Albert B. Crichlow, C.S., of Trinidad, West Indies
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Prayer can lift tremendous burdens from mankind, Albert B. Crichlow, C.S., of Trinidad, West Indies, told an audience in Boston Sunday.
"Drawing near to the Christ, Truth, through prayer-power is God's loving means for the salvation of all mankind, the solution to all the obdurate woes that beset humanity," Mr. Crichlow said.
A member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, he spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
"Prayer-Power" was the title of his lecture. He was introduced by Mrs. Ada Reynolds Jandron, C.S., of Boston.
Mr. Crichlow spoke substantially as follows:
Like many other communities, Petit Valley in Trinidad where I live is doing a lot of building and one day as I passed by a construction site, I saw some workers connecting a pipe from an eight-inch line. When the connection was completed, one of them opened a valve and filled several buckets with water. All they required was some knowledge of hydraulics, the know-how of tapping the main to get the supply of needed water. They didn't beg the water to flow. They expected their need to be met by just turning on the faucet.
I don't want to sound disrespectful, but as I watched them go through this process, it dawned on me how like prayer the whole operation was. The experience, although a simple one, was particularly meaningful to me as one whose full-time activity is prayer, both as a Christian Science practitioner and as Christian Science Committee on Publication for Trinidad.
But, of course, Christian Scientists don't have any corner on prayer. Prayer has always been the principal means of religious people to, shall we say, "make connection" with the spiritual main of supply, with God's infinite good.
Every one of us can achieve this good. Jesus, the greatest authority on prayer who ever lived, reassured us, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matt. 21:22).
The purpose of this talk is to share some ideas on how we can pray more effectively, how we can establish and maintain communication with the source of all good. How we can individualize the infinite power of good through prayer.
In the light of this let's look again at the comparison I'm making. A hydraulic engineer would say you can't meet the demand for water at certain times because there's no supply, or no way to tap the supply. He'd say you sometimes have demand without supply. So here's where my analogy with prayer breaks down — or, to put it another way, here's where a crucial distinction must be made.
Spiritually we can't have demand without supply. This isn't possible in matters of Spirit. Spiritual supply is everlasting, inexhaustible, ever present, and instantly available. There can be no demand for things spiritual which infinite Spirit does not or cannot fully supply. Through prayer, we can always bring to our individual human experience the infinite power of spiritual good. And the first requirement of effective prayer is that we acknowledge our ever-present connection, our continuing relationship, with inexhaustible good, God. This is the basis of prayer-power that makes the ugly pictures of material living disappear and brings the grand, beautiful realities of being into our experience. With this connection acknowledged, what we have to do to experience good is, so to speak, turn on the faucet.
This, in effect, is what I did some years ago. I had stepped upon the poisonous prong of a stingray. It had been washed up on the seashore of one of the islands of the Caribbean, near where I live. Perhaps you don't know what a stingray looks like. It is a large flat fish, about the size of a large pizza pie, three to four inches thick, with a tail which sticks up having two or three sharp prongs.
While I lay writhing in pain on a nearby bench, I realized the need of wholehearted reliance on the power of prayer to bring perfect harmony into consciousness — and thereby into my experience. My need was not merely to declare that there is no evil situation, but to understand God, supreme good, to be everywhere. In this case right where poison appeared to be, only good existed. So by virtue of this spiritual logic my life couldn't possibly be affected or marred in any way, God being my very Life.
I'm told I actually spoke these truths aloud, and I arose from that bench completely healed, to join my friends and relatives. I thanked the ambulance people who had been summoned, and let them know that it wasn't necessary to take me off to the hospital.
In this experience I did more than just blindly believe. I denied evil and acknowledged the ever-presence of good. And once more I'd demonstrated how to make contact, and maintain communication, with the source of all good. I had individualized the power of infinite good through prayer.
In this state of spiritual awareness, we're the very expression of God, similar to sun rays being the very expression of the sun. Now this continuing relationship is the oneness of being, the oneness of God and all creation, including man.
A recognition of this fact is the only true basis of prayer. A recognition of this fact gives us the resources of infinite good that we have a right to. We feel them at work in our own individual experience in whatever way we have need for them.
Now, as we become increasingly conscious of man's continuing relationship to God, something happens. We find that, because it's possible to be almost constantly aware of His ever-presence, we can more easily pray without ceasing. In a sense, we begin to live a life of prayer.
