by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

I find it encouraging to realize that a prayer response can be effective against contagion. This year’s intense media focus on influenza has at times felt overwhelming, with broadcasts simultaneously predicting longer flu seasons, speculating about next year’s epidemic, or even doubting that a cure is possible. Each report seemed to speak from the perspective that influenza is a fixed fact for all societies, for all time. Flu vaccines haven’t provided complete immunity from the disease. The US Food and Drug Administration’s chief of vaccine review, Dr. Norman Baylor, claims that this is because “influenza viruses are changing all the time” (³CDC Panel: All children up to age 18 should get flu shots,² Anna Boyd, February 28, 2008).

I’m convinced that confronting the so-called inevitability of flu epidemics from a spiritual perspective — one that refuses to accept any disease as certain — has the potential to negate the flu threat for all of us.

Consider the approach Jesus took to healing the sick. The Gospels depict Jesus regarding health as normal and God-ordained, without regard to any one disease being more dangerous or difficult to heal than another. He simply healed.

Think of the dad who brought his child to Jesus saying, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us” (see Mark 9:15­27). Apparently the boy had suffered for years with convulsions. But the history of the condition didn’t deter Jesus. He cured the boy immediately.

The Gospels also say that Jesus taught his disciples how to heal (see Matt. 10:1) and that he said, “These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17, 18). And there are reports that this healing continued long after Jesus’ time. For example, in the Acts of the Apostles we read that “the father of Publius lay sick of a fever . . . to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him” (Acts 28:8).

The record of Jesus’ example and teachings, along with healing works of his followers, promise that spiritual healing is possible for everyone to practice. The record suggests, as well, that divine power and divine law irrevocably govern our lives and health.

In my own experience, I prayed during a chickenpox outbreak at my daughter’s preschool. A number of children in her class were diagnosed with the disease, and parents were warned to expect their child to become infected with it. We were told to watch for its symptoms. Then, school officials announced that one more confirmed case would close the school.

As a practicing Christian Scientist I had a concern for being law-abiding regarding infectious disease laws. I also felt that prayer for my child –prayer that would also embrace all the children — was imperative. I’d experienced the effective power of prayer many times before. Initially, I was afraid. But I remember being sure that God loves and cares for His children, that He doesn’t create or allow sickness, and that God is the only power. I was certain, too, that evil in the form of the common belief in an infectious disease (however renowned and longstanding) was not another power besides God. Rather it was only a mistaken premise, an opinion or theory. My prayers had the immediate effect of dispelling my fears and strengthening my confidence in God’s total protection and power. There were no more confirmed cases of chickenpox in the school at that time, my daughter included.

Soon the children were all back in school. I felt comforted that perhaps other parents might have been reaching out in prayer for God’s help as well. Prayer is a tried and true defense against disease when such prayer acknowledges God’s authority and the superiority of spiritual power over frightening predictions and uncertain outcomes.

Mary Baker Eddy asserted that “evil thoughts and aims reach no farther and do no more harm than one’s belief permits,” and that “good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort” (Science and Health, p. 234; The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 210). This describes a powerful antidote to contagion, whatever the disease prediction and however persistent it might be. And as families and communities join together in prayer, the fear that flu season is inevitable can be conquered — as well as an epidemic itself.

No one can be excluded from God’s design of health for His creation!