Christian Science: The Science of Effective Prayer
James Watt, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Prayer Can Be Always Effective
Think what it would mean to find
that whatever problem confronts you can be solved; that every need can be
supplied. Think what it would mean to find that your prayers can be effective,
can be answered, always. Well, prayer can be answered, can be effective ALWAYS.
How do we prove this? By learning what prayer really is; by
learning how to pray aright. The master Christian, Christ Jesus, said
plainly (Matt. 7:7), "Ask, and it shall be given
you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." And
to aid us in understanding what he meant by asking, he had said (Matt. ): "Seek ye first the
Christian Science, the Science of
effective prayer, has come to show us how to seek the kingdom of
Now, the beauty of it is, Christian Science is simple. Everyone can understand it. Yes, Christian Science is so simple that children quickly learn to put it into practice and often heal themselves and their parents. Yet Christian Science is so profound that mature scholars find it enlightening, inspiring, and practical.
As we consider this vital subject, "Christian Science: the Science of Effective Prayer," and think through some of its aspects, we shall readily see that true prayer is not merely petitioning. It is not pleading, begging, or demanding. Jesus did not say "to plead with God to do something, or to beg God for health, wealth, or happiness. Prayer is not blind faith, blind belief, blind hope, mere optimism, or superstition. Nor is it yearning or longing for material things or better human relationships. And prayer is not bargaining with God. What then is it? What is prayer? Prayer may begin with petition in the sense of turning to God with earnest desire for help and spiritual understanding. Then as spiritual understanding unfolds, prayer continues as communion with God. It is recognition of the nature of God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science and the author of the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," writes in that book on 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." She continues on page 15: "Self-forgetfulness, purity, and affection are constant prayers. Practice not profession, understanding not belief, gain the ear and right hand of omnipotence and they assuredly call down infinite blessings. Trustworthiness is the foundation of enlightened faith." And she states on the next page, "The highest prayer is not one of faith merely; it is demonstration."
Thus we begin to see some of the things required of us if we are to pray effectively; for instance: enlightened faith, spiritual understanding, trustworthiness, self-abnegation, purity, charity, recognition of God's omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, and rejection of the commonly accepted belief that evil is real. As we let this logical line of thought unfold we begin to see that true prayer, effective prayer, necessarily involves the acknowledgment of God's allness and His infinite goodness, and the corresponding impossibility of evil as any part of His creation. Joy, fearlessness, patience, gentleness, poise born of inner peace, strength, characterize the thinking of one who is learning to pray correctly from the Christianly scientific standpoint which Christian Science provides.
Nearly everyone is familiar with
the First Commandment revealed to the great Hebrew leader Moses on
An Abiding Sense of Divine Love
Now the Bible tells us that God is Love. To love God with all one's heart as we learn in the First Commandment necessarily means to abide in Love, to dwell in Love. Dwelling in Love is, of course, an attitude of thought. It is a state of consciousness. To pray effectively and thus literally obey the First Commandment means keeping one's mental viewpoint Christlike. Abiding in Love is not just being kind and loving in the ordinary human way. It means disciplining thought so as to recognize as unreal everything unlike good, unlike God. Abiding in Love means to maintain the facts of being. What are the facts of being? We have already mentioned some of them. The First Commandment brings them to our attention. Jesus' reply to the scribe does this also. These are facts of being: God is All-in-all; God is the only God, the only creator; God's creation reflects Him. It is spiritual, perfect, eternal. Man is God's beloved son, made in His exact image and likeness. Prayer is the affirmation and recognition of these and other facts of being, and includes the denial of evil or error. Prayer is realization and demonstration.
To dwell in Love, in God, awakens us to our inseparability from God and consequently gives us an abiding consciousness of divine Love. As we actively strive to abide in Love, we are encouraged to find that we gain a more kindly and impartial sense of love for our fellow beings. For in making this effort we begin to see that we are really claiming and demonstrating our likeness to divine Love. We find that we no longer think of God as distant, and rejoice to find that divine Love is always right where we are, always present, always available, and, best of all, we find that we are inseparable from divine Love.
