The Power of God
Horacio Omar Rivas, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
God's power can "change for
the better any human situation," Horacio Omar Rivas, C.S.B, emphasized in
a lecture in
He also stated, "The power of God, the healing power of infinite good, is capable of restoring health and morals to any person through spiritual means alone. The infinite power of God is available to all." Mr. Rivas included some examples of Christian healing to illustrate this point.
A member of The Christian Science
Board of Lectureship, Mr. Rivas spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of
Christ, Scientist, in
A native of
"The Power of God" was
the title of his lecture. He was introduced by Mrs. Georgia Hughes of
A power always available
In today's world we often hear the word "power" used in connection with different theories, movements, and organizations. We hear about will power, man power, black power, political power, and of course, atomic power.
In almost all these cases, the term "power" is related to movements or forces which aim to change situations through human and material means. And the results are often unsatisfactory.
However, there is a unique power which can change for the better any human situation through spiritual means alone. It's a power always available to everyone who seeks and understands it.
My first conscious encounter with this power was when I was just a little boy. When I was born, I had an abnormal foot condition which the doctors said would prevent me from ever walking normally.
The medical prediction seemed to be true. When most children begin to walk, I wasn't able to. My parents did everything to find a solution, but with no results. Finally, with the help of braces and orthopedic boots, I began to walk with great difficulty and painfully.
Then when I was about four years old, we were vacationing in the countryside. One day a member of my family talked to me about God. She told me that, if I asked God to heal my foot, God would heal me.
I accepted this without one single doubt. When it was time for my mother to help me to put on the braces and the special boots, I told her: "No, Mom, I want a pair of shoes like other boys have." As mother insisted, I remember saying to her: "I asked God to heal my foot, and I know He has heard me."
Faith, the first step
I was so confident that Mother sent somebody to buy a pair of sneakers – the nearest thing to a pair of shoes that could be found in that small country town.
When she put the sneakers on my feet and put me on the floor, I began to walk for the first time in my life without any material help! Few, perhaps, understood, at that moment,
what had happened. But my parents and I knew it was the power of God that had given me my freedom! And "the power of God" is the subject I'd like to talk about this evening. The power of God, the healing power of infinite good, is capable of restoring health and morals to any person through spiritual means alone. The infinite power of God is available to all.
The power of God isn't new to mankind. Since ancient times many people have had practical evidence of the existence of a supreme and invisible power which has rescued them from desperate situations.
In the Bible we find many examples of this power. For instance, Moses felt divinely impelled to help the suffering Hebrew people flee from Egyptian captivity. He was led to accept his unique role of leader and legislator of a whole nation, even though he felt humanly inadequate for such a task.
Now, we could ask: How did Moses
reach the perception of God's infinite mercy and compassion? Why was he certain
that God really cared for the children of
You may recall that Moses, though of Hebrew parents, was brought up by the Egyptian Pharaoh's daughter in the splendor and luxury of the imperial court. But, when Moses was grown, he felt he didn't belong to that people and he should not worship their gods. We learn something of his character in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb. 11:24,25).
Inspiration and intuition
What is this faith that makes a man leave material comfort for a spiritual ideal? First, it isn't just blind belief. Mere belief very often is born of ignorance, fear, or superstition. But faith has a spiritual origin; that's why it accomplishes marvelous results.
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says: "Faith is higher and more spiritual than belief. It is a chrysalis state of human thought, in which spiritual evidence, contradicting the testimony of material sense, begins to appear, and Truth, the ever-present, is becoming understood" (p. 297).
Genuine faith includes inspiration. Inspiration encourages us to find out the deepest things of God because inspiration comes from Soul and Soul is one of the names for God in Christian Science. When thought has inspiration, we work with renewed vigor. Life acquires new meaning, and true joy – which is spiritual – begins to shine in our experience.
Faith, fed by inspiration, gives us spiritual energies. These go beyond mere physical energies or intellectual power. They are spiritual because their source is divine Mind, God.
Inspiration removes the feeling of monotony in our daily tasks. Why? Because inspiration makes us see our true activity is to reflect God, good.
