SOMETIMES the word prayer is bandied about a little too lightly. Recently I was at the checkout counter of my local grocery store. The clerk was struggling to get all my purchases into one brown bag. ``It'll fit,'' chirped the customer behind me, ``with a push and a prayer.'' We've all on occasion referred lightly to something profound, and the comment was offered as encouragement. Even so, the power of prayer needs to be better understood. As a child I was healed through prayer of painful earaches. A Christian Science practitioner was called for help. This is someone who devotes full time to healing through prayer. A practitioner, striving to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus, is available to help anyone who is willing to rely on God as his or her Physician.
Although the trouble had to be dealt with more than once, relief came on each occasion solely as a result of prayer, and after a time this painful condition was permanently healed. It never again recurred.
Can your prayer and mine bring healing? Can we ourselves feel the warmth and strength of God's presence, of divine Love's nearness? Yes.
We need to turn to God with the purest faith in His all-embracing, beneficent power. Such absolute trust dispels doubt and fear. As we come to know God better, our faith in Him inevitably deepens. The teachings of Christian Science, grounded in the Bible, assert that God is completely good. Deity is never-failing, ever-present Spirit. God is our mighty, yet tender, Father-Mother.
In addition to faith, our prayer needs a full measure of expectancy. Do we pray for health or comfort or joy and then go on living as though these spiritual gifts will never be ours? We need to be receptive to divine blessings. We must expect our heavenly Father to care for us bountifully, perfectly, even better than a human father would. We might well say with the Psalmist: ``My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.... In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.''1
Also, our prayer needs to be brimming over with humility. It takes childlike meekness to know Deity as our creator and sustainer. Pride acts like a closed door, shutting us out from feeling the presence of God. But humility--a recognition of our utter dependence on our creator--prepares us to experience divine power.
Finally, our prayer needs to include some measure of spiritual understanding. We need at least a glimpse of the fact that God has already made each of us in His image, as the Bible declares (see Genesis 1:27).
What, exactly, are we as children of God? Not mortal creatures, subject to sickness, but perfect spiritual offspring of divine Spirit. Healing comes most readily when we're receptive to the spiritual fact that man, made by God, is wholly spiritual and therefore not liable to sickness in the first place. What appears to us as illness is, fundamentally, a manifestation of fear, the result of a misconception of man, who is God's perfect creation.
Prayer in Christian Science awakens us to the wholeness of our actual, spiritual identity as children of God, dispelling fearful, materialistic thinking and the ills associated with it.
The dearest prayer to all Christians is that given to us by Christ Jesus: the Lord's Prayer. It can be found, of course, in the Bible.2 At the conclusion of a chapter entitled ``Prayer'' in the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy3 offers what she understands to be the spiritual sense of the Lord's Prayer. Of the passage ``And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil'' she writes, ``And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death.''4
God, divine Love, is never the cause of illness. Rather, our Father-Mother God, acknowledged and adored in prayer and in lives that are growing more Godlike, liberates us from all disease. God frees us from whatever is unlike Him.
1Psalms 62:5, 7. 2See Matthew 6:9-13. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17. The Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine, contains more articles about God's power to heal. DAILY BIBLE VERSE I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. 1 Corinthians 14:15