Scientific Prayer


Harold Rogers, C.S., of Milan, Italy

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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


Effective prayer begins with the desire to receive God's help and meets human needs through humble willingness to accept God's answer, a Christian Science lecturer told an audience yesterday noon at John Hancock Hall.

Harold Rogers of Milan, Italy, spoke under the auspices of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was introduced by Mrs. Elizabeth Glass Barlow, Second Reader of The Mother Church. Mr. Rogers was for a long time music critic and arts and entertainment editor of The Christian Science Monitor.

His lecture, entitled "Scientific Prayer," described two methods of effective healing prayer: the prayer of petition, and the prayer of affirmation and denial.

In its best form, Mr. Rogers said, the prayer of petition is a prayer for guidance, asking God to let us know what He wants us to do. The rule of scientific prayer demands humility and unselfishness, as well as a desire for God's help, Mr. Rogers told the audience.

Does this mean that to seek anything that would personally benefit us is asking amiss? he continued. Of course not - not if we go about it in the right way. After all, why do we pray? Isn't it, at least in part, to help us with our daily needs?

Lack of health, supply, or love, results from a belief that we can be separated from God, or from a belief that God is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

In describing the prayer of affirmation and denial, the lecturer said: We affirm the truth, the perfection, and the reality of His spiritual universe. We also affirm the consequent truth, perfection, and reality of spiritual man, created by God as the effect of His own perfect being. We deny the lies, the imperfections, everything unlike Him - the frauds of sin, disease, lack, and hatred.

Examples of prayers of petition and affirmation were given in accounts of healings experienced by Mr. Rogers and by other Christian Scientists known to him, and are included in the following partial text of the lecture.


Scientific rules for prayer

Three hundred years before the Christian era an Egyptian king named Ptolemy the First wanted to learn something about geometric planes, cubes, prisms, and spheres. So he hired Euclid of Alexandria as a tutor, the best mathematician he could find. Euclid had formulated into 13 books what he called his "Elements."

After beginning his studies with Euclid, Ptolemy found the going rough. He looked with dismay at all those 13 books and asked his teacher if there weren't a shortcut.

You may recall what Euclid answered, especially if you had a math teacher like mine who dinned it almost daily into our ears: "There is no royal road to geometry."

Here we are talking about mathematics, and what has prayer to do with mathematics, or mathematics with prayer?

Both mathematics and prayer are based on fixed rules - rules that must be followed before they can be demonstrated. In mathematics it is the rule of numbers. In prayer the Principle is God Himself.

Now when we work a problem in arithmetic and come up with the right answer, this is the proof that we applied the rules correctly.

So, too, with prayer. There are fixed rules that govern it; and when we apply these rules correctly in working out a problem, we get the right answer - the proof. Scientific prayer, then, is prayer that has a fixed Principle, established rules, and unmistakable proof of healing.

Now when we pray and don't get an answer to our prayer, what has happened? Well, we've prayed the wrong way; we havenít applied the rules. In the New Testament James

explains it this way: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss" (4:3).

The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, asks in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of mathematics to solve the problem?" That question needs no answer, but her conclusion is emphatic: "The rule is already established, and it is our task to work out the solution" (p. 3).


To whom do we pray?

Our discussion will include these questions:

To whom do we pray? How do we pray? And what is the ultimate aim of prayer?

If we're going to learn to pray scientifically, we must understand to whom we are praying, what God's true nature is.

As a musician, I think of prayer as the mental process by which we get in tune with God. When we correctly attune our thinking to God - to what He is and to what He does

- then prayer operates effectively.

When I was a boy, the few prayers I tried were never answered, so I soon concluded there was no God. I had no understanding of the nature of God. And my problems increased as I went through high school as an atheist - or so I thought.

Shortly after I began college I was walking to school one rainy day when an automobile skidded off of the road and struck me. As a result I was out of college for a year and a half with multiple injuries. The first two months I lay flat on my back in a hospital bed, and during this time I began reaching out to God again. Then I was somehow compelled to acknowledge that He exists, that He can be known - and I knew I wanted to find Him.

When I began school again, I couldn't walk more than two or three blocks a day without suffering severe pain in one leg. This seriously restricted my activity, and the best bone specialists could give me no hope.

