Questions from a blog reader: Can the Truth heal someone who is not receptive to it or does not appear to be receptive to it? More to the point, can a Christian Science practitioner effect healing when receptivity is not, or does not appear to be, present by the words and actions of the person asking for prayer?
I know Mary Baker Eddy healed a few people just riding by in her carriage, but most likely not everyone she passed. Jesus did not heal many in Nazareth, and although he healed the crowds that followed him or sought healing and truth, there is no record I am aware of that he knocked on doors and pulled people out of their houses to heal them if they were not actively trying to seek him or reach him in some way. Jesus also did not appear to heal Judas or the Sadducees or Pharisees.
Is receptivity an essential quality to healing like speed, lift, and thrust are essential to get an airplane off the ground? Or not?
There is a certain unspoken question that often hides behind these questions and others like them: Why isn’t this case being healed? Interestingly my response is very different depending on who is asking. If the practitioner is asking “Can I be doing more,” I will probably say yes. If the patient asks “Can I be doing better,” my answer, too, is probably yes. It is never a question of blame, but a question of “What is the next step of spiritual progress?” And there is always something more we can do.
I would never tell a practitioner that lack of healing is an unreceptive patient’s fault, nor a patient that he should blame the practitioner. Firstly, it would be neither helpful nor true. Secondly, the one seeing the problem is the one who has the problem.
So, to the first question – the receptivity of one who is asking for healing prayer: The fact that the person invites the help gives the opening needed for the practitioner to look on the person’s heart in prayer. Through the tender ministrations of divine Love he can uncover the patient’s true motives and desire for healing, that is, his spiritual receptivity. The practitioner’s job isn’t to criticize or judge those motives and desires, but simply to pray to see the patient awake to his true spirituality, which will in turn elevate the patient.
Practitioners really have to watch the judging thing. We’ve all done it, but it is never, ever helpful. Think about it: A surgeon probing a patient’s wound to remove a bullet must have very clean hands to not further complicate the problem or contaminate his patient. Probing the mental wounds of the patient, to remove the cause of the problem - what in Christian Science is often called the “error” – requires enormous purity in the practitioner. He must watch that he not be misled by personal judgments to condemn his patient.
Case in point: A man asked a Christian Science practitioner to pray to heal his bad heart. As a member of her church, she knew the man as difficult and mean. She prayed for him but he seemed to get worse. In seeking out the mental cause, she decided that his heart problems were linked to his meanness; so she treated him through prayer to eliminate that meanness. But the case continued to go downhill.
Then she prayed for herself, for her own receptivity as a practitioner to look on the heart of the patient and see what was really there. She was shocked to realize that the patient didn’t consider himself to be mean, or even ask for treatment for his meanness. That was in her thought about him, not in his thought about him.
Now she prayed to see the patient as he really is, to be a witness to what divine Love sees in its creation, to see the native spirituality, receptivity and goodness of the man. He was completely and immediately healed of the heart disease.
This practitioner learned a great lesson in what we call in Christian Science “mental anatomy.” Mary Baker Eddy explained, “The Christian Scientist, through understanding mental anatomy, discerns and deals with the real cause of disease. The material physician gropes among phenomena, which fluctuate every instant under influences not embraced in his diagnosis, and so he may stumble and fall in the darkness.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 462)
While judging the case by the phenomena or symptoms of meanness that she observed, - and that others too had likely observed, - the case was being pushed and pulled by material observations and the patient was falling deeper into disease. But as soon as the practitioner, through mental anatomy, discerned that from divine Love’s viewpoint there is no mean man, she found that there was no real cause for his disease. She abandoned her material standpoint for the spiritual one, and the patient was healed.
Now this begs the question: Was the lack of healing in the first instance the practitioner’s fault? Yes and no. Yes, she was responsible for approaching the case with a pure heart. But also no, because the invitation to pray brings with it an acceptance on the patient’s part that she would do her best according to her understanding of the divine healing Principle and the practice of Christian Science. Spiritual treatment through prayer demands much growth for all parties concerned. One cannot fault a practitioner for the human footsteps and experiences needed to grow in grace in the practice of healing.
To the second question about receptivity and Christ Jesus’ and Mary Baker Eddy’s practice, neither Jesus nor Mrs. Eddy forced prayer upon those who didn’t want it. They were respectful of an individual’s right to choose their own path. They did heal people who extended a mental call for help, sometimes without knowing the particulars of the case; as in the case of the multitudes healed at once or passers-by on Mrs. Eddy’s carriage rides. But there were cases they did not take on or heal. Mrs. Eddy spoke of sin cases being challenging in her later practice. And Jesus let a rich man walk away disappointed when he learned that a condition of his progress was to give up his material sense of good in exchange for a more spiritual sense.
In “Prayer,” the first chapter of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy explained how the motives for prayer affect outcomes. “Do we pray to make ourselves better or to benefit those who hear us, to enlighten the infinite or to be heard of men? Are we benefited by praying? Yes, the desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void.” (p.2) Then further on in the chapter she wrote, “Experience teaches us that we do not always receive the blessings we ask for in prayer. There is some misapprehension of the source and means of all goodness and blessedness, or we should certainly receive that for which we ask. The Scriptures say: ‘Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.’” (p.10)
Receptivity as a human quality is a choice. One has the right to choose their course of care, and invite into their mental sphere the healing influences they prefer. They may even accept or refuse to follow the direction of the guides they have chosen to help them advance. But receptivity as a spiritual quality - that is, a love for good and the capacity to grow in grace and goodness – is innate to every child of God. Where we don’t see the one (human quality), we can silently affirm the fact of the other (spiritual quality) for everyone in our focal distance. This isn’t interfering with anyone’s choices. It is judging righteous judgment and loving one’s neighbor. If others are blessed by your outlook, then good! In any case, both you and your practice certainly will be.
From time to time I receive questions that 1) would take a whole blog post to answer, and 2) should take a whole blog post to answer, because others are wondering about them, too. This was one such case. :)
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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