Jesus was one who prayed without ceasing. And his prayers were effective because he expressed the Christ. The Christ-spirit governed him. And so his thinking was always God-oriented and good-motivated. In this manner he saw good where to another the scene looked evil. Why? Well, because his prayer was based on an understanding of the continuing uninterrupted relationship between God and His creation. Also because this was paramount in his thought he prayed without ceasing. But, in addition, Jesus understood that what consciousness entertains, that is, what you think and feel, and what you admit from the world's thinking about you externalizes itself in your body and experience.
Jesus healed, not by treating the externals, but by establishing every man's Christliness in his thought. His way of utilizing prayer may be likened to what we do when we're unhappy with a picture on the television set. We don't change the picture on the screen by trying to clean it off, or recolor it, or anything like that. We simply replace the picture by changing the channel. We make a connection with another source.
In like manner, Jesus had become a master of changing the image on the screen of consciousness. He knew how to blot out the tragic, unlovely pictures that paraded before his eyes, and in their stead unveil the wholesome, spiritual realities of being.
Here was spiritual dynamism and it healed. Take, for example, the time he was near the city gates of Nain, where he rejected the inevitability of death. He refuted the norms backed up by centuries of mortal tradition that man has two lives, one to be destroyed and the other to be made indestructible. Were we there we'd have thrilled to the triumph of prayer-power as he stopped the funeral, denied all it claimed to represent, presented the counterfacts of truth concerning man and his unbroken relationship to God, Life, and delivered the young man alive to his weeping mother.
To further demonstrate the efficacy of prayer-power that proves the facts about man's life, he resuscitated the daughter of Jairus. He showed it in raising his dear friend Lazarus to life after he had been in the grave for several days. He brought to a climax his proofs of the power of true prayer with his own resurrection and ascension.
Before his ascension Jesus told his followers, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). Did he mean himself as a human being? No, he was referring to the Christ, Truth, the "Saviour" consciousness he revealed to mankind. He had earlier spoken of it, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). That Christ, Truth, the Christly message of man's unity with God, existed before the human Jesus and remains as a divine presence today. As surely as did Jesus, we can know the Christ as a source of prayer-power and find our prayers effective. We can experience God as a very present help in trouble.
Let me illustrate this point.
When I was serving in Britain as navigator with the Royal Air Force, I was most fortunate to fly with a crew who believed in prayer-power. It was our custom to pause at the entrance of the aircraft for each in his own way to acknowledge the presence and power of God. And our team enjoyed marked protection.
But one day we had a training mission that was looked upon as "a piece of cake," to use Air Force vernacular. Instead of our usual prayerful attitude, we carelessly trundled into the plane. Apparently we believed some activities needed God's protection, and others didn't. Off we hurtled into the bright blue yonder.
Mission accomplished, we started to fly home.
Suddenly, we were out of control in a terrifying power dive, all four engines at full throttle. All efforts to bring the ship under control proved futile. I became pinned to the ceiling of my compartment, my navigational instruments all floating about my face. I was helpless to use them at all. We were held by an antigravitational pull of about two "G's," twice the force of gravity. I watched the arms of the altimeter rotating, counting down the thousands of feet as we streaked earthwards from 14,000 to 4,000 feet. Everything indicated this was it.
But in that supertranscendent speed that thought alone has, I prayed — we all prayed — I claimed my rightful unbroken relationship to God. All my past moments of prayer came to my support. Then, in an instant, like a banner of fire, these words flashed into my consciousness, "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, p. vii). This is the opening sentence of the Christian Science textbook.
Well, it certainly didn't look as though the moment was big with blessings, but I surrendered all consciousness of a helpless, falling plane, and instantaneously felt the presence and power of the sustaining infinite which is God. At that moment, it was as if a giant hand took hold of the falling aircraft and gently put it down. We leveled onto an even course out toward open sea and away from the nearby mountains. The needle pointed to 2,000 feet.
I fell into my seat, flicked switches on the electronic navigation screen, and fixed our position onto the Mercator chart. The figures printed on the spot height below us showed the ground to be 1,990 feet plus above sea level. We shaved the grass from off that hilltop, but we were safe. I'd prayed the highest way I knew, and the ever-present Christ-power of infinite good had saved us.
