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The Ten Commandments—a daily prayer

From the June 1991 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The increase in the number of Bibles distributed in the twentieth century has been meteoric. In 1900, nearly thirteen million Bibles and Testaments were sent out worldwide. According to the American Bible Society, 300 million Bibles and Scriptures had been distributed in 1989, and by the end of this century this number is expected to rise substantially. This is a wonderful achievement in spreading the Word of God. But going alongside this increase has been a marked decrease in obedience to one of the keystones of the Bible—the Ten Commandments. See Ex. 20:3—17 . Higher crime statistics, general disregard for sexual morality, and widespread unethical behavior are some of the outward signs of these times.

Is there anything that can be done to stem this corrupting malaise, which is undermining the very fabric of individual and community life? How do we think of the Ten Commandments in our own lives? Are they something written on two tablets of stone thousands of years ago on a remote mountain in the Middle East, formal rules that have since become the basis of Jewish and Christian ethics and of Western civilization? Many view them this way, but is there a higher, more spiritual way that we can use and practice these Commandments in our daily lives? Have we ever actually prayed with them?

For example, such prayer could begin by declaring the allness and oneness of God, His power and presence, with nothing to contradict them. This is the very first command of prayer, and Mary Baker Eddy gives it high priority when she states that the First Commandment is her favorite text. See Science and Health, p. 340 . She also writes in Science and Health, "The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind,—that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle." Ibid., p. 275.

Having established in consciousness this understanding of God's allness and supremacy as pure Spirit, we can go on to see that no counterfeit can be engraved in consciousness in the form of matter—nothing that has to be worshiped or feared, that can be sinful or sickly. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image...." We are living today, almost more than ever before, in a world of visual images, and this includes many images of disease, disaster, and discord. How important, then, to see that none of these negative images—depicting the material instead of the spiritual view of man's origin—become engraved in our thought. God, the supreme and only source of good, radiates the image of what He is, pure, perfect, and complete, and this image is man and the universe.

Working with this as our basis, we can know that because divine Truth asserts itself as law, ceaselessly and universally, the Word of God cannot be declared in vain. The book of Isaiah stated this clearly centuries ago when it depicted God as saying, "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isa. 55:11.

The statement of truth, understood, does go out with power to heal, save, and restore; it does not return without accomplishing its healing purpose. When the truth is declared and understood, it has an immediate effect; its action can be likened to the blowing of the wind: every little leaf and branch is moved and feels the effect. The words "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" state a command, the Third Commandment of the Decalogue, but perhaps we can also think of this as an encouragement; it gently assures us that we cannot declare the truth of being without its having an effect. If we are willing to be regenerated, to be obedient to God, every statement of truth we claim in our prayers and demonstrate in our lives becomes a significant factor in dispelling the mists of material sense and revealing the ever-present spiritual reality.

Having established the spiritual fact of God's allness, of man as His image and likeness, and of the power of the Word, we can deal with the concept of time and affirm that every day is a Sabbath day. Not only that, but every moment of every day is a Sabbath moment, belonging totally to divine Love. In reality, we live in eternity; clocks and calendars are man-made and define a space of time between material events. In the divine consciousness, which is Mind, God, there is only the eternal now. Therefore every moment can be a harmoniously unfolding Sabbath moment, which exists for us to worship God, to praise Him, and to show forth His being. Realizing that "now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation," II Cor. 6:2. we can literally live in the "now." Time is not a healer, and the realization of ever-present perfection rules out time as a remedial factor. In God's joyous day there is no toiling, no strain, no pressure—only divine fulfillment, satisfaction, and dominion. "This is the day the Lord hath made; / Be glad, give thanks, rejoice." Christian Science Hymnal, No. 342.

Because all are children of the one Father, we are in spiritual fact all of one family, caring deeply for each other, united in the bond of true spirituality.

Allowing our prayer to develop and expand on the basis just discussed, we can indeed honor our Father and Mother, God, and thus rightly establish all our relationships. Because all are children of the one Father, we are in spiritual fact all of one family, caring deeply for each other, united in the bond of true spirituality. Thus genuine harmony and right relationships are the outcome when we understand our basic relationship to our loving Father-Mother God. Obedience to the moral and spiritual demands of divine law makes our days and our relationships lasting and fulfilling. In our unselfish care for our fellow beings we mirror forth the tender, caring relationship of our loving Parent to us. No false beliefs of heredity, conflicting personalities, or family friction can survive under the glow of this healing love. How reassuring it is to know that our contacts with others can express the tenderness, understanding, and compassion indicated in this original, tender relationship to our Father-Mother God.

With this rocklike basis of thought, we are well equipped to go on and deal with the claims of animal magnetism, or evil, presented to us in the next three commandments: "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal."

