Christian Science and the Healing Prayer of Faith


Howard H. Irwin, C.S., of San Bernardino, California

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts


The power of prayer will be more widely seen in the world as individuals fulfill their spiritual obligations more faithfully, said a Christian Science lecturer in Boston, March 24.

Howard H. Irwin, C.S., of San Bernardino, Calif., spoke before a public audience in The First Church of Christ, Scientist. The title of his lecture was "Christian Science and the Healing Prayer of Faith."

"The challenges of today's world," Mr. Irwin said, "outline in crystal-like clarity the Christian's obligations to mankind. Only by spiritualization of individual thought can these obligations be met."

This spiritualization takes place through prayer, he said. It brings spiritual understanding to man, and is expressed in everyday living in better health and in happier lives.

Mr. Irwin is currently on tour as a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship. He was introduced to the audience by Mrs. Rose M. Henniker-Heaton, Second Reader of The Mother Church.

A partial text of the lecture follows:


Spiritual understanding imparted

The understanding of the nature of effective prayer becomes more and more imperative as the drama of human events unfolds with ever-increasing acceleration. The challenges of today's world outline in crystal-like clarity the Christian's obligations to mankind. Only by spiritualization of individual thought can these obligations be met.

Spiritualization of thought is achieved through prayer, for prayer is reaching out and communing with God, divine Spirit. In order to approach Spirit, human thought must be imbued with spiritual qualities. The whole tendency of Christianity is toward this spiritualization, for Christianity inculcates complete trust in Spirit, God. It enables the individual to worship "the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).

As love for Spirit, God, fills consciousness, thought perceives more clearly the true nature of God, and of man as His image and likeness. This spiritual understanding is expressed in everyday living, in better health, happier lives, and a more spiritual sense of religion and worship.

In the Bible record, Christ Jesus and his immediate followers had much to say about prayer. In the Epistle of James (5:14, 15) we find this question: "Is any sick among you?" Then this clear counsel is given: "let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

The apostle's promise, which he makes with such conviction, is actually a statement of ever-operative, divine law. This apostle, and Jesus' other followers, had gained this conviction of the healing power of prayer through their own personal experiences. They had witnessed the effective healing work of their Master. They had been taught by him to do similar healing works, through spiritual means alone. In turn, they were able to impart to others this effective spiritual understanding.

Gradually materialism, ritual, and dogma replaced the simplicity of the Christ in the church, and the element of spiritual healing was lost sight of. Down through the ages, since that time, the question has continued: "What is this healing prayer of faith?"

Today Christian Science is offering to all mankind the answer to this question. That the answer is correct is seen in its results. Through the prayer of faith, in Christian Science, every known disease has been healed; the sinner has been reformed and purified; sorrow, lack, and every kind of limitation have been destroyed − reduced to nothingness. What Christian Science has done, and is doing, for others, it can do for you.


Christ is always with man

Christian Science, which is based on the words and works of Christ Jesus, is daily being proved effective in healing conditions of long standing. Time is not an element to resist or to aid God's healing power.

For a number of years, prior to my becoming interested in Christian Science, I had suffered with a condition known as athlete's foot. I had tried many material remedies and cures, but these could do nothing more than give temporary relief. Shortly after I had taken up the study of Christian Science, this foot condition became aggravated, and I asked a Christian Science practitioner for help. Through her prayers the condition was completely healed in two days. To me this was convincing proof that Christian Science has given us the true nature of this healing prayer of faith.

At this point, one might reasonably ask, "Just what is Christian Science?" To answer this question let us first turn to Christ Jesus and the Christianity that he taught and established.

Christian Science makes a careful and logical distinction between Jesus, the human man, born of Mary, and the eternal Christ, the spiritual, or true, idea of God. Christ is not a synonym for Jesus. Rather, Christ is his title, to indicate the "anointed one," and is identical with "Messiah." Thus we speak of Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus.

The Christ is God's manifestation, His spiritual idea. The Christ is the divine message from God to the human consciousness, revealing reality, the truth of all things. Thus the Christ destroys discords of every kind. As the manifestation of God's power, the Christ heals, saves, and blesses wherever and whenever human consciousness is receptive to it.

