A friend of mine, experiencing severe pain, called for help from a Christian Science practitioner in the early hours one morning. She said the practitioner immediately sought to allay her fear, talking to her about the spiritual basis not only for conquering pain but for experiencing healing.
Despite all that the practitioner shared with her over the following few minutes, my friend said she was still fearful and in tears. The practitioner then paused. What had come to him at that moment was the idea that she didn’t need more words. She needed silent prayer.
The practitioner suggested to my friend that they both pray silently. For the first time during their conversation the sobbing stopped and she became calm and quiet. After a minute or two of praying silently, the practitioner asked my friend if she wanted to hang up the phone just then while continuing to pray. She agreed. Later that day she called the practitioner back to say she was feeling much, much better. Years later, as my friend recalled the experience, she said, “When I really began to improve was when we were praying silently.”
Silent prayer is rightfully a time of communion with God—of spiritual insight, spiritual growth, and healing. Perhaps we’ve been overlooking the potential of praying silently. Do we feel that silent prayer is less productive because of the silence?
In turning all of our attention to God we’re turning away from the routine sights and shuffling about of physical activity. But shutting out what’s going on around us doesn’t mean we’re left with empty silence. It may seem that way because the physical senses register that nothing much is going on. But that’s due to the inability of those senses to discern spiritual activity.
The silence that accompanies communion with the divine Mind is actually filled with spiritual activity. It’s a time to turn away from thoughts about the flesh in order to hear and obey Mind’s unerring direction and to feel God’s care.
Jesus figuratively described prayer as a time to enter into the closet and shut the door, which suggests a quiet and private experience. He didn’t say that by doing so we’ll feel restless or simply let our mind wander. He said, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”1
In the chapter “Prayer” in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy adds this explanation: “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. In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God’s allness. We must resolve to take up the cross, and go forth with honest hearts to work and watch for wisdom, Truth, and Love. We must ‘pray without ceasing.” That’s quite an active agenda.
Consider what it means to plead God’s allness. It doesn’t mean we’re to beg that God be All. We’re to realize that He is so because God is Spirit — infinite. Pleading can also mean to argue or offer persuasive reasons for or against something. Often it requires persuasive arguments to cause the human mind’s fixed, materialistic views to yield to a more spiritual perspective.
Another point: We may feel that God, divine Love, is truly boundless, is All, yet not be quite as convinced that this Love is all-power, or always present. In our silent prayer, then, we may need to argue convincingly on behalf of Love’s omnipotence or omnipresence. We should do so until our narrow, human concept of Love yields to a truer sense of Love as the one and only power, and we see that Love itself does the healing. The starting point might be that divine Love is perfect Love, and that it isn’t changeable or diminishing but rather constant, unconditional, almighty; or that, as the New Testament writer says, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.”
Silent prayer isn’t a time to be fearful, or to wonder if our deeply felt desires will be answered. In fact, pleading the allness of God, good, is the very activity that tends to lift thought above doubt and fear to a calm trust in God’s flawless, eternal care of man; to a better sense of spiritual reality.
Willingness to obey God’s direction is another needful element of effective prayer. God is all wise and all good, so the direction He gives us is infallible; it can only be what is best for us and never what is unwise or second-best. Obedience to God means being willing to put our prayers, and the answer to them, into action; being willing to follow the impulsion to grow spiritually, to conquer sin in ourselves, to do good unto others in the way that Jesus showed people to do so, to commit our lives more and more to Christian healing. Mrs. Eddy writes, “True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection.”
This isn’t accomplished without sincerity. It might require significant effort to overcome fear, resistance, even hatred. But we can trust that God’s direction is always right, and that we’re never without the intelligence or power or provision that comes from divine Mind and that is sufficient to meet every need.
Prayer can and should be a grand event. But not a wordy one. Communion with God—actually having our innermost desire for divine help heard and answered by God—is a deeply moving, transforming, quiet experience. Ideally, it’s a constant one.
Remember, it isn’t within the nature of divine Love to stop caring for us at any time. So why not take advantage of the opportunity we have right now to enter into the closet and commune with God. It’s a time for silence—and to find the answers we seek.