All of this gives us a new interest in the Bible, unlocks it and opens it up for us. We find, perhaps to our surprise, that the Bible not only speaks of God as Love but also teaches that He is Spirit, Truth, divine intelligence, Life. The Christian Science textbook, on the basis of the Bible teaching, defines God as (Science and Health, p. 587): "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." Mrs. Eddy shows that the terms Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love are synonymous. Think what this signifies. It means that divine Love is divine Life, that love demonstrates Life - a most important fact in the healing work of Christian Science. Life and Love are names for God. Mrs. Eddy states further that man and the universe express the nature of God. This means that all that is true about the universe and man was created by infinite Life and is the expression of Life. It means that God's universe, the only universe, including man, exists as divine consciousness. Thus we see conclusively that individual consciousness, individual man, each one of us, is in truth the very manifestation of divine Love. We begin to realize that in reality divine Love is the only power, the only presence, and that the universe is His reflection of divine Love. We grasp the fact that in reality divine Love and Love's expression alone have verity, entity, identity, and that matter and evil are illusion, delusion, and not real because they do not originate in or express God, Spirit. These truths enable us to pray effectively. Mrs. Eddy writes (Science and Health, p. 14): "Entirely separate from the belief and dream of material living, is the Life divine, revealing spiritual understanding and the consciousness of man's dominion over the whole earth. This understanding casts out error and heals the sick, and with it you can speak 'as one having authority.' "
Unanswered and Answered Prayer
Let us take an example that illustrates
unanswered and answered prayer, disobedience and obedience to the First Commandment.
The experience is that of an Army officer while he was serving in the
It took several days to get him to see that what he was doing by being indignant and rebellious was denying God's allness, His goodness. He was denying his own birthright as the image and likeness of God and accepting other gods - disease, fear, anger - as real, present, powerful. He was bowing down to these false gods instead of standing squarely on the divine fact that his true being was spiritual and perfect always. During this time, the fever, weakness, and all the rest of the afflictive condition persisted.
Then the light dawned. The officer realized that instead of demanding that he be healed, he had to acknowledge the actual truth of his being. And one day he said something like this: "God is All-in-all; my true being is perfect, for I am Godlike; I reflect my creator. I am not rebellious because I am the expression of God, infinite Mind." The words, he said afterward, did not mean much to him at first. But he had to think them before he could say them, and that meant letting the truth of God and man be present in his thinking. Soon the truth he was recognizing obliterated the false suggestions he had allowed to possess him. Rebellion gave place to serenity; his thinking changed from dishonoring God to honoring Him; it changed from bowing down to other gods, such as belief in matter, in evil, and in the reality of disease, to acknowledging God's allness. His first state of thought wasn't prayer at all, and it did not help him. But, as his thinking changed, became Christlike, it became effective prayer, and the healing followed quickly.
This officer was on the point of getting out of the Army and taking a fine position at Occupation Headquarters. However, the required physical examination showed that the medical claim of an after effect of the disease, yellow jaundice, remained. The medical officer said that he could not possibly be released at that time and suggested that the man come back in several weeks for another examination to see if things had cleared up. Our friend, who had learned his lesson well, said quietly, "I am going to another city on official business and will be back in four days; I'll come in then." The doctor said: "No use. This thing hangs on for weeks or months." And he added laughingly, "Come in if you want to, but if you pass the test I'll eat my 'tin hat.' " Four days later the officer was again examined and, to the surprise of the doctor, was found to be in perfect health. No trace of the jaundice remained. He had prayed effectively. He had maintained his Christianly scientific viewpoint. He had remained faithful to the First Commandment. And he released the doctor from his pledge to eat his "tin hat."
We see that effective prayer is scientific. From this experience we see that its basis is really the Science of God and man, the exact knowledge of man's relationship to God, so, it follows logically that the more we know of God, the more we know of man, ourselves. And the greater will be our fidelity to God, Truth; the better and more consistently will we obey the First Commandment; the more effective will be our prayers. This can mean a very great deal for each one of us, for our country, and for the world. Each spiritual truth understood and demonstrated brings healing and release not only for the individual but in some measure for the world. Mrs. Eddy points to this wonderful fact in these words from Science and Health (p. 559): "The 'still, small voice' of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound."