This experience was proof to me of the ever-presence of the Christ, Truth, the "Saviour" consciousness, and that we can avail ourselves of its power through prayer. It's instantly at hand like light when the switch is flicked, like music when the radio knob's twisted, like the picture when the transistorized TV is turned on. The lesson behind all these electronic exercises is like tapping of the water mains — that right at hand we have whatever is needed.
But there are steps for us to take.
Nobody, for example, stands before an electronic appliance and begs it to produce its light, its music, its pictures. You have to have an operator who knows what to do, how to tune in. This usually means some sort of training. Very much oversimplified, hydraulic engineers need training to make the right connections. Flyers need training to manipulate the right levers and push the right buttons. The man of prayer needs to train to avail himself of the power of prayer.
For thousands of years people have turned to the Bible to learn about prayer. And there's no better place to start. From beginning to end the Book of books shows the superiority of prayer-power over every condition opposed to good. So it's not to be wondered at, therefore, that the first tenet of Christian Science reads: "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life (Science and Health, p. 497). It's no mere statement that Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, withdrew from society over a period of years to give her undivided attention to studying these proofs in the Scriptures and wrote Science and Health as a key to them. Not a substitute for nor replacement of the Scriptures, but a key and companion to them.
The spiritual interpretation of the Bible found in Science and Health has brought light to the deepest meanings in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, God, Spirit, and His spiritual creation are seen as supreme, and materiality as a passing deception. The all-might of spiritual good conquers the educated suppositions of mortality. The allegories, histories, prophecies, and experiences of particular characters and peoples are seen to be representative in a large degree of events and conditions in the personal experience of everybody.
We all have our Abraham moments of sacrificing our most cherished possessions, don't we? We all have our Moses times, and every one of us comes to Red Seas. We all have to defeat and destroy our Goliaths with pebbles of truth. We're all guided to use Solomonic wisdom in times of crisis.
When envy or hate subjects us to the lions' den, our Daniel-reliance on God can offset destructive confrontation. Inspiration can nullify flames of hatred, just as the fire had no effect upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
Even when we appear to have been swallowed into the bowels of our whale-like woes like Jonah, we aren't beyond the reach of the saving power of prayer. And consider the experiences of Peter and Paul. We all can have deliverance from imprisonment of one kind or another, and change of character can turn us all in some degree from Sauls to Pauls.
The pith of the whole Biblical narrative is humanity's steady gaining of the understanding of man's true spiritual state as God's expression and his indissoluble link through the Christ with his creator. How is this understanding achieved? The Master said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). Put another way, our primary effort must always be to gain the Christ, or spiritual Truth, not in making money, or fighting for a career, or looking for fame. The Christ within awakens us to our inviolate relationship with the Father, with infinite good. And this brings all good into our experience.
The earnest seeker, as a serious student of the Bible and making full use of its spiritual interpreter, Science and Health, touches the hem of Christ's garment. He discovers that neither intellectualism nor scholasticism is a requisite to understand scientific prayer-power. And with a willingness to surrender old false concepts for spiritual truth — and this is true humility — his thought becomes receptive to his true spiritual selfhood. This oneship with the Divine is cemented, and he's provided a scientific basis for demonstrating in present experience the inseparability of God and man.
The Christ-power reveals its presence in his consciousness and as his consciousness and he works as God works. This is the spiritual training that makes it possible for the same Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus. And we come to know what it means to pray without ceasing. This is prayer-power.
During our time together I've spoken a number of times about prayer as the activity of unveiling our connection with infinite good, of tuning in to God's good. But I hope I've also given you some hints that these are only symbols. They're useful devices for leading thought higher.
As thought rises higher, these symbols with their limited usefulness can be left behind. In the words of a hymn, "And as we rise, the symbols disappear" (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 108). We begin to see man's inseparability from God as an eternal fact and infinite good as eternally flowing from God to man. Prayer-power is the opening of human thought to what the power of God is already doing and always doing for man, His loved child.
Jesus periodically went up into a mountain to pray. So must we raise our thought to perceive man's eternal oneness with divine Spirit. This comes as a result of the focus or the coming together of human thought with the heavenly, the spiritual. Here every vestige of earthiness is expunged, revealing a purity and brilliance of consciousness transcending mortal comprehension.