One day a fellow student became aware of my suffering and spoke to me about Christian Science. I told him I wanted to know everything he could tell me. "That's a pretty big order," he said, "but I'll ask my mother to lend you a Bible and the Christian Science textbook. You can learn for yourself."


Healing linked to understanding God

I remember that he brought these two books to school on a Monday. That night I began reading Science and Health. The first chapter, as some of you know, is on prayer; so that was the first thing I learned about in Christian Science. Every spare moment I had the rest of the week I read Science and Health. That Friday this friend and I tried to hitch a ride from our school to his home five miles away. But it was rush hour; no one would stop for us. So we walked the five miles and I had no pain, no difficulty whatever. And I knew I was healed. But what was even more important, I realized I was coming to understand God. And this is really the key to answered prayer.

Most religions share a basic premise: that something must have caused the universe to be, and that this cause is what we call God. Many religions also teach that God is one, the great first and only cause, the creator and governor of man and the universe.

Over the centuries mankind have made careful observations of the material universe. But some thinkers, going beyond these material observations, have been led by spiritual intuition to gain glimpses of the true spiritual nature of the universe. Then, going still further, they have come to see that the great first and only cause of all things - or God - has three basic characteristics - omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. These words all begin with the Latin prefix omni, meaning all and have reference to God as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present.

Take power, for instance. When we look at the heavens, we can't help being impressed by the apparent order of the stars. Early thinkers were equally impressed by this appearance of order; and they reasoned that the stars must be held in their courses by some immensely powerful force. Then partly by reason, partly by intuition, they concluded that behind the order of the stars there must be an all-powerful God.

In Christian Science this all-powerful God, whom ancient thinkers dimly glimpsed, is defined as Principle - divine Principle. We understand that this divine Principle maintains an eternal and indestructible universe, the spiritual universe, and that it controls this universe through laws of fixed and unfailing order.


Divine law rejects mishaps

This Principle, or great First Cause, we understand further to be a good cause, a true cause. Surely divine good can't cause anything unlike itself, whether stellar catastrophes or personal mishaps. And if God doesn't cause them, if He doesn't cause evils, if He doesn't cause mistakes and errors, then we reason that, these negative elements have no part in God. And they have no part in God's spiritual universe and spiritual man, the true you and the true me. They are not supported by His laws. Their existence has no more lasting validity than a mistake in mathematics.

When a mistake in mathematics is corrected, it ceases to exist even as a mistake. When omnipotent good is recognized as the only creator, evil begins to disappear from our experience.

Again, when we observe nature - especially the behavior of plants and animals - it's obvious to most of us that there's intelligence at work. The vegetable kingdom, for instance, appears to operate in many areas with extraordinary intelligence, even if there isn't anything called a brain in control. So early thinkers, impressed by this display of intelligence, reasoned that God must be the source of it - the all-knowing, or omniscient.

In divine Science we understand God to be divine Mind - one infinite intelligence that includes all knowledge that is good and true. And we further learn that we need not fear nor accept anything that God doesn't know; for only that which God knows is fundamentally true, only that which God knows has permanence and power.

Still again, space is getting much attention these days with the achievement of placing a man on the moon. Yet centuries before the age of astronauts and cosmonauts men were preoccupied with the far reaches of space. They have wondered what was beyond the beyond.

Early thinkers reasoned that if the all-powerful and all-knowing First Cause can maintain order throughout the vast reaches of space, then God must be all-present, omnipresence, filling all space.

In Christian Science this all-presence means that God couldn't be up there some place while we are left down here some place. It means that God embraces you and me, right where we are. Since God is present to meet our daily needs, we can begin to see something of His loving nature. And since the nature of love is to give generously, we can begin to know God not only as loving but as Love itself, omnipresent divine Love - Love that meets our every need right where we are.

Now we're beginning to see something of God as omnipotent Principle, omniscient Mind, and omnipresent Love. We find a basis for these definitive terms - these synonyms for God - in the Scriptures. Many references in the Old and New Testaments imply that God is Principle by referring to Him as the lawgiver. Paul wrote to the Philippians: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (2:5). John said: "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (I John 4:16). It is this God to whom we attune ourselves in scientific prayer.

How do we pray? is our next question. Let's get into it by asking another. What happens when you tune in your radio?

