The prayer that reforms the sinner and
heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, - a
spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love. Regardless of what another may
say or think on this subject, I speak from experience. Prayer, watching, and
working, combined with self-immolation, are God's gracious means for
accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and
health of mankind.
Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine
Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our
desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and
What are the motives for prayer? Do we pray to
make ourselves better or to benefit those who hear us, to enlighten the infinite
or to be heard of men? Are we benefited by praying? Yes, the desire which goes
forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not
return unto us void.
God is not moved by the breath of praise to do
more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all
good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love. We can do more for ourselves by
humble fervent petitions, but the All-loving does not grant them simply on the
ground of lip-service, for He already knows all.
Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it
tends to bring us into harmony with it. Goodness attains the demonstration of
Truth. A request that God will save us is not all that is required. The mere
habit of pleading with the divine Mind, as one pleads with a human being,
perpetuates the belief in God as humanly circumscribed, - an error which impedes
God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is
intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already
comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection? Shall we plead for more at the
open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept? The unspoken desire does
bring us nearer the source of all existence and blessedness.
Asking God to be
God is a vain repetition. God is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and
forever;" and He who is immutably right will do right without being
reminded of His province. The wisdom of man is not sufficient to warrant him in
Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the
principle of mathematics to solve the problem? The rule is already established,
and it is our task to work out the solution. Shall we ask the divine Principle
of all goodness to do His own work? His work is done, and we have only to avail
ourselves of God's rule in order to receive His blessing, which enables us to
work out our own salvation.
The Divine Being must be reflected by man, - else
man is not the image and likeness of the patient, tender, and true, the One
"altogether lovely;" but to understand God is the work of eternity,
and demands absolute consecration of thought, energy, and desire.
How empty are our conceptions of Deity! We admit
theoretically that God is good, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, and then we
try to give information to this infinite Mind. We plead for unmerited pardon and
for a liberal outpouring of benefactions. Are we really grateful for the good
already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and
thus be fitted to receive more. Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression
of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech.
If we are ungrateful for Life, Truth, and Love,
and yet return thanks to God for all blessings, we are insincere and incur the
sharp censure our Master pronounces on hypocrites. In such a case, the only
acceptable prayer is to put the finger on the lips and remember our blessings.
While the heart is far from divine Truth and Love, we cannot conceal the
ingratitude of barren lives.
What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire
for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds. To
keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt
to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done.
Outward worship is not of itself sufficient to express loyal and heartfelt
gratitude, since he has said: "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
The habitual struggle to be always good is
unceasing prayer. Its motives are made manifest in the blessings they bring, -
blessings which, even if not acknowledged in audible words, attest our
worthiness to be partakers of Love.
Simply asking that we may love God will never
make us love Him; but the longing to be better and holier, expressed in daily
watchfulness and in striving to assimilate more of the divine character, will
mould and fashion us anew, until we awake in His likeness. We reach the Science
of Christianity through demonstration of the divine nature; but in this wicked
world goodness will "be evil spoken of," and patience must bring
Audible prayer can never do the works of
spiritual understanding, which regenerates; but silent prayer, watchfulness, and
devout obedience enable us to follow Jesus' example. Long prayers, superstition,
and creeds clip the strong pinions of love, and clothe religion in human forms.
Whatever materializes worship hinders man's spiritual growth and keeps him from
demonstrating his power over error.
Sorrow for wrong-doing is but one step towards
reform and the very easiest step. The next and great step required by wisdom is
the test of our sincerity, - namely, reformation. To this end we are placed
under the stress of circumstances. Temptation bids us repeat the offence, and
woe comes in return for what is done. So it will ever be, till we learn that
there is no discount in the law of justice and that we must pay "the
uttermost farthing." The measure ye mete "shall be measured to you
again," and it will be full "and running over."
Saints and sinners get their full award, but not
always in this world. The followers of Christ drank his cup. Ingratitude and
persecution filled it to the brim; but God pours the riches of His love into the
understanding and affections, giving us strength according to our day. Sinners
flourish "like a green bay tree;" but, looking farther, the Psalmist
could see their end, - the destruction of sin through suffering.
of human sin
Prayer is not to be used as a confessional to
cancel sin. Such an error would impede true religion. Sin is forgiven only as it
is destroyed by Christ, - Truth and Life. If prayer nourishes the belief that
sin is cancelled, and that man is made better merely by praying, prayer is an
evil. He grows worse who continues in sin because he fancies himself forgiven.
An apostle says that the Son of God [Christ] came
to "destroy the works
of the devil." We should follow our divine Exemplar, and seek the
destruction of all evil works, error and disease included. We cannot escape the
penalty due for sin. The Scriptures say, that if we deny Christ, "he also
will deny us."
