Prayer is in the listening

When we actively, humbly seek divine inspiration, healing is a natural result – as a woman experienced during a meaningful interaction with her young daughter.

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I was in a hurry that snowy winter morning. I needed to get our daughter to preschool and be back at my office quickly. I buckled her in, then climbed into the driver’s seat to start the car. As I pressed down on the clutch, the snow-crusted soles of my boots slid off of the worn metal. The pedal snapped up, catching my ankle bone with its sharp edge. I heard a decided crack and immediately felt searing pain.

This was before cell phones, and I knew I could not walk back into the house to call for help. So, I turned to our preschool-aged daughter and said, “Honey, Mommy needs you to pray for her.” Our daughter closed her eyes and became very still. Within seconds the pain stopped, and I could move my foot naturally and easily.

Even though I was engaged in the full-time practice of spiritual healing, I was stunned by the immediacy of that restoration of physical movement and freedom from pain.

I turned to our daughter and said, “Honey, Mommy’s healed.” The look in her eyes said, “Of course you are.” I asked her, “When you were praying for Mommy, what were you thinking?” Her look became one of pure exasperation, and she replied, “Mommy, when I pray, I don’t think, I listen.” Her response took my breath away and changed my approach to prayer – forever.

In the first chapter of Mary Baker Eddy’s primary work on spiritual healing, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she writes, “Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God’s gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind” (p. 1). And later in the same chapter, she writes: “In order to pray aright, we must enter into the closet and shut the door. We must close the lips and silence the material senses” (p. 15).

That day, our daughter taught me that prayer is not meant to engage the human mind as a partner in healing. Instead, prayer silences the human mind. In fact, Science and Health states that the human mind “is not a factor in the Principle of Christian Science” (p. x). Prayer is not simply our means for reaching God, the divine Mind; prayer is the means by which God’s messages reach and speak to us – and this is accomplished when we listen.

Prayer that begins with words helps to clear the way for us to hear and feel the deeper, resonant voice of God “in the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings” (Science and Health, p. 15) – to know the presence of our Father-Mother God and feel Her power. Prayer is in the listening. And this listening is not of the head, but of the heart.

Originally published in the June 13, 2022, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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