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Praying in the light of revelation

From the November 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The ancients who named Orion, the Pleiades, and Arcturus probably saw more stars in the night sky than we do. Our cities send up a fog of light that hides the fainter stars. But the brightest ones still shine through, and we still look up with wonder at the display of twinkling “diamonds in the sky.” The view from Earth has remained pretty much the same for millennia. 

Now, however, we also have the Hubble Space Telescope above Earth’s hazy atmosphere sending us astonishing images of outer space. These dramatic views show us that what’s out there isn’t only shining points of light, but an infinite variety of galaxies, nebulae, supernovas, spirals, pulsars, and mysteries. They reveal dimensions, forms, and colors. There’s not a flat black ceiling with white diamonds anywhere. 

Of course, astronomers had been telling us about this for a while, but actually seeing it has been a revelation—a whole different view of stars. And this radical change in viewpoint can also give us a vivid sense of what revelation itself is, what it’s like to get a completely new view of something even when it may seem very familiar and established in thought. A revelation like this isn’t just building onto or shoring up what we already know; it’s a fundamental change in our understanding. It has the practical effect of correcting mistaken calculations or uninformed decisions. And it opens new paths and possibilities. 

It’s interesting that the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, refers to Christian Science or Divine Science as a revelation (see, for example, Retrospection and Introspection, p. 28, or The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 301). The revelation of Christian Science comes from above the haze of conventional materialism to show us God’s creation as it actually is—spiritual. Christian Science reveals what is unseen to the material senses but so apparent in Christ Jesus’ teaching and healing. Mrs. Eddy writes in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Evidence drawn from the five physical senses relates solely to human reason; and because of opacity to the true light, human reason dimly reflects and feebly transmits Jesus’ works and words. Truth is a revelation” (p. 117). 

This idea of revelation may be intriguing to consider, but then the question may also come: What does the revelation of Spirit’s allness and of creation as spiritual have to do with my life, with my prayers—especially at those times when I’m scared or struggling or sad? Wouldn’t purely spiritual views feel cold or remote in times of fear, grief, or pain, like a theory or a distant place out of reach of you and me?

Actually, spiritual views feel more like an embrace than a theory or a tract. This is because these spiritual views, as explained in Christian Science, are clearer views of divine Love—of the perfect Love that Jesus exemplified, as the “good shepherd” keeping his lambs safe. Jesus showed us that divine Love doesn’t leave a blind man sitting by the wayside or a disabled man sitting hopelessly by a pool. He described Love as a Father running with joy to embrace a lost son. He showed that Love heals children, servants, mothers-in-law, soldiers, outcasts, dear friends, and even those who want to be enemies. 

When we read the Bible or the textbook of Christian Science, the revelation of spiritual reality doesn’t feel like religious creeds thrown at us in times of need; it feels more like a new recognition of God as entirely good. We don’t find ourselves in a tight little box of doctrine, but are introduced to the freedom of infinite Spirit. Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). 

When we read the Bible or the textbook of Christian Science, the revelation of spiritual reality doesn’t feel like religious creeds thrown at us in times of need; it feels more like a new recognition of God as entirely good. 

There have been testimonies of healing in each copy of The Christian Science Journal, Sentinel, and Herald since these periodicals were founded well over a century ago. These healings often illustrate the relationship of revelation to prayer. As an example, there is a testimony from Frances Fenn in the Journal. Mrs. Fenn had experienced a severe throat infection every winter since childhood. After she had been studying Christian Science for several years, she faced another infection one winter and started to pray about it, but after five days, the trouble still continued. Then, as she relates, “After a particularly trying night and morning, the thought came clearly to me, ‘If all these statements which you have been making are true, why do you not get up and go about your business?’ I heeded the angel message, and arose at once and dressed myself. Within a few hours my strength returned, the disease vanished, and I began to learn actively to claim the truth I voiced. This healing took place over twenty years ago and has been permanent” (June 1943). 

Mrs. Fenn had been earnestly staying with the revelation of Truth that she had found in her study of Christian Science. Then, instead of thinking of her study and prayers as “all these statements,” she began to see them as truths that could be lived. Think about what a holy “few hours” those must have been, as she arose, dressed herself, and walked steadfastly in this revelation, and then her strength returned.    

