The Efficacy Of Prayer For The Sick

 

March 1862

 

by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

 

What grounds have Christians for believing in the efficacy of prayer for the sick? The belief in a God independent of ourselves, who will answer prayer if asked in a spirit of true faith, not doubting. This is the ground for the Christian belief. Let us see how much faith they have in what they honestly believe. Jesus says, By their works ye shall know them. Now do the sick in their trouble call on the Lord or the doctor? I leave the sick to answer, and I hear one say that the doctor is the instrument in the hands of God to cure the sick. Then I ask if the sick do not get well, who is to blame, the Lord or the instrument? You may say the sick do not have faith enough. Then it is not the doctor nor the Lord but their faith that makes them whole. This was the case with the woman whom Jesus cured, when he said, Thy faith hath made thee whole. So faith without works is dead. It is plain enough that the Christians have no faith in God except as a belief; they cannot trust him at all. As soon as they are sick, instead of looking to God, they send for a doctor and if he does not cure them, they try some other. In their trouble, they lose all patience and like Saul, they say seek me a witch (I Sam. 18:7) or one that has a familiar spirit that I may inquire of it, thus denying the very God they profess to believe in. How comes all this skepticism in the church and people? It arises from the fact that the priests have invented lies and set up false Gods, calling on the people to believe in them, thus leading the people on the by-paths until the whole have gone out of the way and none believing in the one true God who answers prayers, not through the priests or doctors, but through the wisdom of themselves. For to know ourselves is to know God and that is Eternal Life to all who know it.

You may ask if I believe in prayer; I answer not in the sense that the Christian does. Jesus prayed; he said, I and my Father are one. This is a truth, but it was not Jesus that spoke but this truth called Christ that spoke through the man Jesus, in the same way when any truth is spoken intelligently, it is of God and that truth and God are one. Ignorance and superstition have misled men into the dark, so they choose darkness rather than light lest their error should be exposed, and then they die. You may ask if I deny that God sometimes cures the sick in answer to prayer. I do not deny the phenomenon, but I do deny that the one who prays knows to whom he prays or that his God cures him any more than the medicine that the doctor gives cures him. The priests and doctors stand in the same relation to the sick; the former put their curative principles in their God and the latter put them in the medicine; the faith of each acts on the patient and his faith mingling with theirs makes the cure, but that there is an intelligence or God outside of their belief, I know is false. Years of experience in curing the sick have put me in possession of a principle that can explain all the phenomena of prayer and the superstition of religious beliefs. A belief is one thing and wisdom is another. Jesus explained the difference when he said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."

They were trying to entangle Jesus by their questions in regard to his belief in God. He knew that their God was the opinion of man and their worship the invention of the priests, and the people paid tribute to Caesar as the priests now do to Christ, for to disbelieve in Caesar was a great sin. The people asked Jesus whether it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar and he answered, "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites," and made the remark quoted above.

Here was where Jesus made a difference between his God and theirs. He knew it was not right to rob God or truth and give the credit to error or opinion, for in this way you keep man ignorant of himself and God (by putting man's opinion superior to the truth). So he said, Render to man's opinions what they are worth and to Science or God what belongs to truth. I will suppose that I, like Jesus, stand to the sick as their friend and have to come in contact with the same Caesar that Jesus did, for Caesar is man's wisdom embodied in flesh and blood. Jesus' wisdom was his God, while man's God was his opinions. So the latter being ignorant of God or Science worships it as a superior being and calls it God, but God is not in it; He is in the truth.

