I can remember feeling really guilty because I didn’t know how to pray and didn’t think I was worthy enough to ask God for help. It was the summer just before my junior year in college and I’d accepted a counselor position at a summer camp that nurtures the spiritual growth of youths of all ages . Days before my campers arrived—about a dozen younger teens–I turned to a close friend, pleading with her to teach me how to pray.
She started giggling. “Silly girl. You know how to pray!”
I assured I didn’t. I remember feeling horrible because she said something like “But you always know the right things to say to me when I’m scared about something. What do you mean you don’t know how to pray?”
I’d just started reading a book that’s become a best friend: Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy. The first chapter was about prayer—prayer that heals. In it, Eddy defines prayer as ‘an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, — a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.” (p. 1)
Further, she describes prayer as a ‘desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness’ (p. 2) or ‘the longing to be better and holier expressed in daily watchfulness and in striving to assimilate more of the divine character.’ (p. 4)
And she also discusses prayer that heals the sick.
For me, at that time in my life, I desperately wanted to understand how to pray for healing. I wanted to be able to pray effectively for myself and my campers if there was some kind of issue that needed resolution.
I said as humbly as I could “Jodi, seriously, how do you pray for healing? I think I’m doing okay with expressing humility and gratitude. I get how to strive to be more loving and patient. But I don’t get how to pray the prayer that heals. I’m sure what I’m doing is wrong. And I’m scared I’m not good enough to really expect God will answer me. I haven’t always been completely morale.” I’d partied a ton my senior year in highschool and even though that was two years prior, I was feeling a ton of guilt. Don’t laugh, but I really thought God was mad at me for partying. I panicked I wasn’t a good enough role model and I felt ridiculously stupid for not knowing how to pray for healing.
I can still hear Jodi’s words as if it was yesterday. “Tre, lovey, just get mentally still and listen for how God is loving you right at that moment. God never judges you! And you’re always innocent in His eyes.”
Something shifted in my thoughts. It’s like I knew it was that simple.
But panick set in again. “But Jodi, I used to smoke and drink a lot!” She burst out laughing again. “Tre! Who didn’t? We’ve all done stuff like that. Cut yourself some slack girl. God’s not holding it against you! You have always been and will always be worthy of His love and you know enough to help your campers feel that love too!”
And she bounded off. And I sat there, looking out onto the shores of Long Lake in Harrison Maine feeling completely liberated.
Of course God wasn’t holding anything against me. It wasn’t even the smoking and drinking that I felt wrong about. I’d let go of that guilt. It was deeper than that. It was believing for a time that some kind of material substance would satisfy me moreso than deepening my spirituality. And even though I’d stopped a while before, I still felt like God was mad at me. Jodi’s brief reminder was a good wake up call.
I went back to my cabin. The campers weren’t arriving for a few hours. I opened Science and Health to this passage: “We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are.”…and another “If we feel the aspiration, humility, gratitude, and love which our words express,–this God accepts;” (S&H p. 8)
I knew I yearned to live fully the true spiritual substance of my being. And I knew that I wanted my campers to understand the nature of God’s love and their own wholeness and self worth. Surely this pure motive was a prayer. I felt it. And more, I was healed of all anxiety about my role with these campers.
That summer would prove pivotal in numerous ways. Not only would I develop meaningful relationships with my campers and fellow counselors, some of which I still share today, but also I would realize something extraordinary about prayer: every single one of us may avail ourselves of the healing power of prayer, no matter what our past reveals, no matter what our upbringing, no matter what our faith.
Through my study that summer right on up to the present of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, I’ve learned that prayer is the most natural inclination we have because it involves a deep inner yearning to know and do the will of God. No one is excluded from this knowing, ever. No one is ever unable to feel the healing presence of divine. Why? Because in truth, each one of us is the expression of God’s being. Prayer simply lets us pause thought and realign ourselves to our innate wholeness, goodness, and integrity. And anyone can learn how to pray this way.
Eddy opens her work with the following life transforming assertion:
“The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, — a spiritual understanding, an unselved love.” (p. 1) She first published this work in 1875, more than 132 years ago at a time when women weren’t acknowledged to have worthy opinions worth sharing publically, let alone in a book.
The bulk of her focus in this book defines the true nature of God and man’s inseparable relationship. And she instructs the reader why a genuine understanding of God/man’s real spiritual nature enables you to overcome any challenge you may be experiencing, no matter what the issue, no matter what your background or history.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning how to pray, anyone seeking healing, anyone striving to make their spirituality practical.
And if you have any questions as you’re reading, just shoot me a comment and let me know how to be in touch with you.
Check back soon for more about how to pray for healing.
Til the next one, be well and happy praying….Tre 🙂