“Would you like me to pray for you?” my brother asked me as he sat down next to me. He could see that I hadn’t been feeling well throughout our morning activities on our family vacation, and he wasn’t shy about offering to help in this way.
His sweet offer swept over me like a blanket of love. This was not a question my brother was prone to asking folks, and it was certainly the first time he had ever offered to pray for me. We did attend Christian Science Sunday School together as children, but that had been many years ago, and prayer and healing were just not something we talked about together.
In response to his question, I smiled at him and said, “That would be great.” A few minutes later, he reminded me of a hymn with words by Mary Baker Eddy that we sang together as children: “ ‘Peace and joy and power’ (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 207), Suz. I always remember that hymn from Sunday School when I’m not feeling well.”
I had always loved those three words, “peace” and “joy” and “power,” as they were a perfect description of what turning to God in prayer had always brought me, a powerful, very palpable sense of God’s love. And this time was no exception. A feeling of being very loved and cared for filled me, and I felt so much better that I soon fell asleep peacefully and woke up feeling fine.
What was it that brought healing? Over the years I’ve learned that sometimes the most effective prayers are simple but inspired thoughts from God, lovingly and willingly shared. So often it is the expression of love behind the prayer that is felt and meets the need of someone yearning for comfort and healing.
In the days that followed, I thought often about that selfless, loving offer that my brother had made to me. I wondered if I was always ready and willing to make that offer to those around me. When I see that someone is distraught or suffering, do I willingly offer to pray?
Sometimes I’ve hesitated to offer up prayer for a friend because they aren’t from my religious denomination and maybe they don’t pray in the same way I do. There was a fear that I wouldn’t use the right words or find the right idea that would help, or even the fear that they don’t believe in God and wouldn’t welcome the offer.
Sometimes the most effective prayers are simple but inspired thoughts from God, lovingly and willingly shared.
For me, having studied Christian Science my whole life and having prayed regularly for myself and family members, prayer feels like a very natural and trusted solution to any challenge that arises in my life. This prayer can vary from a simple yearning to see others experience God’s goodness to praying for them in the very specific way called Christian Science treatment. This type of prayerful treatment starts with acknowledging God’s, Mind’s, supremacy, and works to uplift thought and remove whatever is disturbing the individual we are praying for. Seeing that individual as God sees them—whole, harmonious, and blessed—we take a stand for their unwavering spiritual freedom, opening the way for healing.
But Christian Science treatment is not the only way to pray, and we don’t have to go around offering it to everyone we meet who appears to be in distress! The heart of, and right motive behind, all prayer is love for God and for our fellow man. The prayer that is inspired by God doesn’t need to be complicated, nor does it operate according to a prescribed formula, useful in only certain situations, or only if prayed by certain experienced people. When my brother asked for permission to pray for me, he didn’t use complicated ideas or fret over whether he was experienced at praying. It was a simple truth willingly shared with love. We are all equipped with the natural love, patience, and compassion to pray for others.
In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, next to the marginal heading “Genuine healing,” we read: “If we would heal by the Spirit, we must not hide the talent of spiritual healing under the napkin of its form, nor bury the morale of Christian Science in the grave-clothes of its letter. The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love” (pp. 366–367).
We never need to hesitate to offer up that prayer that listens and is tender, compassionate, encouraging, hopeful, and patient; a prayer that is “aflame” with the love of God and acknowledges God as supreme. Such prayers to God are unprejudiced and unconditional and can meet any need.
Christ Jesus spent much of his time in cities and villages responding to requests for prayer or offering to heal those who told him of their sorrow or suffering. He didn’t just heal his friends or his disciples who may have understood his mission and how he healed. He didn’t just hang out in the Temple and wait for people to come to him for healing. Wherever he was—in the marketplace, in someone’s home, or walking along the road—he was attuned to the needs of others and responded to them.
The Bible says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, New International Version). And he taught his disciples to go and do the same—giving them the power and the understanding to do the healing works that he did and charging them to follow him in his healing work (see Matthew 10:8).
Echoing a phrase used by Jesus, Mary Baker Eddy said to give “a cup of cold water in Christ’s name” to “simple seekers for Truth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert.” And, she added, “never fear the consequences” (Science and Health, p. 570).
This message is reinforced by another passage in Science and Health, which points out that it is not only possible, but in fact our duty, to pass along our healing prayers to others in the manner of the master Christian, Christ Jesus. “It is possible,—yea, it is the duty and privilege of every child, man, and woman,—to follow in some degree the example of the Master by the demonstration of Truth and Life, of health and holiness” (p. 37).
In Jesus’ time and still today, it is the Christ, the spirit and power of God with us, that does the healing work. It’s the Christ, that inspiration of Love, that embraces humanity with the touch of healing. We are the humble and willing witnesses of the divine message that it is God “who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalms 103:3, 4). We can each, in some measure, regardless of the circumstance, express that perfect healing love of God. When we feel impelled to pray for another, we can be assured that we will have the right tools, the time, and the words to offer a cup of cold water.
If we are watching and alert to the call of a hungering heart, we will have many opportunities to help.
One day in the middle of my workday, I had run up to the local elementary school to stop in on a party that was happening in my child’s classroom. As I left the party early, I ran into my neighbor, and we walked together to the parking lot. I knew her well enough to know that something was not right. I felt the mental nudge to ask her if I could help.
At first, my thoughts argued back, “I do not have time to talk to her!” But God’s gentle prod won me over, and I put my hand on her arm and asked if something was wrong. She told me that she had received bad news from her doctor and was wracked with fear. And she was having trouble calming down.
I immediately offered, “Do you have time to talk?” We went to a local cafe, and she shared her fears and concerns with me, and then I asked her if she would like me to share some helpful ideas that I had prayed with. She eagerly said “yes” and then listened as I shared some healing thoughts that I had learned from Science and Health.
One idea that she found very helpful was that God empowered her to “stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously” (Science and Health, p. 392). We discussed many more ideas over the next hour or so.
When I dropped her back at her car, we both felt a weight had been lifted. She told me how much more at peace she felt. And I felt refreshed and inspired and ready to go back to work. It felt very natural over the next week for me to pray that she feel the comfort and safety of God’s love and protection. I wasn’t giving her specific Christian Science treatment, but I knew that nothing could change the well-established fact that she is the image and likeness of God. I called her a few times that week to offer words of encouragement.
At the end of the week she called me. She had received a new report that in fact all was well, and she thanked me for my friendship and prayers. Since that time she has become one of my dearest friends, and now she never hesitates to reach out for help of any kind, whether it’s borrowing a cup of sugar, or taking that “cup of cold water” I was talking about earlier.
I’ve been so grateful to see how, as Mary Baker Eddy says, “Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching. Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (Science and Health, p. 454).
Often it seems we resist taking that step of offering to help for fear of being thought silly, or for fear of not knowing the “right way” to pray. But our love for our fellow man, and our gratitude for all the good God gives us each day, can easily outweigh any hesitation, and we can know that God will guide us and lead the way as we start from a pure and unselfish motivation.