Faith also includes spiritual intuition. This spiritual quality of thought makes us certain of the existence of that which can't be perceived by the physical senses. As the Bible says: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).
Unbelief or incredulity is spiritual blindness. Faith in the power of Spirit, God, reveals to us the infinite possibilities we have to enjoy eternal good, now.
Spiritual realities glimpsed
An experience I know of firsthand illustrates the importance of faith as the first step in perceiving the power of God. Some years ago a friend of mine was told that her husband had fallen to the pavement from a moving bus. He was taken to a hospital, and the medical diagnosis was that he'd suffered a severe fracture of the skull.
My friend had never heard of Christian Science, but a neighbor she turned to in desperation recommended that she try it. And so she asked a Christian Science practitioner to treat her husband. This treatment is based exclusively on prayer.
This woman decided to trust in this Science. She had faith in the power of God as the only power which could preserve the life of man. The result was that, after two weeks, the husband was completely healed.
The acceptance – by faith – of the healing power of God, as revealed in Christian Science, enabled both husband and wife to experience that power. Faith has been able to achieve great things which seemed humanly impossible. By inspired faith and spiritual intuition the ancient prophets glimpsed the spiritual realities of being, announced the coming of the Messiah or Christ, and proved to some extent the infinite power of God.
This isn't surprising when you consider what "Science and Health" has to say about the term "prophet": "Prophet. A spiritual seer; disappearance of material sense before the conscious facts of spiritual Truth" (p. 593).
These "conscious facts of spiritual Truth" were wonderfully demonstrated in the life and the work of Christ Jesus. He illustrated these "conscious facts" in healing the sick and reforming the sinner through divine power.
Jesus gave great importance to faith as a main factor in such proofs of spiritual power. On one occasion Peter, his disciple, tried to walk over the water as Jesus was doing. When Peter began to sink, the Master rescued him from drowning, and rebuked him with these words: "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matt. 14:31). Maybe Peter began to sink because he doubted that spiritual power could overcome the supposed laws of matter. Jesus was able to overcome material limitations because he accepted God, Spirit, as the only power.
An instantaneous healing
On another occasion, a man brought his son to Jesus. The lad suffered from a disease which might today be called epilepsy. The disciples had been unable to heal him. Jesus healed the boy instantaneously. The disciples then asked Jesus why they hadn't been able to heal the boy. His simple answer was: "Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Matt. ).
Although faith was considered important by Jesus in the spiritual healing, this was not the only element which characterized his way of thinking. He had a pure, spiritualized consciousness which made him a real prophet, "a spiritual seer," in the full sense of the word.
This spiritualized consciousness revealed to Jesus the divine reality of being and the power of God. It enabled him to hear God speaking to him through the Christ.
Mrs. Eddy tells us: "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" ("Science Health," p. 332).
Christ, as a spiritual idea, is always available to reveal to us the spiritual Truth so we all can enjoy God's healing and liberating power.
This Christ, Truth, has always existed. Moses felt the presence of the Christ; that's why he was able to demonstrate divine power. It was awareness of the Christ in consciousness that enabled the ancient prophets to perceive that divine Spirit or infinite good has absolute dominion over matter. This healing activity of the Christ is most evident in a thought full of faith. Trust in good opens the door to spiritual opportunities.
But faith is only the first step that leads us to glimpse divine power. These words of the Apostle James illustrate this: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?" And: "Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works" (James ,18).
Therefore, our works, that is, the demonstration of divine power in our daily life, are needed to evidence our faith in good, our confidence in God.
The purpose of prayer
How can we take a step beyond faith? Well, here is where prayer can help us.
You'll remember that earlier during this talk I mentioned Moses had demonstrated the power of God when he healed his sister, Miriam. That's an example of what can be accomplished through prayer.
Miriam was apparently jealous of the success of her brother, Moses. Her envy and bitterness multiplied. Together with her brother, Aaron, she began to claim the right of being also the spokesman of the law of God and acted against Moses. Her attitude endangered the peace and cohesion of the whole nation.
The Bible tells us that Miriam then became leprous.