Back home in the West Indies we have a small mud volcano that sends forth fist-size goldlike pieces of quartz, very lovely. These nuggetlike rocks are quite jagged, and so caked with volcanic mud that they need to be washed off with a high-pressure hose to reveal their brilliance.
So we have to wash away, deny, earthy thought in order that the beauty of spirituality may be revealed. Sometimes the washing may be an intense experience, a Gethsemane, a great struggle with ourselves. But we can trust divinely inspired perseverance to end in spiritual achievement.
The wonderful awareness that God's allness, good's allness, has always been present, is always present and will always be present excludes the fear of evil, even the possibility of evil. A new, ever-was, always-is, and ever-will-be dimension radiates within us with a sweet stillness, a calm and peace that surpasses all telling. This is what every human heart is really yearning for.
Mrs. Eddy was no exception.
At a time when successive difficulties assailed, the Founder of Christian Science prayerfully sought the ever-available lovingkindness of God. Her growing understanding of her unbroken relationship with Him resulted in her overcoming prolonged ill-health, poverty, suspicion, and betrayal.
She healed others, too, by prayer, men and women, old and young alike. For instance, there was an occasion when she was living on Columbus Avenue in Boston. She'd developed a deep fondness for her neighbor's little girl, as she frequently did for children; but the child didn't appear for some days, so she went to inquire of the mother what had happened to her. The mother told Mrs. Eddy the child had been taken seriously ill; in fact, she appeared to be dead.
In response to Mrs. Eddy's request, the mother left Mrs. Eddy alone with the child, but insisted that all was over anyway and nothing more could be done. Mrs. Eddy took the little body in her arms; it showed no evidences of life. But she turned in prayer to the source of all Life, to the God whom she knew to be infinite Truth and Love and Life. As she prayed to this God, all sense of the material conditions around her faded from her thought. Suddenly she heard the child crying for its mother.
The mother came in and Mrs. Eddy put the child down. It ran to its mother. Not only was life restored but the child's limbs, which before had been crippled, were strong and active. This was no personal miracle, but it was the effect of prayer to the all-loving Father-Mother of every individual ("Historical Sketches," by Clifford P. Smith, pp. 79-80).
In line with Biblical teaching, Mrs. Eddy identified in a more absolute way than ever before man's heavenly Father as the divine Principle of all true being, governing all through spiritual law. She gave the name "Christian Science" to her discovery. It was absolute Truth, yet practical and applicable in daily life.
When the traditional Christian churches rejected her teachings, Mrs. Eddy founded The Church of Christ, Scientist, to protect and disseminate them. Thousands have been blessed and healed by this teaching, and its helpful message spans continents and oceans reaching to people of all denominations and races.
The basic premise of Mrs. Eddy's discovery, as she herself describes it, is that all real existence is in and of Spirit, is perfect creative Spirit and its perfect spiritual creation. It's not uncommon for religions to consider God as infinite. But let's take it a step further. God is infinite, and God is Spirit. Therefore, Spirit is All. That being so, creation must reside within the infinitude of Spirit and emanate from Spirit, the one and only cause. Conclusion: all creation is spiritual and must be discerned spiritually.
If Spirit fills all space, how can there be any notion of any substance unlike Spirit? The allness of divine Spirit obliterates any concept of God as a corporeal being or personality. The allness of Spirit allows His presence to be expressed only as intelligence, life, harmony, good. All instantly available to His likeness, man.
In this spiritual logic no unlikeness can exist, and any such tendency could only be called a misconception, a mistaken notion.
This mistaken notion with its suggestions that we're material mortals limited in intelligence and in resources and unstable in character has to be thrown out. But, because it has no root nor foundation in truth, a consistent recognition of the spiritual facts can do this.
In the state of consciousness where no taint of materiality exists, we find our present oneness with Spirit to be substantial reality. Contrary to the evidence of the physical senses, the truth of spiritual reality remains. Put your table knife into a clear glass of water and see the conflict of what appears versus what you know. The blade of the knife seems crooked and misshapen, but you know it to be perfectly shaped. Many examples could be recited here — you may know of some yourselves — to show how unreliable are the reports of the five senses.
The Apostle Paul had a glimpse of this when he said to the Corinthians, ". . . we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Cor. 4:18). In our own time the voices of Albert Einstein and other leading physicists proclaim that objects cognizable by the human senses represent something different from their apparent substantiality. So many of us today should have less difficulty accepting proofs of spiritual reality that demolish the stranglehold of physicality.
