I. Deep down all of us want to know what actually exists, what is the true state of things.
One year I took part in an inter-religious program, at a big university. I had given 19 different talks in three days, all with vigorous question periods afterwards.
On the final night I found myself locked in an intense dialogue with a student who just couldn't see how spiritual reality had anything to do with solving human problems. She doubted that spiritual reality was solid or satisfying, and even if it might exist hereafter it was nothing more than a vague abstraction for children and old folks. But I could see that her need was great. A search for solid, satisfying being lay behind her arguments. So I tried every way I knew to explain to her how Christ, divine Truth, is the spiritual reality that comes to human experience to destroy evil.
Christ is the light dispelling darkness, telling us of spiritual reality. Christ is God speaking to you and me through right ideas. Christ is the Word of God made flesh, made understandable and demonstrable in our life.
Well, this student didn't seem to hear a word I said.
Finally I saw a friend sitting in the audience. He was a member of the Christian Science Organization at the University, and he had told me of a recent healing he had experienced.
Without warning I asked him to stand, address this big audience and relate his healing.
He did so. Rather well, I thought.
When he sat down, my attractive young adversary rose indignantly to her feet and said to me, "You mean that you Christian Scientists have known all along how to heal by spiritual means and you haven't told anybody?"
We keep trying.
Why does resistance to spirituality sometimes seem so hard to overcome − whether in our own thought or someone else's? Maybe the answer lies in what a professor recently told a group of young historians: "Our ideas, what we expect to see, have a great deal to do with what we actually see."17
In short, we sometimes imprison ourselves in a limited sense of reality we ourselves create.l8
But when we break out of material-minded perceptions of reality with the Mind of Christ, we'll discover spiritual reality − God, good, and His creation. This authentic reality, this new heaven and earth, is so satisfying we simply can't resist it. We can't live without what we know is real.
As you and I pray, we'll help to heal resistance and skepticism toward spiritual reality. Then all mankind will feel the Christly presence that blesses them, even though they may not understand it at first.19
In short, our prayers help others
discover authentic spiritual reality. Historians, anthropologists, may wonder
about the end of ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians along the
We should be finding better answers to those questions, What actually exists? What is the true state of things?
Sometimes it seems easier to search for than find reality. But our real challenge is not so much a search for reality as it is the need to practice and apply the spiritual reality which is already present here and now.
This means commitment. And why not? We have the tools of intelligent prayer to help us.
Spiritual reality is substantive, powerful, and available to all. To catch even a glimpse of it through prayer brings signs of improvement in our human experience. You and I begin to discover the new heaven and earth governed by divine intelligence; we find our unity with good; we learn evil is not an enslaving force because divine Love delivers us from it.
Spiritual reality is the light shining in the darkness. It dissolves fear and malfunction − the "fight or flight" responses − in our present experience. Spiritual reality is God's Word invoked in our lives. It is the highest and most effective remedial action we can experience.
Reality, as it appears to you and me through prayer, is the consciousness of the allness of God, good. It is Life as God sees it. It is the "house of the Lord" - our true abiding place; it is "Thy kingdom come"; it is the infinite Mind of Christ manifested in our life.
Spiritual reality, the authentic reality, is solid and satisfying. Beginning right now, why not live your life with a little more reality in it?
Herbert Benson, Wall Street Journal,
3. Dr. Platon Collipp, Chief of Pediatrics, Nassau
County Medical Center,
4. Higher Sense Perceptions Research Foundation,
5. Psychic Magazine. May - June, 1973, p. 38.
6. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 86.
7. I Cor. 2:16
8. John 21:22.
10. Matthew 6:9-13.
11. Psalms 23:1-6.
12. Science and Health, p. 468.
13. Retrospection and Introspection, p. 40 pp. 2-25
14. Science and Health, p. 107.
15. Retrospection and Introspection, p. 24-25.
16. Science and Health, p. 15.
18. For reference only, see Science and Health, p. 251.
19. For reference only, see Science and Health, p. 152.