But Moses, full of patience and selflessness, forgetting the attacks of his sister, turned to God in prayer. He talked to God, trusting in His infinite power, saying, "Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee" (Num. ). And in a few days Miriam was completely restored, not only in her mental attitude, but also in her physical condition.
It's evident that prayer enabled Moses to demonstrate the healing power of God. Now, the question arises: Wasn't God's power available before he prayed? Yes, God's power is always available, but Moses had to pray to be more conscious than ever of God's power in order to destroy, in his own thinking, the suggestions which presented a picture of hate, rebellion, and sickness.
He also had to pray to help Miriam see that whatever is against the nature of God, good, is temporal and mortal. In other words, prayer made both of them conscious of the presence of eternal good, conscious of the power of God, and this spiritual awareness healed.
Prayer is the most effective activity of human thought, because it enables men to communicate with God. It's a spiritually mental activity which elevates thought above the mortal picture. It lifts us to contemplate divine reality where the power of God is always in control of every situation, preserving the harmony of human existence.
It's interesting to see that Miriam's healing included a change of attitude. This seems to be the rule in almost all cases of healing through spiritual means, and is a sure indication of the mental origin of human problems. When human thought is invaded by envy, hate, excessive ambition, or some ignorant or fearful belief, the result is a temporary loss of harmony. But through prayer, anyone can reverse those ungodlike suggestions and the effect is healing.
God's qualities expressed
Prayer, as a complement or sustaining element of faith, is a sacred way to understand better the nature of God as divine Love, and of man as the infinite expression of Love. Jesus' prayers were effective because he expressed the qualities of divine Love in his daily life. His words and deeds were characterized by compassion, mercy, forgiveness. This made his Christianity a practical method of demonstrated faith in good through tangible works. And this method of restoring harmony through spiritual power is available to everyone.
When we are willing to express divine qualities in our daily life, when through prayer divine Love becomes the master of thoughts and acts – as it was in Jesus' case – we, then, can also demonstrate God's power as it was demonstrated in Bible times.
Let me illustrate this. Several years ago, when I was still in business, I began to have problems with a fellow worker. Destructive criticism and violent arguments characterized our relationship. The situation became so unbearable that I thought of resigning from my job. But, as a Christian' Scientist, I knew running away wouldn't solve the problem. I had already learned if I didn't solve it right there, the same problem would present itself to me in another place.
I turned to God, divine Love, in prayer. One day, while I was praying for harmony, I realized I was blaming my colleague for the situation. I also saw my own thoughts were full of self-love, arrogance, pride, and self-justification – the very elements of friction.
I realized this attitude was far from being inspired by God, divine Love, so I became willing to put aside those unfortunate characteristics and to express greater compassion – instead of reacting – to the unpleasant comments of my colleague.
In this way my prayers led me to the very root of the problem: my wrong concept of man. I'd been thinking that in this case man could be less than perfect, although theoretically I had accepted that man is created in the image and likeness of God, according to the Bible. Now I had to demonstrate it.
Office harmony restored
Well, day by day I began to express more love for my fellow worker, love like the love Jesus expressed toward all - friends and foes. A love unselfed and spiritual.
Needless to say, when I began to express patience, consideration, and to value the effort that the other person was making in her work, the situation immediately began to improve. And in a few days harmony was restored in that office.
You see, I availed myself of the power of God through prayer. But prayer isn't an ecstatic activity that produces "miracles" for itself. It requires reformation, that is, reformation of human thinking, leaving the material evidence for the spiritual.
Now let's talk for a little about the scientific element in prayer: why it can affect human thinking and, consequently, our human life.
In Christian Science anybody can prove for himself that scientific prayer finds answers. Why? Because to pray effectively means to spiritually understand the power of God. Scientific prayer is a mental protest of His divine power. It is a mental declaration of our understanding of the real nature of God as infinite good.
We need to realize that God is Love and the source of all good, and that He gives to His children everything they need for their happiness. Then prayer, instead of being a petition for favors to a distant and unknown deity, becomes a constant declaration of divine realities.
Our prayers are the mental affirmations of our faith. They are our conscious acceptance of the power of good as the only power.