Effective Simple Services
Christian Scientists love the
Bible. They study it daily. Mrs. Eddy saw that one great purpose of a church
service is to aid each member of the congregation in praying effectively. In
designing the Sunday service for her Church, she decided on one that would allow
for individual study of the sermon during the week before it was delivered. Thus
she made possible for congregations a new and very helpful kind of
participation in the Sunday services. She ordained the Bible and Science and
Health as the only preachers in these services, the King James Version of the
Bible being used in all services in English. The sermons, for all Christian
Science churches, consist of citations from the Bible and of correlative
passages from Science and Health which elucidate the Bible texts. The subject
of the sermon for any one Sunday is the same in all Christian Science churches
throughout the world. These Lesson Sermons, as they are called, cover the
points needed for spiritual instruction concerning God, Christ Jesus, man, and other
essential subjects. These sermons are prepared in
Literal obedience to the First Commandment calls for fidelity, singleness of purpose, and a Christlike quality of thinking. As we undertake the task of achieving such obedience to the First Commandment, willingly and with joy we find ourselves richly rewarded by learning how to pray aright and by experiencing answered prayer.
Christian Science leaves no doubt that obedience to the First Commandment is the essential requirement for effective prayer and for the successful practice of this Science. Its textbook say (p. 340), "The divine Principle of the First Commandment bases the Science of being, by which man demonstrates health, holiness, and life eternal." And in the same paragraph Mrs. Eddy writes: "The First Commandment is my favorite text. It demonstrates Christian Science." Compliance with this Commandment, as understood in this Science, makes religion practical instead of abstract and transcendental; makes it useful in every moment of our daily life. This is what Christian Science actually is: practical, scientific Christianity.
Consciousness and Substance Spiritual
In Christian Science, matter is understood to be unreal, because it is unlike God, Spirit. It is not eternal, because it decays. It can be destroyed. It is always imperfect. Matter has no life, no consciousness. In all respects, it differs from the nature of God, and is thus seen to be no part of His creation. One evening some years ago, my wife and I watched a demonstration put on by the Director of the Bell Lab, one of the most advanced physical research laboratories in the world. Some of the wonders that research in physical science has produced were shown, and were almost unbelievable. At one point the speaker turned to his audience and said in a hushed voice, "We have come to the place in our studies where we are not sure of anything, except one thing: that consciousness is fundamental." This man and his associates have touched the hem of the truth of being as revealed in Christian Science, namely, that everything exists as divine consciousness and that God, the creator of all, is Mind, or Spirit, and that His creation therefore consists wholly of spiritual ideas.
Someone may be thinking: "Matter certainly seems to be real, seems to be everywhere, and seems to be giving everyone plenty of trouble, as far as I can tell through the five physical senses. And what has all this to do with prayer anyway?" Yes, matter does seem to be everywhere. And it puts on a convincing show to make us believe it is real. It fools some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but it can't fool all of the people all of the time. Actually, it is fooling many people less and less and some of them hardly at all!
Christian Science reveals the fundamental fact that spiritual consciousness, not matter, is substance - substance which is far better than any material sense of substance. For substance, as understood in this Science, endures. It does not disintegrate. It is eternal.
What has all this to do with effective prayer? Actually it has everything to do with it. God is Spirit, and His creation is spiritual, like Him. If we believe that God, Spirit, is real and yet believe that matter, the opposite of Spirit, is real, we have a "house divided." This results in a blind and uncertain faith, and we ignorantly but inevitably break the First Commandment. This divided state of thinking is not conducive to scientific effective prayer. But we can turn our thought with simplicity to the fact that God, Truth, and Truth's creation constitute the whole of being.