Not to kill. Mortal mind, or the belief in evil, would have us condone certain aspects of killing; it would harden us through accounts and evidences of violence on television, in newspapers, or depicted in films; it would desensitize us to the natural spiritual attitudes of tenderness and care for our fellow inhabitants of this planet and make us insensitive to the suffering of others. Materialism, or mortal-mindedness, would claim to be able to kill our joy, deprive us of life and activity, destroy our inspiration, and slay our highest ideals. Obviously, the commandment is telling us not to take another's life; this is its basic message. And as we realize through Christian Science that man, as the reflection of Life, cannot kill or be killed, because Life is divine and eternal, we gain dominion over the temptation to disobey.

Not to commit adultery. Materialism both shouts and whispers that man is carnal, incomplete, sensual, and that by indulging in immoral acts, mentally or physically, he can have happiness and satisfaction. Adultery has many faces, some seen, some hidden. The mental indulgence in sensual daydreaming, or fantasizing, has to be guarded against just as surely as the outward flagrant disobedience to this commandment. All adulterous thought stems from the basic error exposed in the second account of Genesis, where both Adam and Eve believed the serpent suggestion that they were incomplete.

On another level, materialism would lead us to adulterate the truth by believing in good and evil, debase our standards, corrupt our lives, and contaminate our innate God-given innocence—that innocence bestowed on man in the first chapter of Genesis, unsullied by the serpent's enticements.

Seen from the standpoint of spiritual sense, this commandment lovingly reassures us that because all of God's creation is good, there is in reality no evil to suggest dualism of any kind; that God's man, continuously supplied by divine Love with all he needs, is safe, satisfied, and whole, with nothing to yearn for or desire. Demonstrating this fact in our daily lives may take substantial self-discipline. But our efforts to behave in a moral way are fully supported by God's law.

Not to steal. Because mortal mind bases its sense of substance entirely on matter, it would say that stealing is inevitable in a limited universe, permissible under certain circumstances, and a built-in factor of incomplete mortal man. This is a lie, and part of the package of the second account of Genesis, which depicts man as lacking and dissatisfied. This mortal view of life is filled with limitation, and if one believes it, one may be tempted to steal, whether the actual crime is shoplifting, white-collar theft, or tax dodging. The commandment's basic message is meant to tell us not to accept such a limited view of the good God has for us.

Materialism would also say that it could steal our spiritual sense, take away our usefulness, and consume our time with the trivial. Again, considering the commandment at its highest level, we can feel the gentle assurance that because Life and substance are infinite, the man of God has neither the desire nor the capacity to steal or to be stolen from, because he forever possesses all right ideas by reflection from his Father-Mother God.

Every one of the suggestions to kill or to commit adultery or to steal is an attempt of the carnal mind to make us believe that there is life in matter. When understood, "the scientific statement of being" in the Christian Science textbook totally demolishes the enticements of beliefs of either pleasure or pain in matter that would motivate us to kill, to adulterate, or to steal. It declares: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all...." Science and Health, p. 468.

Having dealt soundly with the mesmeric claims of the belief that life is material by replacing them with the conscious recognition of God's supremacy, we can see that the only evidence there can be is the evidence of the presence of God and His creation. The Ninth Commandment tells us, "Thou shalt not bear false witness ..." This is indeed an eternal fact of being: it is impossible for man in the image and likeness of the one all-good God to be anything but the witness to and evidence of God's perfection. If we are to obey this command, we cannot indulge in lies of any kind. Also, taking the rule a bit further, we see from the standpoint of Science that we also cannot permit ourselves to bear witness to, or give evidence of, imperfection or discord—whether verbally, visually, or mentally. Christ Jesus told Pilate, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." John 18:37. This is the true vocation and occupation of each one of us.

Instantaneous healing occurs when true witnessing takes place. As Science and Health explains, "If Spirit or the power of divine Love bear witness to the truth, this is the ultimatum, the scientific way, and the healing is instantaneous." Science and Health, p. 411.

In conclusion, our prayer, or Christian Science treatment, is finalized in the wonderful acknowledgment of total satisfaction, wholeness, and intactness implied by "Thou shalt not covet. ..." There is nothing for spiritual man—your and my true identity—to long for, desire, or need in this all-inclusive sense of being. God and man are one, inseparable, and complete. Self-satisfied complacency does not express this state of thought, which is illustrated, rather, by the dominion that comes as we know who we really are, what our divine rights are, and what we already possess as God's beloved child.

Taking the Ten Commandments, using them as a basis for prayer, and practicing the very highest sense of them in our daily lives will bring them alive again. These Commandments, when they are written in the tablet of our lives, are as powerful now as they were on Mount Sinai.

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