Scientific prayer eliminates from human thinking whatever claims to oppose God. This leaves us alone in sacred communion with our heavenly Father. We become conscious of the allness of divine power, and that's exactly what we need to free ourselves and others from any difficulty.
Evil of every kind is a product of deceptive material sense, a product of human imagination, an illusion with no scientific basis. Why? Because God, good, is the only creator, and how could He, being good, create evil, disease, or suffering? How could the sun be the author of darkness? How could infinite wisdom be the source of ignorance?
To pray, effectively, means also to eradicate from human thinking any misconception or contradiction about God and man. When we do this, our prayers partake of that spiritual impetus which characterized the prayers of Moses, of the ancient prophets, and of Christ Jesus. In other words, scientific prayer lifts human thought to a spiritual altitude where the power of God is perceived and demonstrated.
Spiritual understanding vital
Scientific prayer, being a mental activity, doesn't require a specific external, ritualistic human attitude. The best proof that our faith is supported by scientific prayer is the expressing of spiritual qualities in our daily life. Those spiritual qualities like Jesus expressed – love, purity, wisdom.
"Science and Health" tells us: "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" (Science and Health, p. 1).
At this point in our discussion we've reached the most important element in demonstrating the healing power of God as scientific and dependable. I'm referring to spiritual understanding – an understanding of what Spirit and the things of Spirit are all about, what they imply and where they lead us.
Why do we say that spiritual understanding is so important? Because when we spiritually understand God is Love and Truth and the source of all good, then we can prove it at any moment and under any circumstance. We see this proof as harmony, health, and peace restored in our human experience. In other words, this understanding revives the healing element of primitive Christianity as it was in Jesus' time.
During this talk, the power of God through faith has been illustrated several times. You'll remember that the faith I had when I was a small boy freed me from the slavery of a physical condition which limited my ability to walk normally. But this experience was only a sporadic glimpse of the divine power to heal and protect. Faith alone wasn't enough to teach my family and myself how to claim that power for subsequent problems.
It wasn't until our faith was supported by spiritual understanding that we experienced spiritual healing and protection consistently.
When human thought is sincerely seeking for the power of God, very often that power is first glimpsed through a spark of faith. Then, through prayer, inspiration, and spiritual intuition, spiritual understanding – the full perception of spiritual reality - is achieved.
Mary Baker Eddy began her search for the power of God, good, starting from faith.
Mrs. Eddy's thought, from early childhood, was marked by a deep faith in God. When she was 12, she wrote a poem which reads in part: "Increase Thou my faith and my vision enlarge" ("Poems," p. 33).
It is evident that she was always impelled by a deep desire to know God better and to prove what a knowledge of God could do for man.
At the same age she recovered through prayer alone from a severe fever which surprised even her family doctor. This experience, as many others, were true indications of the power of God in operation.
Mrs. Eddy's faith was increased. In later years she would go through many trials with an unwavering confidence in God's power. These were years of ill-health, loneliness, and poverty. A young widow, deprived of her only child, with no financial resources, and very ill, she proved that "the darkest hour precedes the dawn."
Fatal condition reversed
God had truly increased her faith, because at a crucial moment when death seemed imminent she asked for her Bible, and read a passage where Jesus healed a palsied man. Then in a flash of spiritual enlightenment she perceived the wholly spiritual nature of God and His creation. The result of this spiritual glimpse was instantaneous healing.
It seemed to be a miracle, but later her research, based exclusively on the study of the Bible and prayer, revealed to her that it had not been a miracle: it had been the spiritual activity of Truth and Love.
And then she began to work, pray, write, heal, and teach others in order to give to the world the proof that everyone can receive the benefits of her discovery.
As you can imagine, she came up against great opposition. She was mocked and persecuted. The materialism of the world – as in Jesus' time – wasn't ready to accept the evidence of the power of God, good, as supreme over the illusive claims of matter and evil.
In spite of this resistance her spiritual understanding of the nature of God and of man's relationship with Him was made evident in countless lives rescued from sin, disease, and the fear of death. The Church she founded – The First Church of Christ, Scientist – and her writings, are still proving that the eternal truth Mrs. Eddy discovered provides men and women everywhere with the spiritual understanding which heals the sick and reforms the sinner.
