Prayer in Christian Science is defined as the desire to align your consciousness with God rather than to ask for something. I was raised to believe the universe was spiritual. Any discord or physical problem was due to my misunderstanding or ignorance of God's perfect creation--something like mathematics, where an error in my understanding can't change the reality of the correct equation. Two plus two is not five, but believing it is five causes problems until I realize the truth.
My ability to pray was put to the test when I was not quite fourteen. Overnight I developed a bone disease in my left knee that incapacitated me. I spent a hellish year praying--studying the bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, and all her many other writings, speaking to my Christian Science practitioner (whom my parents paid to pray for me) on the phone and in person as my infected leg drained pus. I'd never taken a pill in my life, not even aspirin, and I didn't then. I never saw doctor. I did what I was told: I prayed. My parents and church staked my life on prayer.
I expected to be healed. Instead I experienced a year of bedridden anguish, terror, isolation, shame, and pain. Lots of pain.
Brain scans (magnetoencephalography) on people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder have shown abnormal physical changes. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD at age 33 after leaving Christian Science and my first marriage. It was a relief when I read that the mind-bending, brain-warping trip of my childhood had caused damage that could be measured as physically as the deformation of the fused leg I limped on. (This was after I learned to accept that the physical universe is, in fact, real. That was a hard one. When my sanity came, I thought I was losing my mind.)
I'd been in the habit of reading and studying Christian Science literature like a mad thing. In that metaphysical mindset, how you think about everything is critical. It not only determines your happiness but your health. You spend most of your time as your own thought-police. Ever since I could read, I was encouraged, taught and urged to pore over the bible lesson (inlcuding Science and Health) every morning. I read articles in the church's weekly and monthly magazines. After I got sick, my practitioner told me to read Science and Health straight through, five or ten pages a day, cross-referencing significant words in Eddy's other writings. Words like run, knees, life. Material life was only symbolic, after all, like warped numbers written on paper. Over the course of thirty years as a diligent, prayerful Christian Scientist, I probably read every single word Eddy every wrote. I read Science and Health from cover to cover probably--what? Half a dozen times? Ten times? Prayer was a lifeline. Durint the state of receptive, fervent quiet, I ached for just one glimpse of my true spiritual being. It would lift my consciousness into health and peace. It was a mental headlock I welcomed. It was the only way of life I knew or could imagine. Prayer was my only hope.
When I left Christian Science, I stopped praying. Guess what? I didn't miss it. The lack didn't make any difference in my life. When I broke down, fell apart, thought I was dying and prepared to step off the edge of my fearful, sacred world, there was no edge. I braced myself to fall but the world kept going. I didn't have to pray. I could thumb my nose at prayer and at the concept of a "God", mock it, blaspheme it, ridicule it. It made no difference.
The biggest difference was that I stopped being afraid. I still worry about the parent stuff, something happening to my kids. But almost nothing else really bothers me. This is a paradox because I suffered from panic attacks and flashbacks, emotional triggers and five-alarm meltdowns for many years. I'm not immune now, though I'm a lot more stable. But the level of fear in my life has been negligible compared to the anxious paralysis I lived in all those years, and the trance-state of euphoria I used to "pray" myself into.
So I didn't (and don't) miss praying. (It also opened up a lot of time in my schedule.) But I noticed a side effect. It was difficult for me to hold still. I couldn't just sit and think, relax and chill. I just didn't like to. The time I tried a mild meditation exercise with some friends almost sent me into a full blown crisis. It was too much like prayer. It sent me reeling toward panic and terror. I had to get up and move.
Or better yet...get on a horse and ride. Clear my mind and let the rhythm of hoof beats bring my breathing back to normal. Trail riding was always critical to me; it became my form of meditation, motion without too much thought, activity that let the wheels in my head spin in neutral while I relaxed. It saved me.
More about this tomorrow. I'm heading into territory that is important to me and, I hope, to you. I welcome your comments & thoughts.