PROPHETS have never really been popular. The Old Testament documents the lives of many prophets of great stature, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, whose inspired words have pointed the way to moral and spiritual freedom for all the world's peoples. But even in Bible times, those prepared to heed the prophets were few. Even Christ Jesus, the Son of God and the world's greatest prophet, suffered opposition and persecution for his message.
Today, it would seem that the only widespread role allowed for ''prophecy'' is in business, economic, political, and weather forecasts! Prophets of a more spiritual order, whose insights are less subject to change and fluctuation, seem to gain no greater prominence or respect than they did in ancient times. Nevertheless, they are here, and their work is still as valuable as it was in Bible times. In fact, spiritual prophecy is essential to mankind's progress, far more so than human forecasting.
Prophecy is much more than the prediction of future events. It is founded on spiritual discernment, the perception of a deeper reality than that which appears as outward experience. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by the Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy, defines the word prophet: ''A spiritual seer; disappearance of material sense before the conscious facts of spiritual Truth'' (p. 593). Doesn't this explanation give new insight into Jesus' admonition in John's Gospel ''Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment''? (7:24) Isn't this a way of saying to us, ''Be a prophet!''
Jesus' own experience illustrated this deeper type of prophetic activity. Perceiving the true nature of God and man, which the outward evidence of disease and discord seemed to hide, he was able to heal difficulties of every conceivable kind, even stilling storms and raising the dead. When healing a woman who had suffered a crippling back condition for eighteen years, for example, he said, ''Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity'' (Luke 13:12). Reassuring a nobleman of the safety of his son who appeared near to death, he said, ''Go thy way; thy son liveth'' (John 4:50). These statements--''Woman, thou art loosed . . .'' and ''. . . thy son liveth''--were not just indications of a human change. They were prophetic statements of spiritual reality, or the discernment of spiritual fact. In the kingdom of God, where man is forever living, freedom of movement and eternal life are the permanent facts of man's being.
Science and Health is filled with the spiritual truth that we need to follow Jesus' example as spiritual seers, as well as with loving counsel and insights that help each of us practice spiritual discernment in daily life, benefiting both ourselves and others. Mrs. Eddy, through her writings, is indeed a true prophet of today. Studying Science and Health in conjunction with the Bible shows anyone who is searching for Truth the line of prophetic light of which he or she is a part. Learning and practicing spiritual discernment, we are able to make a contribution to our world, bringing healing to individuals and to society.
I was called to help care for a woman who appeared to be very sick. While I was helping, I endeavored to hold mentally to the spiritual facts instead of being taken in by the appearance of discord. I knew God, divine Love, to be ever present, and affirmed that where God is, only good is going on. Gradually, the symptoms subsided and she allowed herself to be put to bed, accepting the reassurance of God's presence with her every moment. In the morning she telephoned me to say that she was completely well.
Prayer that strives to see what God has made is true prophecy. It is even now being practiced throughout the world and is meeting human needs in a way nothing else can. Clearly, there is plenty of room for more such prophets, plenty of need for healing. The wonderful thing is that everyone has a right to discover for himself or herself how to be a prophet--and to see the healing results.