Divine Love corrects and governs man. Men may
pardon, but this divine Principle alone reforms the sinner. God is not separate
from the wisdom He bestows. The talents He gives we must improve. Calling on Him
to forgive our work badly done or left undone, implies the vain supposition that
we have nothing to do but to ask pardon, and that afterwards we shall be free to
repeat the offence.
To cause suffering as the result of sin, is the
means of destroying sin. Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than
its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed. To
reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of
"God is Love." More than this we cannot
ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go. To suppose that God forgives
or punishes sin according as His mercy is sought or unsought, is to
misunderstand Love and to make prayer the safety-valve for wrong-doing.
Jesus uncovered and rebuked sin before he cast it
out. Of a sick woman he said that Satan had bound her, and to Peter he said,
"Thou art an offence unto me." He came teaching and showing men how to
destroy sin, sickness, and death. He said of the fruitless tree, "[It] is
It is believed by many that a certain magistrate,
who lived in the time of Jesus, left this record: "His rebuke is
fearful." The strong language of our Master confirms this description.
The only civil sentence which he had for error
was, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Still stronger evidence that Jesus'
reproof was pointed and pungent is found in his own words, - showing the
necessity for such forcible utterance, when he cast out devils and healed the
sick and sinning. The relinquishment of error deprives material sense of its
Audible prayer is impressive; it gives momentary
solemnity and elevation to thought. But does it produce any lasting benefit?
Looking deeply into these things, we find that "a zeal . . . not according
to knowledge" gives occasion for reaction unfavorable to spiritual growth,
sober resolve, and wholesome perception of God's requirements. The motives for
verbal prayer may embrace too much love of applause to induce or encourage
Physical sensation, not Soul, produces material
ecstasy and emotion. If spiritual sense always guided men, there would grow out
of ecstatic moments a higher experience and a better life with more devout
self-abnegation and purity. A self-satisfied ventilation of fervent sentiments
never makes a Christian. God is not influenced by man. The "divine
ear" is not an auditory nerve. It is the all-hearing and all-knowing Mind,
to whom each need of man is always known and by whom it will be supplied.
from audible prayer
The danger from prayer is that it may lead us
into temptation. By it we may become involuntary hypocrites, uttering desires
which are not real and consoling ourselves in the midst of sin with the
recollection that we have prayed over it or mean to ask forgiveness at some
later day. Hypocrisy is fatal to religion.
A wordy prayer may afford a quiet sense of
self-justification, though it makes the sinner a hypocrite. We never need to
despair of an honest heart; but there is little hope for those who come only
spasmodically face to face with their wickedness and then seek to hide it. Their
prayers are indexes which do not correspond with their character. They hold
secret fellowship with sin, and such externals are spoken of by Jesus as
"like unto whited sepulchres . . . full . . . of all uncleanness."
If a man, though apparently fervent and
prayerful, is impure and therefore insincere, what must be the comment upon him?
If he reached the loftiness of his prayer, there would be no occasion for
comment. If we feel the aspiration, humility, gratitude, and love which our
words express, - this God accepts; and it is wise not to try to deceive
ourselves or others, for "there is nothing covered that shall not be
revealed." Professions and audible prayers are like charity in one respect,
- they "cover the multitude of sins." Praying for humility with
whatever fervency of expression does not always mean a desire for it. If we turn
away from the poor, we are not ready to receive the reward of Him who blesses
the poor. We confess to having a very wicked heart and ask that it may be laid
bare before us, but do we not already know more of this heart than we are
willing to have our neighbor see?
We should examine ourselves and learn what is the
affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we
honestly are. If a friend informs us of a fault, do we listen patiently to the
rebuke and credit what is said? Do we not rather give thanks that we are
"not as other men"? During many years the author has been most
grateful for merited rebuke. The wrong lies in unmerited censure, - in the
falsehood which does no one any good.
The test of all prayer lies in the answer to
these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we
pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better,
though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living
consistently with our prayer? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we
shall regard our neighbor unselfishly, and bless them that curse us; but we
shall never meet this great duty simply by asking that it may be done. There is
a cross to be taken up before we can enjoy the fruition of our hope and faith.
Dost thou "love the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind"? This command
includes much, even the surrender of all merely material sensation, affection,
and worship. This is the El Dorado of Christianity. It involves the Science of
Life, and recognizes only the divine control of Spirit, in which Soul is our
master, and material sense and human will have no place.