Jesus so completely identified himself with the Christ that he frequently referred to the Christ in the first person, as when he said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

The eternal Christ, which is forever at one with God, is always present with man to lead human consciousness into higher spiritual realization.

A careful reading of the New Testament shows that the Master's works were the outcome, or effect, of his knowledge of the nature of God, and of God's government of man and the universe. One dictionary (Webster's Collegiate) defines science as knowledge. The Christ enabled Jesus to teach and demonstrate that this knowledge, or Science, of the things of Spirit, God, can be practically applied to the everyday needs of humanity.

The Church which is organized to make available to all mankind this practical and exact knowledge of God, or Christian Science, is known as the Church of Christ, Scientist. In the Historical Sketch in the Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy (Page 17) we read: "At a meeting of the Christian Scientist Association, April 12, 1879, on motion of Mrs. Eddy, it was voted, − To organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing."


Healing leads to discovery

The organization of this Church is interesting, in that it functions both universally and locally. The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, typifies the Church Universal, embracing and nourishing all of its branches. While The Mother Church does embrace and nourish all of the branches, still the branches are independent in their organization and democratic in their government.

For the earnest Christian Scientist, membership in both The Mother Church and a branch church is a privilege he greatly cherishes. He sees that church membership is an acknowledgment that Christian Science has given him the answer to the question: What is the healing prayer of faith?

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, discovered the answer to this question in the year 1866. At that time, after years of semi-invalidism, Mrs. Eddy found herself in a critical condition as a result of a fall on an icy sidewalk. The attending physician considered her condition so critical that he did not expect her to live.

Mrs. Eddy had always turned to the Bible for comfort and solace. So, on the third day, asking to be left alone, she read in her Bible the account of Jesus' healing of the palsied man, as related in the ninth chapter of Matthew.

She has told us in her own words, in "Miscellaneous Writings" (Page 24), what happened. "As I read, the healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I rose, dressed myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed. That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence."

In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy has fully set forth her discovery, and has clearly defined the healing prayer of faith. The first chapter in this textbook is on Prayer, and the opening sentence of this chapter reads as follows (Page 1): "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, − a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love."

"Absolute faith," which is so vital to spiritual healing, is not a blind faith based on a belief in God. Rather is it the result of a spiritual understanding of God, and of His constant care for His own manifestation, man and the universe. Thus the anchor of this faith is in God, and so it remains steadfast. No matter how dark the way may be to human sense, "absolute faith" when it melts into understanding dwells in the divine light of God's ever-presence.

"Absolute faith" is related to patience. Both this faith and patience are unfaltering and steadfast in their loyalty to Truth. They are not discouraged by obstacles confronting them, and they are persistently active, assured of victory.

Healing prayer, based on faith in God's power, must of necessity include "a spiritual understanding of Him." Science and Health states (Page 203): "If God were understood instead of being merely believed, this understanding would establish health."

Here is one important difference between Christian Science and systems of so-called faith cure. As revealed through Christian Science, faith is based on a demonstrable knowledge of God, which is pure Science. Through this Science each individual may gain this understanding of God. As this understanding increases, one's faith is enlarged, and his prayers become more and more effective.

After her remarkable healing, Mrs. Eddy devoted three years to the careful study of the Bible. The Scriptures had a new meaning for her, and she discerned more clearly than ever before the spiritual import of what the Bible teaches about God. Finally, she was able to set forth her discovery of the nature of God in this definition in Science and Health (Page 587): "God. The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence."

In the first chapter of Genesis, when God created the universe, including man, He was expressing His nature as divine Principle, for Principle means source, cause, or creator. When He said, "here shall thy proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:11), He was expressing His nature as divine Principle, for Principle implies government, law, order. When He spake through the prophet Malachi (3:6) saying, "I am the Lord, I change not," He was again expressing His nature as divine Principle, for Principle means unchanging, unerring, absolute.

Mind, as a synonym for God, is not difficult to understand, for that which creates and governs, and which expresses itself in wisdom and beauty must be intelligent Mind. Justice, wisdom, understanding, are attributes of Mind by which name the Bible identifies God.


