Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 17, 1982
NUMBER 3, PAGE 3,12b-13a

"Mrs. Eddy, Teach Us To Pray"

Gordon Wilson

In this article we shall examine the teachings or Christian Science on the subject of prayer in order to contrast what the Lord reveals relative to prayer with what Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, with her purported inspiration, would have us to believe. All quotations here are from chapter one of "Science And Health" but I shall not cite page and paragraph numbers since the book has passed through so many editions. The student will have no difficulty locating the quoted statements in whatever edition he may possess.

Certainly Mrs. Eddy wrote many fine and true things regarding prayer, with which all Christian people can agree. That prayer must be sincere, and that sincerity is manifested only when one labors to obtain that for which he prays, are truths that no one would care to deny. However, there is also much error contained in the Christian Science text-book and this error needs to be exposed. A piece of meat may be of the very finest cut, tender and wholesome, yet when injected with a modicum of poison it may kill the person who eats. We must analyze the contents of the dish which Christian Science sets before us, for I fear that we shall discover more than a little poison.

Christian Science teaches that prayer is nothing but a frame of mind, a belief:

"The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that, all things are possible to God, -a spiritual understanding of Him an unselfed love."

To pray, then, is not to express our desires to God, but to just sort of let God take hold of our minds so that we have the right belief. When this happens we "do not need to pray; God will do our praying for us. Mrs. Eddy elaborates on this point:

"Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be molded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds."

It is apparent that the idea we are supposed to get from this is that all man must do is to just believe something and desire something and God will mould this faith and wish into prayer. Now that is clearly what Mrs. Eddy says, but she is contradictory on this point as on everything else. Further along she insists that what we do is prayer:

"The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer. Its motives are made manifest in the blessings they bring."

So it seems that prayer consists of believing, desiring, and struggling to be good. Christian Science does not simply teach that these things are connected with prayer, but that in them prayer consists. It seems to me that one important detail is left out; namely, the fact that prayer by definition is a petition, a speaking with God. But this matter of talking with God is the very thing that Christian Science insists is not necessary:

"God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the Infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and love."

"God is love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection? Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept? The unspoken desire does bring us nearer the source of all existence and blessedness."

"He who is immutably right will do right without being reminded of His province, The wisdom of man is not sufficient to warrant him in advising God."

The import of these quotations is that it is useless, even presumptuous for man to express his desires to God, for God already knows our needs. You will recognize this as the old infidel objection to prayer on the grounds that it is inconsistent to ask an all-wise God for any kind of blessings. This kind of foolishness found in "Science and Health" brands Christian Science as just another form of infidelity. Jesus recognized this difficulty, yet insisted that prayer, pleading with God, does bring 'blessings. (Matt. 6:32; Mk. 11:24)

There are several statements which we might produce to show that Mrs. Eddy favored silent prayer over audible prayer. I call attention to two statements which show the silly reasons she ascribes for this point of view:

"Audible prayer is impressive; It gives momentary solemnity and elevation to thought. But does it produce any lasting benefit? Looking deeply into these things, we find that 'a zeal not according to knowledge' gives occasion for reaction unfavorable to spiritual growth, sober resolve, and wholesome perception of God's requirements. The motives for verbal prayer may embrace the much love of applause to induce or encourage Christian sentiment.'

"Audible prayer can never do the works of spiritual understanding, which regenerates; but silent prayer, watchfulness, and devout obedience enables us to follow Jesus' example."

First, silent prayer is preferred because audible prayer may come from a desire for the applause or praise of men. But this impresses me as being ridiculous. Why should audible prayer come from such a motive any more so than silent prayer? Jesus Spoke of those who prayed that they may be seen (not heard) of men. Second, it is said that silent prayer enable us to follow the example of Jesus. But what does Mrs. Eddy know of the silent prayers of Jesus? We have several New Testament references to Jesus praying, all of which appear to have been audible! All of the examples of Jesus prayers which we have show those prayers to have been couched in words; yet we follow His example better by unspoken desires! How really silly can one get?

Another false position which Christian Science takes regarding prayer, is that one cannot pray for, and expect to receive, forgiveness of sins:

"Prayer is not to be used as a confessional to cancel sin. Such an error would impede true religion."

"To suppose that God forgives or punishes sin according as His mercy is sought or unsought, is to misunderstand Love, and to make prayer the safety-value for wrong-doing."

These statements are contrary to much that the Bible teaches about the manner in which God forgives the sins of His children. David prayed, "Have mercy upon rne, 0 God, according to thy loving-kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." (Ps. 51:1) Peter commanded Simon the sorcerer to "pray God" that he might have his wickedness forgiven. (Acts 8:22) John assures us that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Christian Science contradicts the word of God and destroys one of the most precious promises which God ever vouchsafed to weak and erring mankind. I freely confess the need for the "safety-valve" of prayer when I do wrong. May God never remove from us the "confessional" wherein he "cancels sin."

Christian Science teaches that prayer for healing is purely subjective, that is, that it is not heard by God, but that it acts on the mind of the one praying to destroy the belief that he is sick. The Bible teaches that prayer ascends to the throne of God and that He hears our prayers. (Acts 10:4)

Christian Science teaches that when Jesus commanded that one enter his closet to pray, that He meant the closet of one's own spirit. But any Bible reader knows that Jesus contrasted praying in a closet to praying on the street corner or in the synagogue. If the closet were only an attitude of spirit, then one could be in the closet at the same time he was on the street corner or in the synagogue. This destroys what Jesus taught about solitude in the presence of God.

At the close of the chapter on prayer in "Science And Health," Mrs. Eddy gives her scriptural interpretation of the "Lord's prayer." Here is the way she would render this beautiful prayer which our Lord taught to His disciples:

"Our Father-Mother God, all harmonious, Adorable One.

Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever present.

Enable us to know,

-as in heaven, so on earth,

-God is omnipotent, supreme.

Give us grace for today; feed the famished affections;

And love is reflected in love;

And God leadeth us not into temptation,

but Delivereth us from sin, disease, and death.

For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth,

Love, over all, and All.

If you can detect any actual relationship between this gibberish and the prayer recorded in Matthew 6 of which we have grown so fond, you are welcome to it. And if anyone wants to pray like that, a good head tightening job might be in order. You will observe that the important petitions in the prayer which Jesus taught are changed by Mrs. Eddy to affirmations, in accord with her notion that prayer is not asking for anything.

— Culver City, California