Rosicrucian Writings Online
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
HOW TO PRAY
By THE IMPERATOR
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest January 1931]
PRAYER has become one of the few essential elements of religion which multitudes can use to prove the existence of God and the blessings of personal contact with the Creator of all things, and which other multitudes use to disprove the existence of God. In other words, here is an element of religious practice which is greatly in dispute and either adhered to or denied by multitudes.
Those who use the element of prayer as an argument for the non-existence of an intelligent God or the existence of any God at all, claim that if God existed, prayers would be logically reasonable and efficient. And, they point out carefully the fact that seventy-five per cent of the prayers offered to God are unanswered or seemingly denied.
I am a firm believer in prayer and you can soon become as firm a believer in it as I am if you will give prayer the proper opportunity to demonstrate its efficiency. Many of the things in life which we refuse to accept after a few attempts to use them or demonstrate them are wrongly accused of being inefficient, whereas the truth of the matter is it is our own inefficiency and our own ignorance that is responsible. I wonder that as many prayers are answered as we hear and see demonstrated in the course of a lifetime.
The understanding of prayers and what they really are, and how to use them is so lacking with the average individual that it is really surprising that one prayer out of a thousand ever brings any results whatsoever. In the churches we are told that the clergymen will lead us in prayer, and certain formulated prayers are used, and then other long and tedious ones are spoken by those who seem more interested in presenting a piece of flowery eloquence than they are in actually praying, as they should pray. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and if we read the correct version of His instructions and the samples He gave to the world, we will find that these prayers are really different from the prayers that are uttered by those who have had so much theoretical training that they have gotten away from the fundamental mysticism of prayer.
Praying to God is based upon the assumption that God is omnipotent in power, present everywhere, and willing to grant our petitions. That is all of the assumption or foundation we should have for praying. But, I think you will agree with me that the average person who prays has in mind a few more assumptions than these. He has in mind not only the fact that God is omnipotent in power, omnipresent, and merciful, but that with all of His power, with all of His intelligence, with all of His mastership and control throughout the world, and with all of His attunement with the beings which He created, still He is ignorant of our wants and needs, and completely unacquainted with what we require in life in order to live or experience any of the great incidents of life. Here is where the great mistake is made. To go into prayer to God with the belief or the feeling that God does not know what we need, or what we want, or what is best for us, and that we must tell Him and urge Him, and remind Him, or logically explain to Him what it is we want is to make a serious mistake.
Looking at it from a purely reasonable and sensible point of view, does it not seem peculiar to think of a person kneeling down in prayer and petitioning God to please not take the life of a certain person who has just been injured in an accident? To pray to God at such a time and to tell Him, almost command Him not to allow life to leave the body of some person or not to allow certain conditions to manifest is to assume that we, with our finite understanding, know better than does God whether certain things should happen or not. If the person has been injured and God has not prevented it, and if the person is seriously ill from the injury and God does not prevent it, and if the person is about to die or pass away and God does not prevent it, why assume then that God will change His mind about the transition and allow the person to live just because we have petitioned God to save his life. And, think of two persons on opposite sides of the ocean praying to God to give each of them strength that they may be the victors in a war between them. If God is to decide the war in that manner, is it not better to assume that God will pick the proper one to win, based upon His judgment of the conditions and principles involved? The prayer of both sides cannot be answered satisfactorily, for both sides cannot be victors.
The mystic knows that any prayer or petition to God or to the Cosmic Consciousness, based upon the assumption that God or the Cosmic does not know what is best for us and must be advised or receive recommendations or suggestions, is a prayer that is wasted and is futile. In fact, it is a reflection upon the Divine Intelligence and it reaches no greater heights than the level of our personal ambitions. Certainly, such a prayer cannot be uttered in sincerity, and cannot find Cosmic approval. It is doomed to die or lack response from the very moment it is conceived.
The mystic knows further that true prayer is based upon a Cosmic and spiritual law. That law is this: "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." The ancient injunction that you must ask in order to receive, that you must proffer your hand in order to have the token given unto you, or that you must express your desire in proper form before it will be answered is fundamentally sound, rational, and imperative. Even we, in a very much lesser degree, have found in all of our practices and in all of our work that the person who does not ask us for help or who does not ask us for a treatment, or for some benefit, seldom derives any good from what we do, and is very seldom prepared to receive what we have to offer. We make it a rule that no one shall be given any benefit unless he asks for it, except in those cases where it is impossible to ask, or where the plea may be a silent one, that we do not hear. That is why we do not go around the city streets and into the byways seeking those who are sick or unfortunate and freely and promiscuously offer treatments and help.
In the majority of cases, the person to whom such help is offered would be in no receptive mood and might even resent the proffered help. Persons who are injured suddenly or who are in such a mental state or degree of consciousness as makes it impossible for them to ask or to know what to do come within a different category, for there may be a real plea in their hearts that is silent and unheard by us. These should be helped instantly. But, nevertheless, the law holds good; it is the one who expresses the wish and asks who opens wide the doorway to the reception of any Cosmic or Spiritual benefit. The mere asking in sincerity and reverential expression of a wish attunes the person with the one who has the power to give, and unless there is a meeting of the minds and meeting of the consciousness of both persons, there can neither be attunement nor the passing from one to the other of the spiritual things desired.
To the mystic, therefore, prayer is a meeting of the minds. It is an occasion for communion. It is a time when the soul within us and the deepest inner part of ourselves sacredly, sincerely, and quietly speaks to God and expresses the innermost wishes of our hearts and minds. Any thought that our human conception of our needs must be outlined and expressed in detail, or that advice on our part must be given, or recommendations made, will be so inconsistent with the true, prayerful attitude, that it will mitigate against the utterance of a proper prayer and prevent any realization of what we wish.