Love expresses idea of God

The synonym Soul indicates God's completeness, purity, and continuity, which are expressed in beauty and individuality throughout His creation.

God as Spirit is infinite, indestructible, indivisible substance, expressing itself as strength, presence, and power.

Life indicates God's eternal nature, without beginning or end, or limits of any kind. Life is ageless, radiant, and indestructible, for Life is God.

The synonym Truth reveals God as the law and reality of all His creation. It expresses God's activity and power, correcting or eliminating all that is unlike Himself, including sin and sickness. Truth being universal, omnipresent, and all-inclusive, there is no space empty of the forces and healing power of Truth, God.

And, finally, Love! "God is love" (I John 4:16). How this little sentence epitomizes all that man knows or ever can know about God! What would the creator and governor of man and the universe be without the strength, gentleness, and solicitude of Love? What would wisdom and understanding be without the mercy and kindness of Love? What would substance, strength, power, yes, and even purity, be without the softening warmth of Love?

To Mrs. Eddy's clear perception, the nature of God as Love so completely expressed the true idea of God that she speaks of God as Mother, as well as Father. She says: "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (Science and Health, Page 332).

A requisite of the healing prayer of faith is "an unselfed love."

One might ask, "How can I unself my expression of love? Does not love require a self to express it?" Christian Science makes a distinction between man's true self, which is the very expression of divine Love, and that personal sense of self whose so-called love is possessive and self-gratifying.

The authority for this distinction is the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis (1:27), man is spoken of as created by God, in His own image and likeness. Later, in the book of Isaiah, we are told (43:7) that God made man to glorify Him, God, and (43:12) as a witness to Him.

On the other hand, the false, personal sense, called Adam, is described as made of dust and as immediately getting into trouble because of willfulness and disobedience. Surely, this Adam is not man made in God's image, the reflection of divine Love. Christian Science describes Adam as a counterfeit, or a false concept.


God and man are inseparable

Let us consider, briefly, three Bible expressions which help us understand the true nature of man, namely, image of God, witness to God, and son of God. As we discuss these points, remember they are of immediate importance to each one of you. They help you to understand your true selfhood, and so to express unselfed love, which is a requisite of the healing prayer of faith and understanding.

If what is not true of God could possibly be true of man, man could not be the image of God. But the very first reference to man in the Bible sets forth the spiritual fact that man is God's image. God being Spirit, man is spiritual. The perfection, intelligence, strength, law of God, and all His other attributes and qualities, are the qualities of man, as God's image, or reflection. As image, man cannot be removed nor separated from God.

The qualities of God must be reflected by man, because of the immediacy of the relationship of God and man. For example, God, as Love, is infinite. Man reflects nothing less than Love's infinitude. It is the imaging forth of the fullness of this Love, by individual man, which is expressed in "an unselfed love" in the human experience.

When God declared, through the prophet Isaiah (43:12), "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God," man's identity was established, once and for all. Here is the remedy for the frustration which comes from an aimless sense of existence. Each individual expression of man has a sacred purpose, witnessing to the existence and nature of God, his divine source.

In turning to the reference to man as the son of God, we must again remind ourselves of the important distinction between man as the image of God, and the misconception or counterfeit, the so-called mortal man. Man as God's image is the son of God. He has spiritual identity. As this identity is discerned and demonstrated, salvation, redemption, and regeneration come to the individual.

The Apostle John says (John 1:12): "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." Mrs. Eddy has commented on this statement as follows: "His sonship, referred to in the text, is his spiritual relation to Deity: it is not, then, a personal gift, but is the order of divine Science" (Miscellaneous Writings, Page 181).

It is necessary to understand that this sonship is essentially different from the human sense of sonship. In the human sense, the son is quickly separated from his source and soon is completely independent of it. In time he fades out and ceases to be, − all because of a sense of existence separate from his source.

In the "order of divine Science" man's sonship with God means that man is the manifestation of God, forever inseparable from his source. The son is the very evidence of what God is right now. To help clarify this for yourselves, think of sonship in connection with the seven synonymous names for God. For example; man is the son of divine Principle; or, man is divine Principle's manifestation of itself.


