There is increased interest in the healing power of prayer these days. And although people approach the subject in a variety of ways, those who are searching have much in common.
I attended a symposium on spirituality and healing sponsored by a major university that addressed this topic before a large audience. During a break, I talked with the man next to me. He is a doctor who practices general medicine at a large hospital. We spoke for some time about the place prayer has in physical healing. We found we shared a conviction that prayer is effective. As we exchanged thoughts on how powerful prayer is, he posed an insightful question: "When you pray for healing, are you praying to change the body or praying to understand more of God?"
The search for physical healing through prayer is a search to understand God. The textbook of Christian Science, written by Mary Baker Eddy (who discovered the laws of God that enabled Christ Jesus to heal), offers the following: "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 390). Principle is used here as a synonym for God, the creator of the universe, including each one of us.
Our prayer to God for healing is marked by two phenomena that happen simultaneously. The first is that when we pray we become more aware of God's nature - more aware of His goodness, infinitude, power, love for us. The second is that we awake to a new sense of who we are as His children. We begin to view ourselves as more loving because we have become more aware of His total love for us; we become more aware of spiritual well-being because the awareness of God as Spirit is powerful.
Whatever you and I come to understand of God's true nature and power through our prayer brings a new and wonderful regeneration to our character and body. This is a result of learning the spiritual relation we have to God. We may think of the relationship as that of a child to the divine Parent. Or we may think of God as the great Shepherd, rescuing, leading, guiding us, His flock.
There is a cause-and-effect relationship between God and His creation. This is what underlies our desire to pray to Him for healing. It is also the reason that, in learning more about God, we experience a change for good in our lives. As we seek to find who God really is, we are seeking to find who we really are as His spiritual expression.
As my new acquaintance and I shared ideas and experiences, I mentioned a healing in which I had learned something more of God's nature as Spirit (a name for Him found in the Bible).
One night, I was feverish and was fading in and out of consciousness. I had been relying exclusively on prayer for healing. Spiritual healing occurs mentally, not through physical treatment, and I was seeking to understand better how God has made all His creation in His nature, spiritual and good (see Gen. 1:26). I knew I could not be left outside the care of Spirit. I was not relegated to a material existence; rather, because of the correlation between God and His child, I was His spiritual reflection and as such had health, holiness, and happiness from Him right then.
During this experience, I found myself repeating out loud, "I am not material; I am spiritual." It became clearer to me that this is the underlying truth of my being; I am spiritual because my creator, God, is Spirit. My faith rested without reservation in this truth.
I was immediately, completely, free of the fever at that moment. What had brought this healing through prayer alone? I had gained some new sense of God. And as my physician friend and I talked, we both acknowledged the fact that the power of God had brought the healing.
The book of Isaiah says, "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me" (43:10). The more we understand our relation to God, the more we understand that the power of God heals and regenerates - and fills our lives with happiness.