Mary Baker Eddy once gave a simple answer to the question of how to succeed in the practice of healing through prayer. “By being like Jesus,” she wrote, “by asking yourself am I honest? Am I just? Am I merciful? Am I pure? And being able to respond with your demonstrations to let what you can do for the sick answer this . . . .” Pointing to the underlying motives for healing ministry, she continued earnestly: “. . . if you are becoming what is required of you then are you a law to yourself and will ask am I doing to others as I would they should do to me? Am I seeking the praise of man or the praise of God? . . . if you are seeking money in your practice . . . more than you seek to be perfectly pure, honest, just, meek, and loving, then are you asking of sense instead of soul for happiness . . .” (A10063B, pp. 12–13, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library).
That answer, which comes from one of Mrs. Eddy’s earliest teaching manuscripts, made a deep impression on me when I came across it many years ago. Written long before she founded a church or came to prominence as a religious leader, the words have a tone of almost pounding urgency (“Am I honest? Am I just? Am I merciful? Am I pure?”). The questions shined a searchlight into my heart and conscience as a young Christian Scientist beginning to recognize the tremendous spiritual dimensions of this teaching, but struggling to live up to what I was glimpsing of new purpose and possibility.
The passage also gives a glimpse of Eddy’s deepest values in a period of struggle. It was a wilderness time for her, in both senses of the term, as she later characterized it in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Wilderness. Loneliness; doubt; darkness. Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence” (p. 597).