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What’s driving your prayers?

From the December 2015 issue of The Christian Science Journal


Are you stumped by a problem and wondering why the answer continually eludes you? Working out the solution may involve an adjustment in method. 

The Bible story of a fishing expedition recounted inJohn 21, verses 1–14, illustrates this point. Briefly, seven of Christ Jesus’ closest students decided to go fishing one night shortly after the resurrection. Although they gave a good effort to find fish by dropping and pulling up their nets all night, they came up with nothing. Then came the morning light. Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t know it was him. Jesus spoke to these humble fishermen, men whom he’d taught and who had a desire to continue his healing ministry, asking if they had any fish. They replied, “No.” He then suggested that they fish from the other side of the boat, “the right side.” There they had immediate success—so many fish, they struggled to haul their catch to shore!

Something had clearly shifted. Hadn’t they experienced this kind of thing in their association with Jesus? Health suddenly appearing where disease was rampant; food in abundance where supplies were short; life restored where the end had seemed final—these were the works of their beloved Master and Teacher. Suddenly, these disciples again recognized Jesus and the power of the Christ. 

More than just a teacher of some human problem-solving theory, Jesus was the great Exemplar of the practical method of Christ-healing. His theology included an understanding of the law of God and of the ever-present kingdom of God with us. Christ Jesus’ explanations and illustrations of healing prayer started with an understanding of God and ended with healing.

A priori reasoning 

Jesus’ methodology exemplified a priori ontological reasoning. Using a priori reasoning, Jesus reasoned from divine cause to healthy, spiritual effect when he prayed. He started with what to him was the undeniable spiritual cause of all, his Father—“Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), in his instructions on healing prayer. 

Webster’s dictionary describes ontology as “the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being, reality, or ultimate substance.” The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, recognized that Jesus understood “the divine healing Principle,” and that his “humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth,—of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 12). 

In Christian Science, a priori reasoning in prayer starts with the unopposed divine Principle, which is God; it reasons from the basis of this Principle to bring out the proofs of reality, or true being. 

It is reported that in a sermon, Mrs. Eddy once stated, “The method of Jesus was purely metaphysical; and no other method is Christian Science” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 170). In her textbook that explains Christ Jesus’ healing methodology, she wrote: 

“Our system of Mind-healing rests on the apprehension of the nature and essence of all being,—on the divine Mind and Love’s essential qualities. Its pharmacy is moral, and its medicine is intellectual and spiritual, though used for physical healing. Yet this most fundamental part of metaphysics is the one most difficult to understand and demonstrate, for to the material thought all is material, till such thought is rectified by Spirit” (Science and Health, p. 460).

Jesus started with one infinite God, the perfect Father, in healing sickness, casting out sin, and raising the dead. His theology, and his method of spiritual reasoning through prayer, effectively vanquished the material-mindedness that bases conclusions on fear and evidences of limitation and mortality. 

For us to practice his theology and method, we can’t ignore evil—sin and disease included—in prayer. Rather, we need to reduce evil to its true denomination as no cause, no thing, no mind, no power. This occurs as we understand and prayerfully reason out from the universal Principle, or Truth, which includes no evil. When following a priori reasoning, we see that evil is nothing to be feared. Sin, disease, and their varied manifestations are discovered to have no reality in God, good, the only real cause; and therefore, they have no control over man’s health or existence. God alone has authority over His reflection, man.

Working in divine light instead of in the dark

Jesus’ students often witnessed what his Christ-method of healing could do. They longed to be such healers themselves. But, despite his instructions and example, reasoning from the divine cause wasn’t always their first inclination in treating the sick. Passing by a man who was blind, the disciples suggested a couple of possible causes for this man’s condition. Jesus explained how he came at a healing from a completely different direction, saying, “It is expedient that I do the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night comes, when no one can work” (John 9:4, Jubilee Bible 2000). 

Jesus’ methodology means starting with what is real and true about God and man.

The light and dark imagery in this passage is symbolic. Jesus likens problem solving that starts with a material cause to trying to work in the dark of night: nothing good happens. He saw the expediency of working in light—in the day of spiritually enlightened thought. Jesus relied on his spiritual source, divine Truth. He expressed the healing Christ, the message and power of Truth, which revealed true being, or the “works of God” (John 9:3), in the patient. In short, while the disciples reasoned from the basis of the disease up to God, Jesus reasoned from perfect God to realize there is only perfection in man. Of these two approaches, only one could work. Jesus’ method worked; the man was healed. When we are confronted with erroneous beliefs and their manifestations in sin and disease, these errors must be reversed through right reasoning that gets right back to God as the only real cause.