When a man is sick, he is under the penalty of man's laws or God's, as they are called, and to be cured is to be reconciled to God or the priests' opinion. Now I know all their prayers and medicines are false. They contain no wisdom but are opinions set up by the ignorant. You may ask me for truth. I will give it, for I do not give an opinion; what I know is true, and what I give as an opinion is what I do not know. This I know. What a minister says is an opinion, not wisdom, and therefore is worth just what it will bring among those who put a value on man's opinion, but to me it is not worth a snap for it is all froth or wind. Here is a sick man or woman who wants to get well. Such a one is the test of Jesus' religion. He put his God or Christ into practice, and it was called the bread of life, and he called on all to come and eat of it, etc. Why was Jesus looked upon as superior to other men of his day, for there were other men called Jesus and other Christs? The Jesus we are called on to worship was not the only one, for he says beware of false Christs who were to come when the true Christ came and he tells them how to prove them by their works. The true Christ shall cast out devils and do the works Jesus did and greater, but do you find the Christ of our day to do what the Christ of whom they pretend to be a disciple did? No. Why? Because they are false Christs. I pretend to do as Christ did and I believe in the same God that he did and this God was the wisdom that showed that all the priests' pretensions to divine wisdom were false.

I know as well as I know that I am writing this that there is not a word of knowledge in all the priests' profession, and instead of making man better and happier, it only makes them more bigoted and more liable to disease.

I will now tell what is not my opinion. I know that persons are raised from a sick bed to health, and I have no reason to doubt that there are many persons who have been influenced to break off their sins, as it is called, and embrace the priest's opinion as religion. All this and a great deal more I believe as a belief, but in all this, there is not one single ray of light or wisdom. They are merely phenomena without any wisdom, like mesmerism and spiritualism. I will explain the foregoing, not after the manner of the priests by calling on you to believe in me as an oracle and then giving an opinion, but I will use plain facts which are coming under my own observation every day.

What I know I will call wisdom, which is the knowledge of God and what I do not know is man's knowledge or opinion. I know I am writing this if I know anything. I also know that this wisdom can feel another's feelings and that I can go to a distance and act upon another wisdom unknown to the man of opinions. Here is the difference between me as a man and the priest as a priest or a doctor as a doctor. We all, as men, have flesh and blood. They have a belief that there is a God above that knows all things and this God is independent of them. I know that what they believe is false from my own experience, for I take their account of the God they worship and find it to be only an opinion, which works them up into a disease and takes a form in the person of a God. Their senses being attached to it, it is to them wisdom, and this shadow is the medium of all their acts. When they pray, their faith is in their God or medium, and they give to him all the glory and the power, not knowing that he is an image of their own creation.

You ask for proof. I will give it. Suppose there is a sick man living at a distance who wishes to be cured and I go to him in my wisdom and cure him. This is all with myself. I know how I do it and can explain it. Suppose he is taken sick again and he sends for a doctor. He tells the doctor how he feels and the doctor sends his medicine which he takes and he is healed. Again he is taken sick and sends for a priest, the priest prays and the patient gets well. Where is the difference in us three? I know what I am about, my cure is in my wisdom, their cure is in their belief. The ignorance of the priest puts his cure in his imaginary God, the patient puts his faith in his God, their faith mingle into a sort of chemical change and the patient is restored. The doctor's belief in the curative qualities of his medicine and the patient's superstition in the doctor's wisdom produce a change and the cure is made.

All cures are made just alike with one exception; satisfy the priest that there is no God but himself and his power is lost. Satisfy the patient that the medicine is all a humbug and let the doctor know it and no cure is made. Is that the case with me? No, I have acted on the patient without his knowing it through his natural senses and it is not necessary that the patient should have any belief at all in order to be cured. What conclusion have I arrived at in all the above? It is this. God is the wisdom of all mankind, and every person has an identity in this wisdom. All live and move in it and cannot get out of it. Each person is made independent of each other by his ignorance of himself, yet like little globules of matter, we are held together by the great ocean of wisdom. We are like ships on the sea without lights at the head of our barques, till the whole atmosphere of wisdom is lit by science. Then our lights mingle in harmony till not a cloud can be seen. Then we shall see as we are seen and know as we are known; then God is in us and we in him. Then priestcraft and opinion are burned up by the fire of Science, death is annihilated and sickness is a shadow of the things that never had an existence only in the mind of error.

P. P. Quimby

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