We certainly can agree that there is but one truth about anything. There can be but one truth about being. There cannot be two contradictory truths; that the universe is spiritual and that it is material. God's creation, expressing His nature, is necessarily wholly spiritual, with no material element in it. It is infinite, which means that it is timeless, limitless, without beginning or end. God's creation is the eternal unfolding of perfect divine consciousness, or Mind, and each one of us is, in reality, a perfect expression of this Mind. Christian Science teaches that Spirit is the only substance. Science and Health states (p. 468), "Substance is that which is eternal and incapable of discord and decay." And it also states on the same page, "Spirit, the synonym, of Mind, Soul, or God, is the only real substance." Even a glimpse of this spiritual fact helps us to put prayer on a scientific basis and results in healing. Spirit cannot be impregnated with poison or generate it, neither can Spirit be fatigued or diseased. Spirit cannot feel pain or manifest suffering.
Many students of Christian Science testify that the more clearly they have understood the fact that Spirit is the only substance the stronger and healthier their bodies have become; the less fatigue they have experienced; the greater their immunity to disease. Perhaps such a glimpse of reality impelled Dr. Steinmetz, one of the greatest in the field of electricity say (Electronics Medical Digest - Spring 1949 - .p. 3): "Some day people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in making men and women creative and powerful. Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of God and prayer and the spiritual forces which, as yet, have been hardly scratched."
Some one may say; "Isn't all this rather transcendental? Is there anything practical about it?" Nothing is more practical! For in the measure that we understand and utilize these spiritual facts, they benefit us in our daily living. Discord gives place to harmony, sickness to health, and limitation to abundance. This has been the experience of countless Christian Scientists, and it can be the experience of everyone.
All Christians and many others acknowledge that there is but one God and that God is Spirit. They admit that Spirit is All and supreme. And yet may continue to accept material appearances as real. This inconsistent stand has made many hard problems in theology and natural science. It has seemed to bring a separation between religion and science. The inconsistency is resolved by the clear teaching of Christian Science that divine Spirit, or Mind, is the only real substance. This teaching has been of great practical assistance to many people, including not a few natural scientists. It is continually demonstrated by students of Christian Science in the overcoming of disease and other discords and limitations associated with the material sense of things. Through these demonstrations the unreality of matter is proved step by step. Mrs. Eddy sets forth the basic truth of real substance in what she terms "the scientific statement of being," which reads as follows (Science and Health, p. 468): "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual."
Science of Christianity Discovered
As we go on together to explore the
practical meaning of God's nature and of our true relationship to Him, it will
be helpful to consider how Christian Science was given to mankind, for it is
the thrilling and inspiring story of one who was not satisfied to have faith
blind and prayer hit-or-miss and who was determined to discover the Science of
Christianity, the Science of effective prayer. This she did and gave Christian
Science to the world. Mary Baker Eddy had always loved the Scriptures. She was
reared in a
No full account of Mrs. Eddy's
work and of her priceless gift to mankind can be given in this lecture. Suffice
it to say that she is the recognized Discoverer and Founder of Christian
Science and its Leader. She established the Christian Science church, known officially
as The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
Spiritual Truth Disciplines Thought
Now, Christian Science, with its Christianly scientific view-point of the First Commandment, can be of the greatest value to us as we earnestly seek to learn to pray aright, to pray effectively. The value of Christian Science lies in the fact that it gives human thought the unerring direction of Truth and consequently redeems and spiritualizes our consciousness so that it begins to express the character which rightfully belongs to it. Christian Science awakens us to see that thought must be disciplined, that discipline of thought by spiritual truth is a primal necessity.
Among the first steps toward loving God with all one's heart and thus demonstrating His power is to stop hating. This is accomplished through mental discipline, by seeing to it that every thought, word, and deed expresses divine Love. This is what it means to "pray without ceasing." The presence of the divine Love that meets every human need is realized by us as we view creation from the standpoint of divine Love. Individual consciousness must reflect the qualities of divine Mind, the source of all true thoughts or ideas. In Christian Science self-discipline is primal. Right mental discipline is an indispensable and always available aid in understanding and applying Christian Science, the Science of effective prayer.
Now this spiritual thought, this effectual, living prayer, requires no great human intellect, because there is nothing complicated about Christian Science. The practice of this Science requires the simplicity, the sincerity, the directness, the all-out-ness of a little child. "Willingness to become as a little child," says Mrs. Eddy, "and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea" (Science and Health, p 323).