Suppose, for instance, that you noticed in your radio listing that your local FM station was going to broadcast Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Well, you wouldn't even go near your radio unless you wanted to hear this symphony. But having this want, you would then switch your radio on and tune it by turning the dial.


Humility needed as well as desire

Here's where you abide by the rules. You don't willfully twist the dial in any helter-skelter fashion. You adjust it to the exact number of megacycles used by the station for its broadcasts. When you have fulfilled these requirements, the music floods into your room. Well, as we learn to attune our thinking to God - by bringing our thought into alignment with what God actually is - all good begins progressively to permeate our experience.

It's obvious that certain conditions govern our use of the radio, and by analyzing these conditions we can find two parallel rules that govern prayer.

The first is desire. We wouldn't turn our radio on unless we wanted to hear something and had some understanding of the radio's operation. Just so; in order to pray effectively we must really have a desire for God's help; so we turn to God and apply whatever understanding we have of His true nature with a willingness to learn still more.

The second rule is humility. And humility means simply being willing to be just what God wants us to be. Just as we wouldn't adjust our radio dial to rock 'n' roll when we're seeking Beethoven's Ninth, so we must be willing to adjust to God - that is, to accept Him on His own terms, not to expect Him to adjust to the terms of our own narrow self-interest. Just as we don't dictate the music we receive from our FM station, so must we be humbly willing to accept the answer to prayer in the way that God gives it.

What it amounts to, then, is that we're able to attune ourselves to God through a humble, unselfish desire to learn more of Him as our good cause, and ourselves and our whole experience as His good effect.

Prayer itself may take several forms, but we're going to limit our discussion to the two major ones - the prayer of petition and the prayer of affirmation and denial.

In its best form the prayer of petition is a prayer for guidance. And petition means simply asking God to let us know what He wants us to do. In its worst form it's a prayer for the satisfaction of selfish wants.

And this brings us into a deeper consideration of that rule of scientific prayer - the rule of humility or unselfishness. Are our motives selfish or unselfish? Are we trying to tune God in to us, or are we trying to tune ourselves in to God? Are we trying to solicit God's support for something we want? Or are we humbly seeking to do what He wants?


Listen for guidance, then obey

This one thing is certain, that if we're praying without humility, we're asking amiss. And we shouldn't be surprised if the answer is no.

Does this mean that to seek anything that would personally benefit us is asking amiss? Of course not - not if we go about it in the right way. After all, why do we pray? Isn't it, at least in part, to help us with our daily needs? For example, one immediate need is for health. We can't go very far or accomplish very much if we're sick. Another immediate need is for supply - the means to obtain our food, clothes, shelter, transportation. And what about love? By love I mean a happy home, right companionship, good friends, harmonious relationships with our fellow workers; also the need to be wanted, accepted, approved, appreciated.

As I've already pointed out, the prayer of petition is generally a prayer for guidance. So if we're seeking guidance, we should listen for it, and then obey the guidance we're given. How does God speak to us? Well, He can speak to us in many ways, and we should never limit the possibilities.

I'd like to tell you of a healing I experienced that involved the prayer of petition. It's also an example of a solution requiring human footsteps.

Some years ago at the outset of my newspaper career I was working on a small weekly paper for the Navy. The editor and I were fine friends, but after some time we fell into a serious misunderstanding - so serious we were no longer happy working together.

So I prayed for guidance and listened for the answer. I knew that I mustn't selfishly dictate the answer. I also knew that I must humbly accept it, even if it meant my staying on that job.

Then one Sunday morning while in church the thoughts came, telling me exactly what steps to take and when to take them. I was to telephone a certain man the following morning at 8:30. When I did he asked me to come in for an interview the next day. And at that time a transfer was arranged for me to go to another newspaper closer to my home. It was so close, in fact, that two hours were cut from my daily commuting time.

But I'm also happy to say that the friction between my editor and myself was healed before I made the transfer. And we've been good friends ever since.

The second form of scientific prayer that we're considering is the prayer of affirmation and denial.


Godís perfection makes man perfect

In this prayer we affirm in our thinking what the great first and only cause has created; we deny what this great first and only cause did not create. We affirm the truth, the perfection, and the reality of His spiritual universe. We also affirm the consequent truth, perfection, and reality of spiritual man, created by God as the effect of His own perfect being. We deny the lies, the imperfections, everything unlike Him - the frauds of sin, disease, lack, and hatred.

