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From the August 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal

IMAGINE BEING ONE OF THE DISCIPLES who were privileged to be with Christ Jesus during his brief career. You experience firsthand the Master's love for the multitudes that followed him. You witness the many healings he performed. You see him raise the dead and hear him instruct you to do the same. And after your Master's crucifixion, you're in awe when you realize that he himself rose from the grave.

And yet, here you are one morning after Jesus' resurrection, out fishing with the other disciples. You aren't catching anything, and you feel adrift, in danger of getting caught up in old routines that you had outgrown.

A man calls to you from the shore and tells you to throw nets on the right side of the ship. When you do, the nets are so full of fish that you can barely drag them in. Then the man beckons you to come ashore and share a meal with him. You see a fire of coals and some fish and bread. You know from the way your heart burns in you that this man is the Master. And when he says, "Come and dine," John 21:12. you are sure of it.

As you join Jesus on the shore, you remember vividly your last supper together, when you drank wine from his cup and broke bread together, before his betrayal. On that sad occasion, as you were eating, the Master said to you, "Take, eat; this is my body." And of the wine in the cup, "Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matt. 26: 26–28.

That morning at the shore, your thoughts are once again deeply stirred by your Master's voice—that familiar coming of the Christ to your consciousness. This Christ, or divine influence of God, which Jesus lived so fully, immediately compels you to change your ways and to put your trust on the right side—on the side of Spirit rather than on the side of matter. You feel reborn. Your spiritual awakening to the Christ, always present in human consciousness, enables you to join Jesus' other followers in holy communion with the one God.

Our Eucharist

Referring to those momentous events, Mary Baker Eddy wrote this about their significance to Christian Scientists: "This spiritual meeting with our Lord in the dawn of a new light is the morning meal which Christian Scientists commemorate. They bow before Christ, Truth, to receive more of his reappearing and silently to commune with the divine Principle, Love. They celebrate their Lord's victory over death, his probation in the flesh after death, its exemplification of human probation, and his spiritual and final ascension above matter, or the flesh, when he rose out of material sight.

"... Our Eucharist is spiritual communion with the one God. Our bread, 'which cometh down from heaven,' is Truth. Our cup is the cross. Our wine the inspiration of Love, the draught our Master drank and commended to his followers." Science and Health, p. 35.

I find that every day I have need of this spiritual communion with God. Not long ago, I had been praying for several days without results for the healing of a painful physical condition. I read and thought over some of my favorite Bible passages, studied passages from Science and Health, and reasoned through all of the logical consequences of man and woman being the image and likeness of God, as the first chapter of Genesis reveals. But my condition did not improve. I honestly thought I had been praying to the best of my ability. Finally, I mentally got on my knees and asked God what I needed to know and do. That's when I realized that this was the first time I had actually addressed God directly in my prayer. Until then I had been engaged in metaphysical reasoning and mentally arguing for my divine right to health. But reason and argument just get us ready for prayer. They do not take the place of communing with and listening directly to God, because the heart of prayer is conscious communion with God.

As I humbly prayed and listened for God's messages to me, it was as if I were partaking of that long-ago communion meal with Jesus and the disciples—but now it was the always present Christ breaking bread with me, or communicating to me the spiritual truth of my being. This communion with our heavenly Father-Mother is what Jesus symbolized by breaking bread with his disciples. I felt inspired, bathed in God's love. My prayer had become true communion with divine Love. And this prayer quickly healed me of the physical condition.

I think of every spiritual struggle to overcome sin, sickness, and death through partaking of the Christ, as sharing the cup and wine that had so inspired the disciples during their last supper, when Jesus insisted that they drink of his cup. Wasn't Jesus making that same demand on all of his followers, even those of us today? On earlier occasions the Master had challenged his listeners to take up the cross and leave all for Christ—to give up old ways of thinking and acting and commit to a life of prayer and service, even if it meant taking on extra challenges and hardships.

Prayer and communion

Science and Health has a lot to say on the subject of prayer. One thought I find especially helpful is that "the intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man." Science and Health, p. 284. To me, one of the most important words in that statement is always. God is always speaking to us. And intercommunication implies that someone is getting the message. Otherwise all that would be going on would be a monologue. The divine Mind endows us with the spiritual sense to understand its messages.

I am sure most of us have had the experience of praying but not feeling any inspiration. That's when we say, "It's all just words." But inspiration is always flowing from God to His creation. So how can we be more receptive? To start, we can ask ourselves as we begin our prayer, "Am I really reaching out to God? Do I really want to be closer to Him and understand Him better? Is there enough aspiration?" In other words, we can ask whether or not we aspire to live the Christly qualities of compassion, forgiveness, and unselfishness consistently. This aspiration leads to inspiration, like breathing out and breathing in.

Jesus taught, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24. When we commune with God, are we sure our attitude is one of worship? Are we leaving all material-mindedness outside of the "closet" of prayer into which Christ Jesus challenged us to enter? Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "A condition precedent to communion with Spirit is the gain of spiritual life." Science and Health, p. 72. So we need to purify our lives to hear God.

The times dedicated to prayer are times of audience with God. The Bible is full of examples of spiritually-minded individuals turning directly to God. The Psalmist, for example, asks, "See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps. 139:24. And communing does not always mean petitioning God. It can be a direct expression of gratitude to Him, of thanking the Father for our oneness with Him.

I frequently spend the major part of my prayer making God more real to myself. When I commune with God, I don't want the feeling that I am getting an answering machine. He has to be so real to me that I feel as though I can draw closer to Him. It begins with my adoring God. As I let go of human outlining and selfish or sensual thinking, and as I reach out to God with all my heart, He embraces me in His love and answers my prayer. This communion can be effortless and joyous—in fact, the most exciting experience any of us can have.

Twice a year the subject of the Christian Science Lesson-Sermon is "Sacrament." During the Sunday service on sacrament, the congregation in Christian Science branch churches around the world kneels in silent communion and then prays together the Lord's Prayer. I love that service. As I kneel, I feel those around me joining in as we reach out to God and rededicate our lives to His service. I thank God for His love, I thank Him for the light of the Christ in my life, and I resolve to more consistently "put off the old man with his deeds; and ... put on the new man," as St. Paul put it. Col. 3:9, 10. This service is a reminder to have intimate communion with divine Love on a daily basis. To be born again each day.


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