All true existence is in and of Spirit. The perception of this fact and living by it is the ultimate of prayer.
The disciples, no doubt subject to the common frailties of all men, were advised that the knowledge of the truth of being would make them free. When they asked him how to pray, the Master gave them the Lord's Prayer. It's significant to note that this is not a prayer of petition alone but it's also a glorious expression of affirmation. In this prayer Jesus speaks of God as Father, implying our unbroken relation of sonship with the divine. Fatherhood does not stand in isolation. There's no Father without sonship! God and His sons are spiritual, forever hallowed, good. This spiritual, harmonious relationship is constantly active.
Let me illustrate.
Some years ago a friend of mine became attracted to Christian Science through what he called the pure logic of the chapter on "Prayer" in Science and Health. Early in his study of this Science he asked me whether prayer-power was effective in the area of racial prejudice. "Yes, certainly," I replied. And I told him how I'd used the Lord's Prayer in this respect.
During my service with the Royal Air Force, I received word I was to be sent to a new base. It was believed I'd suffer there because of racial prejudice against me.
My friends were kindly motivated in their concern, but they showed this by pointing out every indignity I might suffer at my new post. I quieted my fears about the upcoming event. In utilizing the Christ-thought to repudiate the suggestions trying to get me to accept those predictions, I prayed. I accepted the Father-Motherhood of God and the holy sonship of man. I saw not only myself as enjoying this spiritual relationship, but those as well who would appear to wish to make me uncomfortable. In addition to this, I saw I could not impose my presence where I wasn't invited. I'd been summoned by Royal Air Force command, and where my duty called I couldn't suffer.
I arrived at the base and entered the mess hall. There were the officers I was to fly with. Silence prevailed as everyone looked up. Many glared unwelcome looks at me. My heart sank, and I didn't know what to say. Then I prayed silently, "Love is reflected in love," Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of the line in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Science and Health, p. 17). Also two lines from a poem of Mrs. Eddy's came to thought.
"Tis writ on earth, on leaf and flower:
Love hath one race, one realm, one power."
(Poems, Mary Baker Eddy, "The New Century," p. 22)
I lost the feeling of being hurt. I soared above the shafts of hate and prejudice. My mouth opened and I heard myself saying, "I say, come now, old chaps, are you going to hold it against me because I have a better tan?"
The spell was broken. There was a terrific roar. A rush towards me, and I was shouldered and marched around the mess hall to the strains of "For he's a jolly good fellow!" "You see," said the senior officer, "that's the sort of stuff we cherish in this squadron." In a very short time, I became accepted as one of the most popular and well-treated flyers. As you perceive, the Christ-view saw only the truth of being. All resistance disappeared completely, leaving only what was always there — perfect harmony.
What a wonderful thing to know that the Christ, Truth, is the "Saviour" consciousness. Just think of the instant impact this brings to our everyday careers! Why, almost immediately we perk up, inspired to meet the challenges that lie ahead moment by moment.
This spiritual buoyancy is born of the recognition of the "Saviour" consciousness that brooks no insolubility of daily problems. Where are the false suppositions that argue the case for the insolvable? There are no problems that spiritual consciousness can't resolve. Doesn't this make you want to sing out like the Psalmist David, for the wonderful deliverance that awaits you, even before it makes itself manifest? After all, the "Saviour" consciousness can be your consciousness.
The power of true prayer can lift horrible burdens from mankind. The power of prayer can give hope to the despairing man. The power of prayer can arm and equip him with the dominion which is his. The power of prayer can bring to understanding the spiritual capacity of man. The power of prayer can expose the defective nature of the material senses, physical testimony, and material law. The power of prayer can inculcate spiritual law or the action of divine Principle by which man is seen as reflecting God in his everyday activities.
Drawing near to the Christ, Truth, through prayer-power is God's loving means for the salvation of all mankind, the solution to all the obdurate woes that beset humanity. Because the "Saviour" consciousness will lead the way out of defaming habits, depressing attitudes, and ill health. It will enlighten and inspire the understanding to the point where day by day, step by step, you will know your continuing relationship to God, and you will be satisfied.
[Delivered March 10, 1974, in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 11, 1974.]