We affirm the eternal perfection of God and the consequent perfection of man - the perfection of the true you and the true me. We deny the imperfections produced not by the Mind that is God but by mortal, material thinking - those temporal troubles caused by wrong thoughts, false logic, incorrect education. These are the errors, like the errors in mathematics, that confuse us until we correct them.

In brief, our prayers of affirmation and denial are reasoned out from one basic truth, a truth from which the entire theology of Christian Science is evolved: perfect God and perfect man.

A good friend of mine living in the United States recently told me of a healing he had of lack and limitation - a good example of the prayer of affirmation and denial.

As a young fellow he had just begun his study of Christian Science and he found himself flat broke in a strange city during a period of great economic depression. He called on Christian Science practitioner for help, and the practitioner explained to him something of the nature of God as divine Love; also something of the nature of God as divine Principle. And the practitioner told my friend that if he wanted to enjoy the blessings of divine Love, then he must also be willing to obey the law of divine Principle.

Afterward my friend's prayer went something like this: He affirmed the spiritual fact that he was in reality the effect of God's allness and completeness; that since divine Love was the impartial giver of all that is good and true, then he himself was the humble recipient of God's impartial and boundless gifts. He denied that he was a poverty-stricken mortal with no job, no money. He affirmed the spiritual fact that he was already abundantly supplied, by God's infinite giving.

He then went to an employment agency, and the owner of the agency told him that they couldn't offer him anything at the moment; but if my friend would leave his address with them, they'd get in touch with him as soon as they found something for him.

My friend said that he had no address, he had no home, he had no money, but that he could be reached in care of the YMCA. The next evening he was sitting in the lobby of the YMCA. He wasn't expecting any mail, but he was impelled to go to the desk and ask if there were any letters for him. There was. It was a letter from the owner of the employment agency, and in it was a $10 bill. The letter said that they hoped the $10 would tide him over until they could find work for him.

Later he was sent out to be interviewed for a job with a concern that manufactured radios. There was a long line of men waiting to get this job; and when it came my friend's turn, the employer asked him if he knew anything about radio.


Obedience to Principle lands a job

My friend was sorely tempted to pretend that he did, for he was afraid he wouldn't get the job if he said that he didn't. Then he remembered what the practitioner said to him - that if he wished to enjoy the blessings of divine Love, he must then be obedient to divine Principle. And he could see that this meant being absolutely honest.

So he answered: "No, I don't."

"I can't tell you how happy I am to hear it," the employer said. "You can't imagine what a long line of 'experts' I've had coming through here today! Well, I don't need anyone to go out and tell the public how much he knows about radio. What we need is someone who can go out and talk about our sales policy. And I think you're the man for the job!"

Well, my friend got the job at a good salary. He was given 14 Southern states to cover, all expenses paid. And from that day to this he has never wanted for anything.

By observing these healings - the first through the prayer of petition, the second through the prayer of affirmation and denial - we see something of how to pray. We certainly see that prayer is a spiritually mental activity and that spiritual healing must be the outcome of this spiritually mental action. But a vital question now arises - a question that Mrs. Eddy asked herself while making her search for the Principle of divine healing: Is this healing action just the action of the human mind?

Mrs. Eddy was a serious student of the Bible and had always been deeply impressed by the healing works of Jesus. But in her search for health she wandered through the mazes of the various healing systems of her day. She investigated them one after another - the various drugging systems, including homeopathy; the diet and the water cures; even the use of mesmerism much in vogue during the middle of the 19th century. Though her health got worse, she never lost hope. She knew that there must be such a thing as spiritual healing.

Several years before Mrs. Eddy actually discovered Christian Science she took a significant step forward while investigating homeopathy. This is a system that makes a limited use of drugs. Its adherents believed that disease could be cured by giving a patient minute doses of a drug that would cause the same symptoms he was experiencing.

The drugs were diluted before being administered - at times so highly that no quality of the original drug remained.


Divine Mind controls healing

A woman came to Mrs. Eddy for help. She had dropsy and was greatly bloated. In those days, when the practice of medicine was far less sophisticated than it is now, it wasn't uncommon for one neighbor to prescribe for another neighbor - especially in rural communities. Mrs. Eddy prescribed silver nitrate and sulphur. The woman improved. Since so little of the drugs were being used, Mrs. Eddy began to wonder if the drugs were producing the improvement, or if it was the patient's faith in the drugs that was producing the improvement. So without the patient's knowledge Mrs. Eddy took away the medicine and gave her nothing but sugar pellets. The woman continued to improve until she got well.

