Not far from the crowds at the main train station in Helsinki, Finland, is the modest Kamppi Chapel, also known informally as “the quiet chapel.” It holds no regular services, has no famous stained glass windows – in fact, no windows at all. A single candle, a small cross, and a bouquet of flowers are all that adorn the interior, while simple benches offer visitors a quiet place to pause and pray.
What you most notice is the beautiful, restful, restorative silence palpably filled with prayer. Whether you’re a local citizen or a traveler from across the world, here is a space to bring one’s heart to God – to petition for help with a need, or listen for guidance in a decision, or find solace for a deep sorrow.
As I sat in that small chapel, I thought about how many languages those prayers had been offered in over the years. And I recalled something written by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” a book that’s become invaluable to me: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’ Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (pp. 12-13).
There’s great comfort in the idea that whatever the difficulty, we can turn in prayer to God, the divine Love that pours out blessing upon all of us. But equally important is that this happens “in divine Science.” How radical to affirm that prayer is not the province of faith alone but also of a Science of spiritual laws that reveal the true nature and power of God. Science can be applied to all situations and isn’t confined to any one language or culture.
Christian Science teaches that God is understandable and knowable. So prayer deepens our understanding of God as infinite Love, eternal Truth, intelligent Mind, bringing progress and healing. A yearning to know Love better restores broken relationships and broken bodies. Yielding to Truth corrects injustices and wrongdoing for individuals and communities. Being guided by the divine Mind points the way forward. Healing is the natural outcome of prayer that experiences something of the underlying spiritual reality of what is and always has been whole and complete, beautiful and pure.
Christ Jesus explained in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount that sincere prayer offered in quiet is heard by God and rewarded (see Matthew 6:6). This was an extraordinary departure from religious practices in Jesus’ own Jewish community as well as those of the surrounding cultures, where worship was a communal event and prayers were uttered out loud by priests and congregants.
Silent prayer, in other words, had real power.
As we realize that prayer involves a profound shift in thought to see more of God right where we are, we find we can pray anywhere and everywhere. The sacred space of prayer is the holy acknowledgment of our inseparability from divine Love, transforming some of life’s most banal moments into gateways of spiritual discovery. And eventually, we realize that our prayers need to be bigger than our own needs. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection” (“No and Yes,” p. 39).
One evening, at a Wednesday testimony meeting at my local Church of Christ, Scientist, I found myself deeply touched to think of the meeting’s period of silent prayer as a time of collectively embracing each other with wordless love. And my prayer simply became one of wanting everyone attending (including me) to feel their needs were being met.
Later in the meeting, a visitor shared how he had come to church in great need of inspiration and uplift, and had experienced it during that period of silent prayer. It was an answer to my own need too, as I felt more keenly how God was speaking to each of us in a way we could hear. That man and I were both touched by the prayers of the others there with us as well as all around the world that day. This powerful, united prayer in silence let us feel divine Love’s boundless nature filling us with grace. And that made all the difference for us.
The power of silent prayer, coming from the heart, unites us first with God and ultimately with each other, encompassing all humanity with hope and healing.
Adapted from an editorial published in the August 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal.