Pay for what?

Conversation starters are tools of the trade in media relations work. In talking with a reporter the other day I saw how quickly just three words near the start of our conversation—pay for prayer—had the opposite effect. He couldn’t see why someone would do that—he’s not alone!—and we weren’t going to talk about anything else until that oddity was explained.

The reason this came up was because he’d seen a story in the Los Angeles Times about this Church’s efforts to have spiritual care included as a qualified expense in whatever health care reform legislation makes it into law. Christian Science practitioners, much to his surprise, do charge a relatively modest fee for prayer-treatment.

But why? Isn’t prayer free and something that people do charitably, whether it’s the prayer of a minister, a priest, a rabbi, or a family member?

True, prayer is free. Anyone can do it, anywhere, and at no cost. But Christian Science practitioners, whose sole vocation is to be available to pray for others, are self-employed men and women. They’re not church-employed. They get their income from the people who ask them for their help.

As the Times article points out, fees generally range from $20-$40 per day, and yet most practitioners will tell you of the many people they help, day or night, on a pro bono basis so that those folks can receive the help they ask for regardless of their financial condition.

As you can imagine, if it’s a high-paying salary someone’s looking for, this isn’t the ticket. But for those who want to help people live better, healthier lives—and who’ve seen how spiritual living and prayer facilitate that—it’s a profoundly helpful profession. As it factors into health care, it’s a game-changer.

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