A Christian Science perspective: On the infinite capacities we all have as God’s spiritual children.

As a praying person who loves kids, it’s natural for me to think about supporting returning students through prayer as the new school year gets under way. This is something I’ve been especially passionate about ever since I began tutoring high schoolers and saw the difference prayer could make in bringing out the potential within each student, including those who were struggling.

I’ve learned through my study of Christian Science that prayer makes a difference, but not because it snaps a distant and temperamental God into action. Instead, Christian Science presents God entirely differently – as divine Principle, the reliable, ever-operative, impartial Love that undergirds and governs us, His spiritual creation, through His loving law.

Understanding God this way changes the nature of prayer from a wishful, pleading approach to a desire to feel and know more of God’s unfailing goodness, and to be so conscious of the presence of that goodness that it comes to light in our lives. Here’s how the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, put it: “Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 2). When we’re truly in harmony with who God is and what He created us to be, anything that would hold us back has to fall away.

I saw this in a very practical way with one of my students, who seemed to be lacking some pretty basic skills that were necessary for her success. I found myself frustrated by her lack of progress and wondering what more I could do to help.

After one particularly discouraging meeting, it occurred to me that Christ Jesus’ teachings and healing works have always been a helpful model when it comes to addressing challenging situations in my own life. To Jesus, no one was a lost cause. No one was a hopeless case. He saw each individual’s God-given purpose and capacity for good, and this view healed. It liberated those who seemed unable to move forward with their lives – no matter how long they’d been stuck or struggling.

This inspired me to consider whether how I was seeing this student was truly helpful, and I prayed to reform my view of her. I asked God to lift my perspective up from limitations and hopelessness to a view that honored her as His unlimited, capable daughter.

As I prayed this way, I suddenly became aware of a thought that had been a frequent companion in our weeks of working together. It began, “If only she were more ....” In that moment, I saw the flaw in this line of reasoning. I couldn’t ask God to show me this student’s true nature as possessing unlimited capacities and still hold on to a view of her as missing some essential abilities.

Everything changed for me in that moment. The limitations I’d unwittingly classified as “hers” simply left my thought. I knew in a powerful way that she was whole, God-made. And I felt such gratitude to God for revealing more of who His spiritual children really are.

Seeing this student as inherently complete, and therefore capable of success, strengthened my ability to help her. She did indeed make progress, and watching this student grow and achieve after that was such a sweet reminder that an understanding of God has the power to free us from every conceivable limitation. And it’s proof to me that prayer can support all students in a very practical way – witnessing something of their God-given completeness and unlocking the potential of that completeness in their lives.

On a surface level, we might call this looking beyond the labels that would classify students, put them in boxes, and circumscribe their progress. But as we pray to understand more thoroughly that each of God’s children truly possesses infinite capacities, we’ll see that this is about something even more profound. This is about glimpsing what God created: the radiant wholeness of each child that guarantees his or her success.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.