Are you willing to leave all for Christ, for
Truth, and so be counted among sinners? No! Do you really desire to attain this
point? No! Then why make long prayers about it and ask to be Christians, since
you do not care to tread in the footsteps of our dear Master? If unwilling to
follow his example, why pray with the lips that you may be partakers of his
nature? Consistent prayer is the desire to do right. Prayer means that we desire
to walk and will walk in the light so far as we receive it, even though with
bleeding footsteps, and that waiting patiently on the Lord, we will leave our
real desires to be rewarded by Him.
The world must grow to the spiritual
understanding of prayer. If good enough to profit by Jesus' cup of earthly
sorrows, God will sustain us under these sorrows. Until we are thus divinely
qualified and are willing to drink his cup, millions of vain repetitions will
never pour into prayer the unction of Spirit in demonstration of power and
"with signs following." Christian Science reveals a necessity for
overcoming the world, the flesh, and evil, and thus destroying all error.
Seeking is not sufficient. It is striving that
enables us to enter. Spiritual attainments open the door to a higher
understanding of the divine Life.
One of the forms of worship in Thibet is to carry
a praying-machine through the streets, and stop at the doors to earn a penny by
grinding out a prayer. But the advance guard of progress has paid for the
privilege of prayer the price of persecution.
Experience teaches us that we do not always
receive the blessings we ask for in prayer. There is some misapprehension of the
source and means of all goodness and blessedness, or we should certainly receive
that for which we ask. The Scriptures say: "Ye ask, and receive not,
because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." That which
we desire and for which we ask, it is not always best for us to receive. In this
case infinite Love will not grant the request. Do you ask wisdom to be merciful
and not to punish sin? Then "ye ask amiss." Without punishment, sin
would multiply. Jesus' prayer, "Forgive us our debts," specified also
the terms of forgiveness. When forgiving the adulterous woman he said, "Go,
and sin no more."
A magistrate sometimes remits the penalty, but
this may be no moral benefit to the criminal, and at best, it only saves the
criminal from one form of punishment. The moral law, which has the right to
acquit or condemn, always demands restitution before mortals can "go up
higher." Broken law brings penalty in order to compel this progress.
Mere legal pardon (and there is no other, for
divine Principle never pardons our sins or mistakes till they are corrected)
leaves the offender free to repeat the offence, if indeed, he has not already
suffered sufficiently from vice to make him turn from it with loathing. Truth
bestows no pardon upon error, but wipes it out in the most effectual manner.
Jesus suffered for our sins, not to annul the divine sentence for an
individual's sin, but because sin brings inevitable suffering.
Petitions bring to mortals only the results of
mortals' own faith. We know that a desire for holiness is requisite in order to
gain holiness; but if we desire holiness above all else, we shall sacrifice
everything for it. We must be willing to do this, that we may walk securely in
the only practical road to holiness. Prayer cannot change the unalterable Truth,
nor can prayer alone give us an understanding of Truth; but prayer, coupled with
a fervent habitual desire to know and do the will of God, will bring us into all
Truth. Such a desire has little need of audible expression. It is best expressed
in thought and in life.
"The prayer of faith shall save the
sick," says the Scripture. What is this healing prayer? A mere request that
God will heal the sick has no power to gain more of the divine presence than is
always at hand. The beneficial effect of such prayer for the sick is on the
human mind, making it act more powerfully on the body through a blind faith in
God. This, however, is one belief casting out another, - a belief in the unknown
casting out a belief in sickness. It is neither Science nor Truth which acts
through blind belief, nor is it the human understanding of the divine healing
Principle as manifested in Jesus, whose humble prayers were deep and
conscientious protests of Truth, - of man's likeness to God and of man's unity
with Truth and Love.
Prayer to a corporeal God affects the sick like a
drug, which has no efficacy of its own but borrows its power from human faith
and belief. The drug does nothing, because it has no intelligence. It is a
mortal belief, not divine Principle or Love, which causes a drug to be
apparently either poisonous or sanative.
The common custom of praying for the recovery of
the sick finds help in blind belief, whereas help should come from the
enlightened understanding. Changes in belief may go on indefinitely, but they
are the merchandise of human thought and not the outgrowth of divine Science.
impartial and universal
Does Deity interpose in behalf of one worshipper,
and not help another who offers the same measure of prayer? If the sick recover
because they pray or are prayed for audibly, only petitioners (per
se or by proxy) should get well. In divine Science, where
prayers are mental, all
may avail themselves of God as "a very present help in trouble." Love
is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount
which cries, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters."
