Monday, May 01, 2006

Praying for others

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Vicki in New Zealand sent in a couple questions I’ll be addressing this week.

Question 1: Is it necessary for the recipient of Spiritual Healing to know they are being involved in Prayer (I realize it is probably preferable), or can one just go discreetly about this when it is expedient to do so?

Thanks for this question! Anyone discovering spiritual healing and rejoicing in its effectiveness in their lives has to noodle out this issue. When you’ve experienced blessing, it’s natural to immediately want to share it with others.

Mary Baker Eddy has some wise words about this in her essay, Obtrusive Mental Healing (you can read it in full at the link):

When you enter mentally the personal precincts of human thought, you should know that the person with whom you hold communion desires it. There are solitary exceptions to most given rules: the following is an exception to the above rule of mental practice.

If the friends of a patient desire you to treat him without his knowing it, and they believe in the efficacy of Mind-healing, it is sometimes wise to do so, and the end justifies the means; for he is restored through Christian Science when other means have failed. One other occasion which may call for aid unsought, is a case from accident, when there is no time for ceremony and no other aid is near.

The abuse which I call attention to, is promiscuous and unannounced mental practice where there is no necessity for it, or the motive is mercenary, or one can to advantage speak the truth audibly; then the case is not exceptional. As a rule, one has no more right to enter the mind of a person, stir, upset, and adjust his thoughts without his knowledge or consent, than one has to enter a house, unlock the desk, displace the furniture, and suit one's self in the arrangement and management of another man's property.

It would be right to break into a burning building and rouse the slumbering inmates, but wrong to burst open doors and break through windows if no emergency demanded this. Any exception to the old wholesome rule, "Mind your own business," is rare. For a student of mine to treat another student without his knowledge, is a breach of good manners and morals; it is nothing less than a mistaken kindness, a culpable ignorance, or a conscious trespass on the rights of mortals.

Tough talk from a tough lady!

I’m guided by what she says here in my prayers for others. Some phrases that pop out at me:

  • The person with whom you hold communion: When someone asks me to pray for them, they are inviting me into their thought. This is deeply intimate. It is communion on the deepest level. I’d have to have a really good reason to do that without their prior knowledge.
  • …or one can to advantage speak truth audibly: Being too chicken to tell someone the truth out loud is no excuse for treating them secretly. I always ask myself, Why aren’t I asking if they want treatment? Most people are fine with it if you say, Would you like me to pray for you?
  • The rearranging the furniture image: This has kept me out of a lot of trouble. I wouldn’t want people doing that to me.
  • “Mind your own business”: Always great advice. The thing is, you can’t rush another person’s spiritual growth. They need to learn things in their own time. Prayerful treatment is effective, and therefore it will have an effect on the person. If that effect is without their knowledge, there may be a backlash against it that makes them have to work even harder to grow.

This final point is the crux of the matter. I assume any prayerful treatment I give will have an effect. The only reason people think praying for others is harmless is that they aren’t sure it will do any good anyway—it’s more about the person who is praying feeling virtuous. But if you know your treatment will have an effect, you’d be hesitant to throw that around without asking permission first.

Emergencies or catastrophic events are different—I prayed non-stop on 9/11 for everyone in those buildings. In those cases, there can’t be too much prayer, so have at it. Also, general benevolent prayerful good wishes and seeing the other person as God sees them have a place as well. We can correct our own thinking about another as much as we want. But treatment (where the other person has a specific issue we're trying to improve on their behalf with our prayer) works best when the other person desires it.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 5/01/2006 10:14:00 AM, Anonymous Mom said...

Dear Laura,
LOVE IT !!!! This is such an improvement ! These are your favorite colors, remindes me of your kitchen. Your personality really pops out on this blogpage.
Love, Mom

At 5/01/2006 11:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

I haven't visited for awhile, but I do love the redesign!



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