Mrs. Eddy reached the conviction that it was not the drugs that produced the effect but the womanís faith in the drugs that made her well. And seeing this, Mrs. Eddy lost her own faith in drugs. She knew that she had to find a higher, more reliable source than matter - even a higher, more reliable source than the human mind - if she were to learn how Jesus healed.

She later said it was through her experiments in homeopathy that she learned mind did the healing. But she wanted to know what mind. Was it "the mind . . . which was also in Christ Jesus," or could it be the human mind and human will? "This led me," she explained, "to investigate spiritualism, mesmerism and hypnotism, and I failed to find God there; therefore, I returned to God in prayer and said, 'Just guide me to that mind which is in Christ' ("Mary Baker Eddy" by Norman Beasley, p. 351).

Mrs. Eddy dates her discovery of Christian Science from her own recovery in 1866 from a serious injury. It was then that she discovered that reliable healing action belongs wholly to the Mind that is God, and to none other. She had to clarify this healing Principle of scientific prayer through reason, spiritual insight, and proof - the work of years. During this period she was following the Bible command she had noted in Isaiah, "Now go, write it . . . in a book" (Isa. 30:8). She did write her discovery in a book - "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." This book, together with the Bible, preaches - is read - at every Sunday service of the worldwide church which she founded - the Church of Christ, Scientist.

Now what more does scientific prayer accomplish? What is its ultimate aim?

It's to give us a full knowledge of who we truly are, to help us know ourselves in the same way that God knows us - to find our unity with the Mind that is God through an understanding of His eternal truths.

Since scientific prayer reveals to us our own real nature as God's complete expression of Himself, then true healing must mean complete healing - it must restore the whole man.


The Christ is present today

When Christ Jesus introduced Christianity to mankind, he proved that the Principle of his healing works could restore the whole man. It was Jesus' mission to witness to the Christ; and the Christ, simply stated, includes the true idea of everything.

Jesus was a human being, of course, or he couldn't have been seen by the physical eye. The Christ was his God-given spiritual nature that animated his career as the Saviour. The Christ is as present today as it was in Jesus' time to show you and me what we spiritually are. The Christ includes any right idea, any true idea, any saving idea, that comes from divine Mind to the human consciousness to destroy the errors that are to be found there.

There's plenty of evidence in the Gospels that Jesus equated the healing of the body with the correction of thought and character.

A dear friend of mine went through an experience that illustrates this point. She was a fashion editor, writing in one of the great fashion centers of the world. She moved in the most sophisticated circles. Her life was worldly in the extreme. She had what she called "a murderous temper." What's more, she was an alcoholic for almost 30 years. At this point she had a complete breakdown.

As a child she had known something of Christian Science. Now in her extremity she turned to it for healing. She augmented her prayers with hours of study. Practically day and night she read Science and Health and Mrs. Eddy's other books. Little by little she learned more of God as divine Mind - the only Mind there truly is, and therefore the only Mind she'd truly ever have. She began to see that if God, divine Mind, couldn't experience breakdown, then neither could she as the expression of this Mind. And through this line of reasoning she gained a peace of mind she'd never known before. With the disappearance of the acute symptoms she was surprised to find that her character had changed. She lost her desire to drink.

Since fashion writing was her only profession, she had to return to the same sophisticated world she had left. But she came back on different basis. She no longer drank. And her friends - she was delighted to find - weren't in the least critical. They admired her and praised her. Through this healing she experienced a new birth and new opportunities.

This, then, is what we learn through scientific prayer. It reveals to us our true goal - the achievement of ultimate reality - and the way to that goal.

I wonder how many of you have ever thought of happy endings as being happy beginnings. Every answered prayer, every healing, is a happy ending.†††

But every such spiritual experience is also a happy beginning; it opens up a wider vista of opportunity along the road of scientific prayer - a highway that rises ahead of every one of us. It leads outward and upward toward ultimate reality.

Truly, as Tennyson wrote:

"More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of."


© 1968 Harold Rogers.

All rights reserved


[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 22, 1969.]