Soldier’s illness overcome

In this scientific sense of being there is no accumulation, no deterioration, no falling away from perfection. There is only the immediate now of reflection. Man is as eternal, as changeless, and as indestructible as God is, for man is the exact expression of the nature of God.

The use of material things to illustrate spiritual truths always has its difficulties and limitations. However, the following may help in understanding what has just been said about man as the son of God.

When you turn on an electric light, the brightness of the light expresses the source of the light. Cut off from the source, there is no light, no brightness. If you leave the light turned on for 30 minutes, the brightness of the 30th minute is not an accumulation of the brightness of the previous 29 minutes. The brightness of the 30th minute is the timeless brightness expressing the source of the light at that minute. No matter what has happened during the 29 minutes, the brightness of the light the 30th minute is still the immediate expression of the source of the light.

Identifying yourself with the spiritual facts of man as the son of God enables you to understand and express unselfed love.

Now let us turn to the Bible for an example of the healing prayer of faith. It is found in the sixth chapter of Matthew (verses 9-13) and is known as the Lord's Prayer. This prayer is a prayer in which all Christians unite. Christian Scientists make practical use of this prayer every day. They are assured that this prayer meets all human needs.

During World War II, a Christian Scientist and a friend, who was not a Christian Scientist, were serving with a small military intelligence unit in the forward area during the fighting in Europe. One night, the friend became quite ill. As there were no medical corps men available at that time for this unit, the Christian Scientist did his best to help his friend. The friend had not asked for Christian Science treatment so none was given.

Finally, when the condition seemed to be getting critical, the Christian Scientist told his friend that he knew of nothing else to do, materially speaking, and asked his friend if he would like to be helped through prayer, as taught in Christian Science. The sick friend readily agreed, and he was asked to pray quietly to himself the Lord's Prayer, and to keep at it.

The Christian Scientist then turned his thought to the Lord's Prayer also. He pondered it word by word, and phrase by phrase, in the light of the teachings of Christian Science. In a short time the friend dropped off to sleep, and the Christian Scientist went for his turn at guard duty. During his time on guard, he kept his thinking filled with the Lord's Prayer, and with expressions of gratitude for God's ever-present care for His sons.

When the friend awoke in the morning there was not the slightest evidence of the difficulty. There was not even any weakness or weariness.

At the close of the chapter on Prayer in Science and Health (Pages 16, 17), Mrs. Eddy has set forth the Lord's Prayer and given its spiritual interpretation. The Lord's Prayer is a deeply spiritual utterance, and so it is impossible to exhaust its profound meaning. In the light of the revelation which Science and Health gives to the spiritual meaning of this prayer, we can prove for ourselves, each day, that it does indeed meet all human needs.

"Our Father which art in heaven,

"Our Father - Mother God, all-harmonious."

Down through the ages since the time of Jesus, Christians everywhere have been comforted by knowing God as Father. With the revelation of the completeness of God's nature, as expressed in the term Father-Mother, Christian Science indicates a relationship that is at once tender, intimate, and wholly satisfying. This relationship does not require an intermediary, for there is no remoteness. God is the creator governing and caring for His creation, man and the universe. The prophet Isaiah must have glimpsed something of the nature of this relationship when he spoke of God as saying (Isaiah 66:13): "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem."

"Hallowed be Thy name.

"Adorable One."

How do we hallow God's name, as the "Adorable One"? By understanding Him better as divine Love, and then living that understanding as we go about our daily activities. Each time we express patience, thoughtfulness, loving-kindness, unselfishness, or other Godlike qualities, we are hallowing, or glorifying, God's name. Thus we acknowledge and prove that the "Adorable One" is the source of our being.


Child healed instantaneously

"Thy kingdom come.

"Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present."

A kingdom implies a ruler, government, law, order. And this certainly must be the nature of God s kingdom, since God is divine Principle. But it implies something further, − obedience.

There can be no disobedience in God's kingdom, for disobedience to God's law is sin. And sin cannot enter into the heavenly kingdom. To pray, "Thy kingdom come," means that the one offering the prayer intends to give willing and unquestioning obedience. How vain it is to pray in this manner, and then not to live in conformity with God's law. Our obedience proves that God's government and law are ever-present and ever-available.