Going back to the fishing expedition, the disciples fished all night on the wrong side. Once again, Jesus enlightened them to see a better way. “Convinced of the fruitlessness of their toil in the dark,” explains Science and Health, “and wakened by their Master’s voice, they changed their methods, turned away from material things, and cast their net on the right side” (p. 35).

Plumbing the dark abyss of materiality, they reaped nothing, but when Christ instructed them to change their approach and drop their nets on the spiritual side, which is always abundant, they found not just a few fish, but more fish than they could have imagined.

Properly unmasking animal magnetism

Science and Health devotes a seven-page chapter to a subject that is central to the healing method that Christ Jesus taught. The chapter, “Animal Magnetism Unmasked,” explains animal magnetism—the generic term for evil—and fully exposes it for what it is: a false mental influence that in reality is absolutely nothing—no mind, no power, and no person—never a true cause or true effect. This chapter teaches that evil is never a thing, or reality, and therefore never a part of God or man.

In this chapter we find clear statements on the unreal nature of evil, or error, which is always a mistaken sense of God and the real man. For example, we read: “Mankind must learn that evil is not power. Its so-called despotism is but a phase of nothingness” (p. 102). And here is one of my favorites: “The maximum of good is the infinite God and His idea, the All-in-all. Evil is a suppositional lie” (p. 103). In exposing the illusive nature and workings of animal magnetism, this chapter effectively reduces evil to zero. 

Fear of evil arises from believing that material causes can be real, urgent, and pressing. In reaction to fear, we may be duped into accepting material appearances as difficult or hopeless, and reason that we need to analyze circumstances in order to find our way to healing. When disease symptoms are in the driver’s seat, dominating our attempts to pray, we may find ourselves pulled to repeatedly cast our net into the futile abyss of material cause. That is a sure sign of being hypnotized by a problem. 

But when evil is recognized as nothing through spiritual understanding, and is reduced to zero in one’s thought by reversing it and discerning the truth, it loses its claim to be a real cause and stops being the focal point in prayer. Jesus’ methodology means starting with what is real and true about God and man in order to work in the daylight of the healing Christ and to effectively expose evil as unreal, untrue, and completely powerless over man.

Spiritual reasoning at work

One December, our beloved family cat, Ginger, started exhibiting disturbing behavior. She tore aggressively at her fur. Over the holidays, when I was away, Ginger stayed with a good friend. When she returned back home, she was still at it. By mid-January she had hardly any fur left on her tail, and her attention moved to her chest and one side. For weeks my prayers were a bit scattered; as I hastily shifted from contemplating one potential physical cause to another, I was getting nowhere. 

God as Mind governs every impulse and action of His creation.

One night, as I settled in bed, I once again caught sight of Ginger and her thin tail. I turned to God for direction on what to do. I would be leaving soon on a long business trip. One of my leading fears surfaced: Maybe I should pray again about the stress on her of my work. Then I thought, “No, not this time.” I wasn’t going to get pulled into that subject or the notion of any other erroneous cause. Instead, I silently affirmed her perfection as an idea of God, and her total exemption from disease and danger from any so-called material or emotional cause. My prayer became an exploration of the truth that divine Mind, God, is cause, and that peace and perfection are the only possible conditions of all God’s creatures, including our cat. 

I recognized evil as having no real influence on her. God as Mind governs every impulse and action of His creation. I saw Ginger as Mind’s spiritual idea, reflecting intelligence and self-control, and forever safe in the divine Mind that never subjects its ideas to unhealthy conditions. I prayed this way until I felt complete peace about Ginger. 

By morning, the self-destructive behavior had stopped, and within a short time, Ginger’s tail was back to its fluffy original state. She has been free of the problem ever since. 

My simple prayer to God, asking what more I could do, led to the insight that broke me free of the hypnotic pull to repetitively examine evil as cause, even when under the guise of praying about it. Like the disciples, I changed my method. I turned away from believing in a material cause and cast my attention on the right side of the issue. Ginger was healed through Christ, Truth, coming to my thought—through my gaining and holding to a better understanding of God and His perfect creation.

Of Christian healing, Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). The Christ is here to heal us in this world. And Jesus’ method, as explained in Christian Science, shows us how to heal in this divine light.

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