People engaged with social media may have noticed a groundswell of tweets and posts denouncing “thoughts and prayers” following the recent shootings in a Parkland, Florida school. A commonly used condolence, the phrase is condemned for its repeated use in the context of gun violence and terrorism. Critics claim “thoughts and prayers” are inadequate substitutes for corrective actions like gun control or counterterrorism. Some see this criticism as a confrontation between secular humanism and religious faith. But for me, the condemnation uncovers a need to deepen my understanding of what constitutes productive, constructive thought and healing prayer.
I have been learning from my study of Christian Science that every thought I think, if it represents my desire, is actually a prayer. 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.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 1:11)
Every desire for progress, change, healing, comfort, peace, safety, and the end of violence is a noble, generous and loving prayer. But if the truth be told, some desires are better than others. Consequently, some prayers are more helpful and productive than others. Certain desires can be misguided, -undermined by fear, self-interest, anger, greed, political bias, grief – all self-limiting mental influences that impede progressive thought and action. Unredeemed, such thoughts and prayers can be harmful to us and others. But the good news is that every human thought, every human desire, can be lifted up improved – reformed and exalted – to produce the highest quality of good in both speech and action.
Christ Jesus recognized that our desires at any given moment act on us and others as either a conscious or an unconscious influence. He said, “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart” (See Matthew 15 God’s Word translation). When we lift up our thoughts to the influence of God, Good, we invite the redeeming and transforming Christ – God’s guiding message of divine light - to penetrate and destroy any darkness in our thought or experience. God is the universal Principle of good. The holy influence of divine good gives stability to our thoughts which in turn steadies speech and forwards action in ways that lead to progress.
Less than two hours after the shooting in Florida, the senior Senator from that state, Senator Bill Nelson appeared in an interview, stating, “They are grieving. I have already said my prayers to give them comfort. But this is a tough time… It’s a tough, tough day.”
I value deeply that Senator Nelson prayed for himself and for his community before stepping up to the podium. His demeanor reflected his prayer, and his words were a call to action. His prayers, our prayers, will influence the next active steps to be taken to stop such occurrences in the future.
Jesus didn’t offer hollow prayers when confronted with human needs. His prayers were a substantial and effective catalyst for corrective action - notably reformation and healing. His prayers comforted, consoled, lifted and healed the suffering mind and body. Jesus’ prayers were a practical response to the human condition. Science and Health describes healing prayer as “the human understanding of the divine healing Principle as manifested in Jesus, whose humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth, — of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love.” (Science and Health, 12)
The world cries for Christ Jesus’ depth of thought and humility of prayer that heals. We need thoughts and prayers based on an understanding that God’s intention is good, and for good for all mankind. We need thoughts and prayers that bring out positive change by changing us - and prayer that supports the intelligence and integrity of those in the community who are in positions of influence. We need the devotion of clear, inspired thought fueled by the unselfish desire (prayer) to improve and uplift humanity. Redeeming our thoughts and prayers, so that they take form in powerful words and healthy deeds, is a great gift we can all give to our community, and indeed, to our world.
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no