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Praying for each other

From the September 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Once, years ago, after my annual Christian Science students’ association meeting, my Christian Science teacher (with whom I had gone through Primary class instruction in Christian Science) asked if I would help her carry some things to her apartment nearby. As we walked and talked, suddenly she stopped, reached into her purse, and pulled out a rather large address book. It was rubber banded together and had bits of paper poking out in every direction.

“You’re all in here, you know,” she said. I knew she was referring to the contact information for each of her students. Then she said quite cheerily, “You know, I pray for you all. All the time.” 

I was stunned. There were nearly five hundred members of our association. When I asked how and when she had time, she mentioned all kinds of everyday situations: standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for the elevator in her apartment building, walking to her office. 

I felt amazingly cherished—and a little chagrined. Here was my teacher praying for hundreds of students, and yet it had never occurred to me to pray for her. And there was only one of her! I silently vowed right then I would start praying in support of my teacher regularly, and praying for the association as well. And I did.

Sometimes we may think praying for others is not something we can do without permission. But that is not exactly true. Prayer that specifically addresses another’s thought does require consent from that one. But all-embracing prayer is something all who strive to follow Christ Jesus’ life and teachings can do and are in fact called to do—consistently, freely, and lovingly. Paul instructed in First Thessalonians, “Never stop praying” (5:17, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English). And James wrote: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (5:16). 

The Master guided his students by word and example to love each other. He clearly prayed often for them. Just before his crucifixion, he particularly prayed that they stay united and God-centered—and that those who would follow his teachings in times to come would believe what those first disciples were taught.

Jesus also told the many thousands who came to hear him preach that each must love his neighbor as himself and even pray for enemies and persecutors. These commandments required a vast expansion of his listeners’ affections, since customarily, prayers were offered only for family and friends. Like Jesus’ final commission to his students before he ascended—“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)—Christians were and are called to take all mankind into their hearts as they commune with God.

Here are a few ways the Bible illustrates that we might approach prayer: 

Praise and gratitude: We can rejoice in God and give thanks for any evidence of goodness, intelligence, moral strength, health, beauty, kindness, or joy we see, in whatever arena of human experience we behold this goodness—be it local or global, in people we know or don’t, in words or deeds. We can recognize these as signs of “Emmanuel” or “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Such recognitions of divinity, even if only interior to us, reflect the Divine. They awaken human thought to appreciate the presence and might of God, good, and help shed the earthly beliefs that make mortality and evil seem real and powerful. 

Petition: Asking for God’s blessing—seeking His direction, wisdom, and grace—on behalf of others and ourselves is a valid way to pray. It spiritualizes thought and fosters growth in holiness for all, whereas seeking merely material things or the fulfillment of selfish desires, even for others, never leads to lasting goodness or progress.

In following Jesus, Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, prayed regularly for her church, her country, and mankind. In her “Daily Prayer” (see Manual of The Mother Church, p. 41), she requests that not only the one praying may deeply know the power and allness of Deity, but that all mankind may feel and be governed by divine Love and Truth. She also prayed for those who disagreed with or even hated her: “Each day I pray: ‘God bless my enemies; make them Thy friends; give them to know the joy and the peace of love’ ” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 220).

Affirmation: Prayer in Christian Science that affirms God’s allness is a recognition of the divine Truth that alone can bring genuine freedom from the illusion of life in matter. 

When we see evidence of injustice, suffering, dishonesty, or discord, we can acknowledge that regardless of appearances, divine Principle—infinite Love and perfect Mind—is in charge, and that in reality, each one involved reflects God’s goodness. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mrs. Eddy explains that Jesus’ “humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth,—of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love” (p. 12). 

Heartfelt, unselfed prayer, including humble, sincere listening to the Divine, purifies the atmosphere of thought, uplifting and correcting human consciousness. Such prayer is not intrusive or harmful, but quietly beneficial—working, as Jesus said of the kingdom of heaven, like yeast in meal, “till the whole [is] leavened” (Matthew 13:33).

Two years after my Christian Science teacher and I met over that address book, she had a sudden, severe ailment just before that year’s association meeting. But she was healed, and conducted the meeting with her usual vigor and joy. I know my teacher had treatment from a Christian Science practitioner at the time. But I also know her students were praying for her. I was grateful to be among them, supporting someone whose prayers had so often blessed me. And my prayers helped me, too. I was able to make the transatlantic trip to attend our yearly association meeting another thirty times—helping me realize not only that “whatever blesses one blesses all” (Science and Health, p. 206), but what blesses all, also blesses each individual who prays. 

Ethel Baker
Guest Editorial Writer

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