"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

"Enable us to know, − as in heaven, so on earth, − God is omnipotent, supreme."

This portion of the prayer is an expression of the fact that the things of Spirit are capable of being practically applied in our daily experience.

One Sunday afternoon a woman telephoned a practitioner for help in Christian Science for her little granddaughter. The child had been playing with her little brother and had been accidentally struck in the eyeball with one of the brother's darts. The condition seemed severe. The face was swelling rapidly, and the child was losing consciousness.

As he talked to the grandmother, the practitioner became very conscious of the child's spiritual nature as the offspring of God. He realized that this true identity had never been touched by matter, and so could not express damage or hurt. Replacing the telephone, he continued to let spiritual truths of God's allness and man's perfection as His child flood his consciousness. In just a few minutes, the grandmother phoned again to say that while she was talking to the practitioner the swelling had started to subside, the pain had stopped, and the child had fallen into a peaceful, normal sleep. The healing had taken place right before her eyes.


God gives man all he needs

"Give us this day our daily bread;

"Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections,"

God is always giving to man all that he needs. Grace is one of God's greatest gifts to man. It is inherent in God's manner of creating, for He created man for a purpose, to glorify Him. Grace is that which enables man to fulfill this purpose. It was this divine element of grace which enabled Christ Jesus to meet and master the temptations of the flesh, and to reveal to mankind the very nature of salvation.

Grace is forceful, powerful, effective, dynamic. The effect of grace is seen in individual lives corrected, in the healing of sin and disease, in the overcoming of limitations, and in the breaking of all barriers to the expression of man's God-given dominion and freedom. Grace resists and repels whatever would seem to control man, to dominate him, or to hold him in bondage.

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

"And Love is reflected in love;"

Perhaps at no point in this wonderful example of the healing prayer of faith is the petitioner more alone with God. Here he is at the point of laying his all on the altar of Love. Now there can be no turning back. In the sacredness of this moment, the human sense of self is surrendered for the understanding of spiritual Love, which blesses all, and has no enemies, and thus needs no forgiveness.

Humble in the glow of this divine light, consciousness perceives the real mission of Christian Science. After years of experience in applying her discovery to every type of human problem, Mrs. Eddy wrote; ". . . the mission of Christian Science now, as in the time of its earlier demonstration, is not primarily one of physical healing. Now, as then, signs and wonders are wrought in the metaphysical healing of physical disease; but these signs are only to demonstrate its divine origin, − to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world" (Science and Health; Page 150).

Christian Science does not condemn one who has stumbled into the trap of sin. It comes to the sinner to encourage him in his efforts to save himself. It teaches that God's forgiveness of sin is the destruction of sin, and that as the individual forsakes sin, in thought as well as in deed, nothing remains to be punished. The prayer of faith gives each one the power to resist the devilish suggestions of sin, and so to prove his heritage of freedom from sin, as the son of God.


Shepherd requires obedience

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;

"And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death."

In many passages in the Bible, the Father's love for His children is expressed as a shepherd leading and caring for his sheep. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps. 23:1). Jesus used this metaphor of the shepherd, too, indicating that the sheep are obedient to the shepherd's voice, and that they will not follow the voice of strangers who try to entice them away. It is this quality in the sheep − obedience and the willingness to follow the shepherd − that enables the shepherd to care for them. This complete trust in God comes naturally to one who has experienced divine Love's forgiveness. He willingly trusts all to God.

"For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

"For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All."

One who has reached this point of spiritual purification and self-renunciation will spontaneously join in this great chorus, acknowledging the sovereignty of God. The great spiritual fact now appears: The power and dominion of God is God's allness expressing itself. In this scientific revelation, the spiritual sense of being is discerned, pure, perfect, and forever intact.

To sum up what we have said about the prayer of faith, I shall read a few lines from Mrs. Eddy's book "No and Yes" (Page 39); "True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us. Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good. It makes new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power. It shows us more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all, it shows us what God is."


[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 1966.]