Redeeming ‘thoughts and prayers’

Today’s column explores how an openness to God as infinitely good can lift our “thoughts and prayers” to be more than just words – supporting and inspiring efforts to meet the world’s challenges.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Following recent tragic events such as the shooting in Parkland, Fla., commentary denouncing “thoughts and prayers” has spread through print, visual, and social media. Critics claim that the condolence is used by many as empty words to replace corrective action. And indeed, the phrase certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse for inaction.

I’ve seen, however, that “thoughts and prayers” can go well beyond simple words. If that “thought” is dedicated to practical solutions, it can support and inspire action that brings tangible progress – especially when there is an openness to the boundless resources of divine intelligence and good.

Our innermost desires influence what we say and do, consciously or unconsciously. I have been learning that every thought we think, if it represents a genuine desire for good, is actually a prayer. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy explained: “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 in deeds” (p. 1).

Seen in this light, every heartfelt desire for healing, comfort, peace, and safety is a noble, generous, and loving prayer. But if the truth be told, some desires can be misguided, undermined by self-interest, anger, greed, or bias, impeding progress. “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart,” Christ Jesus once said (Matthew 15:18, International Standard Version). Jesus prayed deeply, humbly, from a pure heart – with the highest and best motives – for himself and others that all might experience God’s infinite, healing love. Today humanity still cries for the depth of thought and humility that heals.

I’ve learned through my study and practice of Christian Science that every thought, every desire, can be lifted up and exalted. Christian Science describes God as the universal divine Mind. Everything this infinite Mind knows – including each of us, in our true identity as God’s creation – is spiritual and good, because that’s the nature of God.

This radical way to think about God and each other offers a powerful basis for hope, progress, and healing. From this divine source of good flows unlimited intelligence, wisdom, and the inspiration necessary to meet even the most discouraging challenges. However it may seem on the surface, no one is excluded from this spiritual goodness. We all have the ability to humbly let divine Mind, God, lift us up. This gives courage, counters fear, and provides mental stability. It invites God’s redeeming and transforming light to penetrate and destroy thoughts of darkness, fear, or hopelessness.

When hurricanes hit Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico in rapid succession last year, an acquaintance of mine felt overwhelmed by the news reports. She also lived far away and couldn’t see what contribution of value she could make. Seeking hope and clarity, she prayed.

She told me that her prayers brought her the assurance that divine good is present, is the spiritual reality, even in the midst of what seems to be total loss. And she realized that the comfort and peace she felt as a result of her prayers were available to every person impacted by the hurricanes too, because God is the source of unstoppable good, and God’s love is present everywhere.

Later that day, my friend had a modest but encouraging opportunity to express that love in a tangible way. She happened to notice a post on Facebook about a particular family in need. She realized that she had in her home exactly what would meet the need, and took the necessary steps to share it with the family.

To me this is a simple example of how lifting one’s thought in prayer to the fact of God’s ever-present goodness for all of us, His spiritual creation, can open the way for a spiritual sense of love, peace, and inspiration, even when we’re feeling overwhelmed by the human need. And sometimes this can include opportunities to take specific, appropriate action.

Jesus didn’t offer hollow prayers when confronted with human needs. His prayers were substantial and effective. They comforted and healed. He didn’t settle for partial progress. In the case of a blind man who appeared to be only partially healed through Jesus’ initial treatment, Jesus persisted in helping him “look up” until his sight was fully restored (see Mark 8:22-25). Underlying all of Jesus’ prayers was the universal truth that God, Mind, is the ever-present source of all good. This spiritual fact upholds healing prayer today.

A hymn in the “Christian Science Hymnal” says:

O Light of light, within us dwell,
Through us Thy radiance pour,
That word and deed Thy truths may tell,
And praise Thee evermore.
(Hymn 226, Washington Gladden)

Humility that opens our heart to God’s healing light, and a willingness to let divine wisdom lead us, can redeem our desires, thoughts, and prayers. This in turn inspires our words and deeds in ways that bless practically, while also embracing those in need in a spiritual sense of God’s ever-present care for them.

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