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Why prayer? Freedom.

From the July 2022 issue of The Christian Science Journal

I’ve been asked before why a student of Christian Science would choose prayer to resolve an issue when a simple medical procedure or treatment is available. Of course, the answer to that will always be individual, but for many folks part of it may have to do with the ultimate goal, what they’re really after. 

A few years ago, a friend was relating her gratitude for a healing she’d had, and her thought process really resonated with me. She’d had some issue with a tooth that had been causing physical discomfort. She felt that going to the dentist would probably solve the issue relatively easily, but when she thought about what she really wanted, she said it was to learn something more about God and her spiritual expression of God. Ultimately, she wanted freedom, but not just physical freedom. She wanted to move in the direction of gaining mental freedom from the notion that life, truth, intelligence, and substance are in and of matter. 

My friend’s desire and willingness to take a prayerful and spiritual step to better understand God and her uninterrupted expression of God didn’t just bring a physical healing of the dental issue—it certainly did and I know she was deeply grateful—but that effort and willingness brought about something even more wonderful. It brought about a mental liberation. It gave her a tangible glimpse into “Life in and of Spirit” as the “sole reality of existence” (see Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 24).

I think the part that really stands out to me is her desire to address a deeper issue rather than just the surface symptoms. For me, the question comes down to perception. If our perception of life is that man is material, then we perceive a dental issue along with the discomfort as only material.

However, if one’s perception of life is that man is spiritual, then a dental issue and its discomfort may rightly be seen as just the aggressive suggestion that there is substance in matter. So a rational way forward would be to address and remove the notion that there is substance in matter rather than focusing on the tooth. This genuine approach, or perception, doesn’t ignore or neglect the body. It’s also not pandering to a dogma or a stubborn, willful attitude.

A difference in perception means there is a difference in goal. A few sentences here won’t fully address the depth of this spiritual, or Life-in-and-of-Spirit, perception, but can shed some light. Many folks find that a regular study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy provides a real access point to understanding, practicing, and proving that Spirit is the only reality.

The foundation is that God is Spirit, “the divine Principle of all existence” (Science and Health, p. 589). This Principle, or cause, produces an effect, an expression, that is wholly spiritual—the idea of God. This expression is God’s man—you and me. Each spiritual idea, each of us, is a unique, complete, and individual expression of infinite Spirit.

If God, Spirit, is all, then materiality, the exact opposite of Spirit, is solely a notion. It’s a kind of educated hypnotic suggestion that appears to be the primary factor in our lives. This hypnotic state of materialism is often referred to by Mrs. Eddy as a dream.

I think the part that really stands out to me is the desire to address a deeper issue.

So, if the goal is a larger freedom from the mental state of materialism, fixing up the dream won’t be enough. We want to actually wake up from it, not find a way to live within it. 

The prayer a Christian Scientist prays isn’t to try to fix matter, but instead is to see and feel more clearly that he or she is wholly spiritual—the spiritual effect of the Principle of all existence, God. Your individual prayers in this direction will no doubt open unique and new views for you. 

In my prayers I often take some account of the godly qualities I know to be mine, such as joy, peace, and holiness. This helps me more tangibly perceive the spiritual substance that is mine. It helps me understand that the body only represents my present perception of the spiritual qualities that have their source in God—the qualities that constitute the idea of God that I am. Instead of focusing so much of my thought on the body, that limited perception of me, my prayers help lift me to see more of God—more of Truth, Life, and Love—that Principle of all existence. And in this prayerful, receptive, listening mental space, “the dear Christ enters in” (Phillips Brooks, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 222) and ushers in healing.

Christ Jesus expressed the fullness of Christ, God’s message of love and truth to humanity. The divinity of Love, God, shone through him and made him the Way-shower for humanity. His life and ministry have tremendously helped people better understand their spiritual unity with God and feel the freedom that comes with it. 

Christ is the timeless divine influence of Love, God, that reaches human consciousness and lifts thought to the perception of what is right, real, and true. This transforms thought. And when thought moves, the body adjusts. When we glimpse or perceive something of Life in and of Spirit, the mental liberation takes place. The shackles manacling us to a belief that our life is material begin to fall away, and the body naturally shows forth that transformation of thought. We call it healing, and it is, but it’s healing as the outgrowth of mental freedom from the hypnotic view of materialism. That kind of freedom is much sweeter and is enduring because it’s rooted in something eternal, in Spirit.

I have had times where pursuing this spiritual growth has felt gentle and peaceful. I’ve also had times where it was a struggle. On many occasions the desire to know more of the Principle of all existence brought about the willingness to take the path Jesus mapped out, the path of Christ’s Christianity and healing. And experiencing the freedom from walking this path has been priceless.

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