Or there’s Myona Fisher, who was experiencing a lot of internal discomfort and eventually, with few exceptions, only left the house to attend church. In her testimony in the Journal, she says of this time: 

“While the physical problem seemed to be limiting me, I was gaining a better understanding of God and of man as His reflection.… 

“One day the difficulty seemed unusually severe, and I was grateful for my husband’s prayerful help when he arrived home. We reaffirmed the truth together, acknowledging the allness of God and the utter nothingness of evil. I spent the next hour realizing that Love is everywhere, embracing its own creation, and has no battle, and then arose, completely healed, from the sofa upon which I had been resting” (Journal, July 1972). 

Again, there is that remarkable light of revelation that was so different from what the material senses were saying. Right when things seemed “unusually severe,” she had a quiet healing time realizing Love’s allness, apart from any battle. It wasn’t only that in reality there was no sickness, but that she was, right then, in reality.

Revelation—the way the word is often used—may refer to a flash-of-inspiration experience, when suddenly a new idea is understood. But revelation may also come more gradually. As Mrs. Eddy mentions in Science and Health, the revelation of Christian Science came to her “gradually and apparently through divine power” (p. 109). She also explains that revelation doesn’t skip over reasoning, but clarifies it—that revelation “will rescue reason from the thrall of error” (No and Yes, p. 11). 

But what if we are inspired by the truths of Christian Science and we embrace divine Truth, yet like Frances Fenn or Myona Fisher (who tell of praying for some time before their decisive healings), we haven’t experienced an immediate change in the physical condition? Is this discouraging? How do we proceed in this circumstance? How did they proceed?

It’s interesting that they didn’t appear to make what Mrs. Eddy calls “the great mistake of mortals.” The full sentence in Science and Health reads: “The great mistake of mortals is to suppose that man, God’s image and likeness, is both matter and Spirit, both good and evil” (p. 216). When presented with physical discord’s contradiction of the revelation of man as God’s perfect likeness, these two individuals, as well as so many others who have been healed through Christian Science, didn’t make the mistake of adjusting revelation to accommodate material evidence. That would be like trying to modify the views from the Hubble telescope based on the conviction of so many years of twinkling stars. They didn’t try to accommodate both viewpoints. Nor did they relegate revelation to a future time or another “level” of experience. And the revelation of divine Science took care of them, leading their prayers to Truth’s healing power. 

Prayers based on revelation are humble prayers. With humility we become willing to question the pain and fear that contradict the reality of God’s omnipotence. We are enabled to disbelieve suggestions that our real selves could be even partially separated from God. 

It may seem as though prayer that stays strictly with revelation would be abstract—a kind of elevated or rapturous thinking that floats above or ignores the specific challenges of disease or sin. So it’s helpful to look at the illustration of specific prayer that’s given in Science and Health in the chapter “Christian Science Practice.” There, Mrs. Eddy uses an allegory to show, among other things, how to meet the immediate claims of disease or sin without leaving the light of revelation (see pp. 430–442). 

Briefly, this allegory takes the form of a trial in a court of law. In this trial, the “crime” being tried is a disease. The trial begins when a good man becomes ill and is taken to the Court of Error—a court that is based on a material sense of existence. There the man is “accused” of a variety of serious physical symptoms and of what are considered to be mistakes in judgment. It’s a quick trial. In fact, the judge and jury hear only accusations, and there is no defense at all. The man is declared guilty and sentenced to death. 

This feeling of being defenseless in the face of fears and symptoms may sound familiar to us, too. But at this point in the allegory, the Christ comes with the message of Truth. Instead of arguing against the accusations in the Court of Error, the Christ lifts the man out of that court and puts him in the Court of Spirit. The Court of Spirit is a higher court that is based on the revelation of Spirit, God, being the only reality. In this court the man is defended; Christian Science is his defense attorney. The account says that at this point, “Witnesses, judges, and jurors, who were at the previous Court of Error, are now summoned to appear before the bar of Justice and eternal Truth.” Each of their accusations and each symptom is now considered in the light of the Court of Spirit and exposed as unjust, powerless, untrue. The patient is found to be innocent and is healed. 

Mrs. Eddy described her first views of the scope and perfection of Christian Science in an article titled “Emergence into Light,” saying, “Being was beautiful, its substance, cause, and currents were God and His idea” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 23). As our prayers follow the Christ into the revelation of divine Truth, we can experience this beauty too. And we will begin to look around us as the astronomer who “will no longer look up to the stars,—he will look out from them upon the universe; …” (Science and Health, p. 125).

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