When I was a teenager, I experienced an unexpected moment of spiritual awareness as I lay in bed, deeply troubled by a doctor’s prognosis. I wasn’t praying as such, yet I suddenly became aware of a divine presence, loving me. That calmed my troubled thoughts and prompted a physical healing. At the time, I was a non-religious Jew, and I wanted to understand how such a healing could happen.
In my twenties, a friend gifted me a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s powerful book on prayer-based healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and I found the answers I was looking for. There are references to Scripture throughout Science and Health, which bring out its core spiritual message. Seeing the Bible in this light led me to pick it up, read it, and love it. I’m now a Christian Science practitioner, serving as the UK and Irish media liaison for the Christian Science movement.
Here are some key points about the prayer-based healing I practice.
1. God doesn’t “hear” our prayers . . . because we don’t need Him to.
“Your prayers need not be labored or lengthy or grandiose — for your Father knows what you need before you ever ask Him.” (Jesus, in Matthew 6)
Because He/She loves us, our divine Parent needs no persuading to meet our needs. Healing prayer transforms us. It opens our hearts to the ever-presence, all-power, and practicality of divine Love, rather than attempting to open God’s heart to us.
2. Prayer frees us from the limitations of materialism.
“Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; . . . Shake thyself from the dust.” (Isaiah 52:1)
Sickness feels very real and self-defining, so compassion is key in responding to all situations of ill health. Yet the compassion Jesus and his early followers expressed didn’t just soothe the sick in their suffering; instead, they were fully relieved of their illnesses — without a single drug or any human counselling.
Jesus roused the needy from merely viewing their lives materialistically to spiritually reflecting on their characters. Through healing them he proved health to be a natural component of their underlying divine identity.
3. The restoration of harmony to mind and body evidences our spiritual nature.
“In him we live, and move, and have our being.” (The Apostle Paul, in Acts 17:28)
In 1866, after devoting decades to searching for the connection between spiritual and practical well-being, Mary Baker Eddy experienced a breakthrough healing. As a result of what she discovered, Paul’s words took on an all-encompassing meaning to the founder of Christian Science.
Referring to her healing, Eddy wrote, “That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence.” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896)
4. Prayer-based healing is not positive thinking.
“At the center of the most turbulent heart there is a place of peace, a place beyond time that cannot be touched by change or loss. No tumult can disturb the quietness, no shadow can dim the light. Here in this stillness is rest and healing. Nothing we suffer, nothing that we fear, can damage its perfection.” (Pam Brown, poet)
Christian Science healing is not positive thinking, visualization, or even the mind-body medicine that has increasingly gained ground. Instead, it demands a deeper shift in our thinking from a material to a spiritual perception of who we actually are.
We become conscious that “the kingdom of God” that Jesus said was “within us” is the circumference as well as the center of our being. This realization brings with it a divine demand to live in accordance with our spiritual selfhood, expressing divine Love.
5. Just because prayer can be a placebo, doesn’t mean it always is.
“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Shakespeare, in Hamlet)
Much is made of the possibility that prayer is just a placebo. It clearly can be, since studies have shown the benefits of expectancy in the effectiveness of many treatments, including drugs and surgery. But not all prayer is alike and what needs to be explored is whether there are approaches to prayer that outperform placebos and medication.
6. To be effective, prayer needs to be more than a mind-body effect.
“. . . you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (Jesus, in John 8:32.
Since placebos prove how faith in a material process can result in physiological changes, it’s clear that faith is a mental quality that can have a practical impact even without any reference to Deity. However, mere human hope for healing is not divinely scientific prayer.
Faith in God’s healing power is only one step in a more thorough process of understanding and expressing the underlying spiritual nature of man as the “image and likeness” of the Divine (see Genesis).
7. None of this means we are to blame for our illnesses.
“Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)
Is “sin” sometimes the cause of our illnesses? Yes. Just ask your doctor. Lifestyle choices can have consequences, and that’s also true about what we choose to allow in our thinking. Scientific research increasingly confirms the negative health effects of hatred and resentment and the positive effects of qualities like forgiveness.
But while healing prayer can certainly remove our self-destructive traits, you can still be sick without being a sinner. In most cases, the mental elements that need addressing include fear — such as the fear that sickness and death are inevitable — and a sense of alienation from God. These aren’t sins, but they do need to be overcome by spiritual growth.
8. Healing the body is just a part of healing prayer.
“Healing physical sickness is only the bugle-call to thought and action, in the higher range of infinite goodness. The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin; and this task, sometimes, may be harder than the cure of disease; because, while mortals love to sin, they do not love to be sick” (Mary Baker Eddy)
Freedom from sin is immense. It is actually the most liberating aspect of healing. For example, soon after adopting the practice of Christian Science, I experienced three distinct healings — I was healed of cynicism, a long-standing hatred and an addiction. It would be hard to overstate the gratitude I feel for the ensuing decades of freedom.
9. The Word of God can heal, but the best words won’t heal by themselves.
“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)
Words that convey an inspiring idea can heal. Consequently, many have been restored to health by reading the Bible and Science and Health. The final chapter of the latter consists of moving accounts, testifying to many such experiences.
But the best words in the world said without conviction are like currency not backed by gold. As Jesus showed us, they need to emerge from a heart that grasps the truth of what it is saying and utters the words with love.
10. No one has a monopoly on healing prayer.
Healing prayer is as universal as God’s love. It’s not a privilege reserved for a chosen few. I have talked with other Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and even those who are not religious — who have experienced the restoration of physical or mental health through spiritual means alone. I value such evidence that material law doesn’t have the last say.
What I love about Christian Science specifically is that it starts with the opposite expectation: “God’s law is in three words, ‘I am All;’ and this perfect law is ever present to rebuke any claim of another law.” (No and Yes)
This law of God’s love is the basis for practical, systematic, prayer-based healing.
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