Therefore, prayer should not consist of a categorical representation of detailed things that we feel we want, but merely an expression of a desire for a blessing. Have I any right to come before God, as I do in prayer, and demand or even plead that long life be given because I desire it and have come to the conclusion that I should have it? Is that not concluding at once that God may not have thought about giving me long life or may have decided otherwise, and I now wish to change His mind and change His decree? Is it not a preclusion of the very effect I wish to create in the consciousness of God?
Have I any right to come before the Creator of all and say that I want this or that, or the other thing, in a manner which clearly indicates that I have outlined and decided upon such things as I feel I need and ask that the Divine Mind accept my understanding in place of its own? I am sure that if every one of us would approach God in prayer as we might approach the king of a country, or the president of a republic, whose blessings have been bestowed upon us in the past and under whose bounty, we have enjoyed much, we would approach prayer very differently.
If we had enjoyed many blessings at the hand of a king and were permitted to come before him for a few moments' communion, we probably would find ourselves uttering first of all words of thankfulness for what we had, and then add that if it pleased the king, we would be happy to continue enjoying the same blessings or possibly more. But not one of us would think of petitioning this king to grant us specific blessings without first having expressed a profound thankfulness for what we have already enjoyed and without diplomatically revealing the fact that we had no right to ask for more, although we still desired to have a continuance of his royal gifts.
How many of us go to prayer in this attitude? How many of us have cleansed our hands of debt by having thanked God for each individual blessing throughout the day? It is said, as a rule of law, that you can not go into court and ask for justice unless you come with such clean hands and clean conduct as to show you have done justice to others and are, therefore, deserving of justice. How do you approach God in your prayers? It is true that the sinner and the one steeped in sin and whose hands and soul may be darkened with evil may approach God in prayer like unto the one who is sinless and perfect, but such a sinner must first of all seek the forgiveness that he can find in the mercy of God and which he cannot find in the court of man. His first prayer must be that of an expression of repentance and regret, and a plea for Divine Grace so that he may stand before God purified and worthy of any further blessings.
After all is said, we are all sinners to some degree and to make sure that we come before God at any time pure enough to be worthy of any blessings, our first petition should be for forgiveness and Grace, accompanied with a sincere expression of appreciation for the blessings already enjoyed.
It is more than likely that if we approach God in this manner and honestly review our life for the day, the month, or the year past, and with humbleness ask for forgiveness for all the evil we have done, and at the same time express profound appreciation for what blessings we already enjoy, we will be so impressed with the magnificence of our lot in life and the sublimity of the Divine benedictions already enjoyed by us, that we will forget about the less consequential things we intended to ask for. It is also more than likely that if we review our lives for the past twenty-four hours and judge ourselves rightly, we will come to realize that we are undeserving of any further blessing, and really unworthy to come before God except with the most humble cry for forgiveness and thankfulness, feeling that we have already received far more than we can hope to compensate for or ever deserve.
Our sinfulness may not consist always of acts committed or thoughts expressed, but principally of omissions. The gift and blessing of life, itself, with consciousness and the full activity of all our faculties carries with it an obligation of service to others in the name of God and to the benefit of humanity. If we have enjoyed these blessings without having returned some service or devoted some of our powers and faculties to the benefits of others, we are sinful, even though we may have committed no overt act or violated no Cosmic command. We must be sure we are worthy in having earned as well as in having obeyed before we can rightfully expect our prayers to be even considered.
And, there must be no hypocrisy in our hearts or minds, no self-deception or aggrandizement. There need be no humiliation, for the greatness and goodness of God within us places man beyond humiliation if he contemplates rightly his relationship with God. But there should be humbleness of spirit, simpleness of mind, and honesty of heart.
Our prayers should be expressions of desires for continued benedictions with the thought ever uppermost in our minds that "Thy will not mine be done." The simple expression of, "May it please the Father that health may return to my body," is a more contrite, honest, and worthy petition than one that demands or suggests that God change the law now in operation in our bodies and set aside certain specific conditions and establish others, simply because this is our desire and our conclusion. A prayer for victory should not be asked by the vainglorious one who has concluded that he above others should be victorious, but that God should grant victory to the one most deserving and most worthy, whether it be the petitioner or one who has even failed to ask God's benediction in this regard. And all prayers should include the thought that not only should the will of God be the determining factor in the granting of the prayer, but that all others in prayer and who are neglectful of prayer should be granted that which they deserve or truly need. The prayer of anyone should never be selfish and personal to the degree that it excludes others and especially those who may be in more sorrow and need at the moment than the petitioner.
I like to think of approaching God in prayer as though I were being granted the rare privilege of a personal interview with the King of Kings and the Host of Hosts. And, I like to think that I have been advised that I can have the rare privilege of asking one blessing or making just one plea at this interview, and that I must meditate upon what it shall be and remember that it must be the thing that I would grant myself to the world and all who are in it if I were in the place of the King. Thus, when I stop to meditate upon what plea I shall make, I often am impressed with the fact that there is nothing that I want nearly as much as the things that are wanted by multitudes of others, and if only one plea can be made and only one blessing granted, I must be honest enough to ask the King to grant to others that which they are praying for and ask nothing for myself.
We do not have any restrictions on prayer, and while each occasion may be like unto a privileged interview whereby we come into personal communion with the Ruler of the Universe or His Son, the Savior of mankind, we may have such communions many times a day. This is the greatest blessing and gift outside of life itself. Yet, it is one that few appreciate and value in times of peace, health, and happiness, but take advantage of it only in times of sorrow, tribulation, and pain.
Learn how to pray and make prayer the real communion of your soul, and the outpouring of your mind in pureness and humbleness. It is one of the most perfect instances of Cosmic contact and to the mystic is a transcendental moment of our earthly existence.
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