In public prayer we often go beyond our
convictions, beyond the honest standpoint of fervent desire. If we are not
secretly yearning and openly striving for the accomplishment of all we ask, our
prayers are "vain repetitions," such as the heathen use. If our
petitions are sincere, we labor for what we ask; and our Father, who seeth in
secret, will reward us openly. Can the mere public expression of our desires
increase them? Do we gain the omnipotent ear sooner by words than by thoughts?
Even if prayer is sincere, God knows our need before we tell Him or our
fellow-beings about it. If we cherish the desire honestly and silently and
humbly, God will bless it, and we shall incur less risk of overwhelming our real
wishes with a torrent of words.
If we pray to God as a corporeal person, this
will prevent us from relinquishing the human doubts and fears which attend such
a belief, and so we cannot grasp the wonders wrought by infinite, incorporeal
Love, to whom all things are possible. Because of human ignorance of the divine
Principle, Love, the Father of all is represented as a corporeal creator; hence
men recognize themselves as merely physical, and are ignorant of man as God's
image or reflection and of man's eternal incorporeal existence. The world of
error is ignorant of the world of Truth, - blind to the reality of man's
existence, - for the world of sensation is not cognizant of life in Soul, not in
If we are sensibly with the body and regard
omnipotence as a corporeal, material person, whose ear we would gain, we are not
"absent from the body" and "present with the Lord" in the
demonstration of Spirit. We cannot "serve two masters." To be
"present with the Lord" is to have, not mere emotional ecstasy or
faith, but the actual demonstration and understanding of Life as revealed in
Christian Science. To be "with the Lord" is to be in obedience to the
law of God, to be absolutely governed by divine Love, - by Spirit, not by
Become conscious for a single moment that Life
and intelligence are purely spiritual, - neither in nor of matter, - and the
body will then utter no complaints. If suffering from a belief in sickness, you
will find yourself suddenly well. Sorrow is turned into joy when the body is
controlled by spiritual Life, Truth, and Love. Hence the hope of the promise
Jesus bestows: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do
also; . . . because I go unto my Father,"-[because the Ego is absent from
the body, and present with Truth and Love.] The Lord's Prayer is the prayer of
Soul, not of material sense.
Entirely separate from the belief and dream of
material living, is the Life divine, revealing spiritual understanding and the
consciousness of man's dominion over the whole earth. This understanding casts
out error and heals the sick, and with it you can speak "as one having
"When thou prayest, enter into thy closet,
and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and
thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
So spake Jesus. The closet typifies the sanctuary
of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and
Love. Closed to error, it is open to Truth, and vice
versa. The Father in secret is unseen to the physical senses,
but He knows all things and rewards according to motives, not according to
speech. To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be
closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience
with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error.
In order to pray aright, we must enter into the
closet and shut the door. We must close the lips and silence the material
senses. In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead
God's allness. We must resolve to take up the cross, and go forth with honest
hearts to work and watch for wisdom, Truth, and Love. We must "pray without
ceasing." Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into
practice. The Master's injunction is, that we pray in secret and let our lives
attest our sincerity.
Christians rejoice in secret beauty and bounty,
hidden from the world, but known to God. Self-forgetfulness, purity, and
affection are constant prayers. Practice not profession, understanding not
belief, gain the ear and right hand of omnipotence and they assuredly call down
infinite blessings. Trustworthiness is the foundation of enlightened faith.
Without a fitness for holiness, we cannot receive holiness.
A great sacrifice of material things must precede
this advanced spiritual understanding. The highest prayer is not one of faith
merely; it is demonstration. Such prayer heals sickness, and must destroy sin
and death. It distinguishes between Truth that is sinless and the falsity of
of Jesus Christ
Our Master taught his disciples one brief prayer,
which we name after him the Lord's Prayer. Our Master said, "After this
manner therefore pray ye," and then he gave that prayer which covers all
human needs. There is indeed some doubt among Bible scholars, whether the last
line is not an addition to the prayer by a later copyist; but this does not
affect the meaning of the prayer itself.
In the phrase, "Deliver us from evil,"
the original properly reads, "Deliver us from the evil one." This
reading strengthens our scientific apprehension of the petition, for Christian
Science teaches us that "the evil one," or one evil, is but another
name for the first lie and all liars.
Only as we rise above all material sensuousness
and sin, can we reach the heaven-born aspiration and spiritual consciousness,
which is indicated in the Lord's Prayer and which instantaneously heals the
Lord's Prayer -
Here let me give what I understand to be the
spiritual sense of the Lord's Prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Father-Mother God, all-harmonious,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
to know, - as in heaven, so on earth, - God is omnipotent, supreme.
Give us this day our daily bread;
grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
is reflected in love;
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
For God is
infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All.