Prayer is important to many people in the world. Christian Scientists especially treasure the spiritual transformation and healing that prayer brings. Yet in conversations with fellow Christian Scientists, I sometimes hear about what might be called the “just words” concern. To be honest, I’ve slipped into it myself—more often than I care to admit. It comes as thoughts such as: “I prayed, but it just felt like words. It didn’t have any effect.” “I read the Bible Lesson [found in the Christian Science Quarterly] several times this morning, but I didn’t really get anything out of it.” “I went to church, but I had a hard time staying awake.”
Such thoughts masquerade as our own, but in actuality, they come from what Paul refers to as the “carnal mind,” which is “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), and which Mary Baker Eddy refers to as “mortal mind,” the counterfeit of the one Mind, God. So how do we effectively silence that nagging voice that would try to undermine our prayers with the suggestion that our prayers are “just words”?
It seems to me that the answer to this question lies in examining, and elevating, our understanding of prayer and inspiration. Implicit in the fear that we’re just reading or repeating words is an underlying assumption: that we can be separated from God, Truth, the source of the spiritual understanding that promotes healing. If we aren’t alert to this suggestion, then prayer may become to us a matter of waiting for spiritual facts to somehow become imbued with inspiration or divine power.