Spiritual understanding contradicts the lies of material sense and reveals to human consciousness that which is true, that which was created by God, and which is available to everyone. It shows us the harmonious is true. That God's perfect creation is intact. And we learn that God, infinite Spirit, always governs the universe and man. And then we know that man, as the image and likeness of God, is not in any way material but wholly spiritual. He reflects all the spiritual qualities of his Maker.
Good always at hand
Of course, this doesn't mean the mortal, human structure is that image or reflection. Material sense doesn't perceive the divine image. It's unable to see the good which is available to everyone. And when I say material sense I mean the fleshly mind, that is, all thought which accepts matter as the origin of everything, matter as the only existence. The material senses are limited, mortal, and erroneous, because they don't have their origin in God. They have their origin in a lie, in the supposition that evil is as real as good, and more powerful.
These material senses suggest that man sins, suffers, and dies, because they declare him subject to the so-called laws of matter. These material senses suggest that man is governed by animal drives. In a word, material sense denies, in its ignorance of spiritual realities, the Fatherhood of God, the only creator of man and the universe.
It's spiritual sense, spiritual understanding, that brings harmony to human life because it reveals the pure spiritual origin of man and the loving nature of God. It proclaims the existence of an invisible power – derived from God – which can free us from any discordant illusions of material belief.
Mrs. Eddy writes: "Spirit imparts the understanding which uplifts consciousness and leads into all truth." And then she adds: "Understanding is the line of demarcation between the real and unreal" ("Science and Health," p. 505).
Not many years ago, I was able to prove this understanding confers healing. During my college years I had a very good job in a business firm and at the same time enjoyed activities in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist. I had many reasons for being happy, but began to feel dissatisfied with my job. The suggestion I wasn't progressing in life with the speed I thought I should began to take possession of my thought. Impatience, excessive ambition, discouragement, and sadness began to take over.
Finally, one day, while working in my office, I became so ill I had to ask permission from my employers to go home. When I arrived at the house a member of my family immediately called a Christian Science practitioner for help through prayer. But at this point my physical strength – and my human existence – seemed to be coming to an end.
At that moment I turned wholeheartedly to God in prayer. As I prayed, it suddenly came to me what the trouble seemed to be; I was suffering from food poisoning.
Now, through the study of Christian Science I'd gained a certain degree of spiritual understanding. I had learned that physical disorders – of any kind – have a mental origin in ignorant thinking, fearful thinking, or plain wrong thinking by ourselves or others.
So I didn't begin to look for the origin of the trouble in spoiled food. Neither did I turn to material medicine for an antidote. But I realized that the origin of this deplorable physical condition was my ingratitude to God. The bitterness of ingratitude had disturbed the normal functioning of my human system. The discontent was the poison.
Right away, I began to correct this. I made a mental inventory of all the good I'd received in the last years. This was my opportunity to recognize there are not two powers, evil and good, struggling for supremacy. I had to understand, once and forever, that the power of God, good, alone is real; that good is supreme above all, and that evil is nothing else than an illusion of the material senses, the product of mortal or carnal mind.
When I accepted these spiritual truths, when I exchanged my bitterness for gratitude and spiritual satisfaction, the healing of the physical condition began to take place, and in a few days I completely recovered my health.
You see, faith made me turn to God seeking for His help; prayer made me communicate with Him, silently and spiritually, but spiritual understanding made me discern with scientific certainty the illusive nature of disease and the truth about the infinite power of God as the only power capable to restore health.
Such an infinite subject as this can only be touched upon in an hour, but with even a little spiritual understanding, the power of God can be experienced right now.
Who can have enough spiritual understanding today to free himself and others from whatever claims to oppose God? Anybody! Anybody who really wants to spiritualize his or her consciousness; anybody who has faith in good and supports his faith with scientific prayer; anybody who seeks the power of God in his daily life as the only way to health, happiness, and freedom.
This is a present possibility for each one of you, a present possibility for everybody.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 13, 1976.]