Man's True Nature Godlike
Now, all we have been considering about God's nature and attributes can be of the greatest practical value to each one of us, because through the understanding of His nature we learn what we really are as His expression. For the Bible tells us (Gen. 1:27), "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." And Science and Health states (p. 475): "Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas." Does a human being fit the description of man just given? Does a material body truly or adequately represent me or you? Have we not been taught to make God manlike instead of man Godlike? If so, our salvation is to be found in reversing the false procedure. In making an "about-face," and finding out what God is and what it means to be His image and likeness. In Christian Science salvation signifies having a full understanding of God and man's relation to Him. It means entertaining the Christ, the true idea or manifestation of God. And entertaining the Christ brings release from the discords and limitations of material belief. For really the activity of the Christ in individual consciousness is the most effective prayer. It is Truth coming to our thought to show us the unreality of the fleshly or mortal beliefs which have bound us because we have been influenced to regard them as real. Our Leader puts it so well as she defines Christ in Science and Health (p. 583): "CHRIST. The divine manifestation of God which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." And she tells us how to entertain the Christ in these words also from Science and Health (p. 201): "Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts." Because divine Love is All-in-all, the straight and narrow way of salvation is to learn to love. As this is achieved, step by step, we find that we are obeying the First Commandment and are rejoicing more and more in answered prayer.
Christian Scientists love and revere Christ Jesus. They consider him the Way-shower. They strive to emulate his works, to follow his teaching faithfully. Jesus' virgin birth, his complete understanding of God and of his own divine sonship, earned for him the title of the Christ. Jesus so fully demonstrated his oneness with the Father that he truly exemplifies the Christ, the divine sonship. Mrs. Eddy writes of him in Science and Health (p. 313), "Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe." And she also writes (p. 332), "Jesus demonstrated Christ." What made Jesus great? He knew that God, Spirit, and God's perfect spiritual creation constitute all that is real, and that therefore evil and matter are but false concepts of the human mind. He knew this with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength, thus having no other gods before God and literally obeying the First Commandment. His prayers were always effective - they were always answered.
Fidelity to the spiritual meaning of the First Commandment is the test of measuring up to the title "Christian Scientist." Having total conviction that literally and actually matter is nothing and Spirit is all, is being obedient to the First Commandment and constitutes a continuing state of effective prayer. For while Christian Science teaches that matter is nothing, the demonstration of this Science has always the effect of improving what appear to be material or human conditions. This illustrates the human and divine coincidence which Jesus exemplified and which the Christian Science textbook speaks of as follows (p. 561): "John saw the human and divine coincidence, shown in the man Jesus, as divinity embracing humanity in Life and its demonstration, - reducing to human perception and understanding the Life which is God."
The realization and demonstration of spiritual truth bring into human experience the blessings promised by Christ Jesus in the Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount. He said of those who are spiritually minded that they would be comforted; that they would inherit the earth; that they would see God. These are the effects of awakened, spiritualized thought. They bring healing for oneself and others. They cause error, everything unlike God, to disappear from human experience. Thus we demonstrate the purity and simplicity of spiritual understanding and our oneness with divine Love, which never bows down to other gods, never accepts the claims of material sense as real. The Beatitudes point to the Christianly scientific state of consciousness which must accompany continuous effective prayer.
Understanding obedience to the First Commandment brings happy results and is evidenced in healing. God needs no help nor need we plead with Him to do something. His work is done and it is perfect! Divine Love has in reality no opposer, no accuser, no fear. It is the knowledge and application of this great spiritual truth that heals. The human mind is not the healer. Healing takes place as the human sense of things gives place to the divine. As we abide in the truth, we express more of the divine nature and perceive that all men have their being in God and in God alone. Thus, we have proof that Love, the real power, sustains the universe, and we see that peace and progress are always available and that they accompany spiritual enlightenment. Fidelity to God, literal obedience to the First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," brings the blessed state of consciousness that is the substance of continuous effective prayer. It heals individuals and nations, as Mary Baker Eddy has so magnificently said in the words with which the lecture will close (Science and Health, p. 340); "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars, fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed."
[Published in The Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) News, April 26, 1956.]