Nona L. Brooks
Prayer has seemed a mystery to men because they have not understood the nature of the relation between God and man. When God was thought of as abiding in heaven and ruling the earth from a throne on high far from the homes of men, there was reason in belief that he did not know the thoughts, needs, and ideals of earth-dwellers. For centuries our thinking has been in terms of space and time; hence, heaven seemed a long distance from us, and the time when God walked with Adam in the garden at the close of the day seemed an eternity. According to this conception, God had visited the world after creating it, but He had withdrawn His mighty presence to become a ruling power; hence, in order to reach this presence, it was necessary that men become subservient as they did in relation to earthly kings, and implore the mercy of this heavenly king. Some among the children of this earth seemed favored by this ruling power; others were less favored, or in fact, were is disfavor--hence, the mystery. Men sought to reach the mighty one by various methods; sacrifice of possessions, expiation or individual repentance, and supplication were the most commonly employed means. It is the relation of supplication to the newer form of prayer that we shall discuss in this chapter.
In the old prayer, men sought to get that which they needed and desired; in the new prayer, men seek to give of themselves, to commune with God that His perfect will may be known to them, and to give of themselves to their fellow men according to this Purpose; in other words they seek to cooperate with God, the Giver of all good gifts. Instead of beseeching a far away power, they are affirming the immediate presence of an abiding Power. Instead of begging for bounty, they are working to realize the abundance that is theirs by divine heritage. The great lesson of prayer today is that God and man are one; the high purpose of prayer is to establish this relationship in men's thinking. Instead of the old conception of a God who is reluctantly withholding his favors from the lives of men, and who, therefore, must be appeased and besought in order that he may grant favors, there is a new concept--Infinite Spirit sharing its all.
The new conception of God requires a new method of prayer in which men do not ask for things but seek light and more light. This is the powerful prayer, if it is backed by conviction. The new prayer, then, is for realization. From the dawn of consciousness that something within has sought That Something Bigger; it is the Divine Urge impelling men to seek the good and to find it. Prayer is the method by which the sons of God come to realize the immediate Presence and Power of God in their lives. No matter by what method men have prayed, however, if their prayers were backed by faith, these have proved effective. Worship and prayer have a reflective benefit upon the one who worships and prays; prayer is not for God's benefit except as the Father finds satisfaction in direct communion and companionship with his children.
The Indians of Colorado in times long past believed that the Great Spirit lived upon the top of Pikes Peak, and they would march for many miles in order to camp in sight of this mighty mountain, that they might offer their prayers directly to the Great Spirit. These children of the race watched for signs; if the sun shone, the Spirit was commending their plans; if clouds covered the top of the peak, he was saying no, and they would abandon their project. The yes of the Great Spirit meant courage to these children, and they went forth prepared to carry through their purpose.
Today many of us believe that we are praying a larger prayer than our forefathers did; we must remember, however, that our prayer is larger and more powerful, because they prayed before us the prayer of supplication with great faith. The consciousness that lies back of prayer is dynamic. Faith is the great motivating power. I look back to the first time that I was directly conscious of the power of prayer. My mother was going to visit my grandmother and my aunt; I was to be left at home. Now, to visit my grandmother's home was the height of my dreams. My brothers were to be taken. I saw why later. It was easier and safer to leave the girls at home without paternal guidance than it was to leave the boys. I was heart-broken for the first time in my six years of life. What was I to do? I had been told to pray for what I believed that I should have. I resolved to pray a special prayer. I did not put my supplication into the regular morning and evening prayer, but I had a time set apart. I would break away from my play over and over again to hasten to my room; there I would kneel at my bedside and ask the Father to let me go to visit my grandmother. I kept my prayers secret; but I silently prepared my doll's clothes for a trip. The day before my mother left, she decided to take me. My prayer had been backed by conviction; it was effective.
Prayer is fundamental in life. Whether we know it or not, we are continually praying. Every aspiration, all worthwhile desire, and all true attitude are prayers. All praise to God and all appreciation of his goodness to the children of men is prayer. True service is prayer. Highest prayer is that prayer which is based upon great principles; it is the prayer that is in accord with the nature of the Universe; it is the prayer that aligns itself with Truth. Knowing and living the truth of the Infinite is the highest prayer.
The prayer of affirmation is most powerful; in the old way I asked God to heal me and to give me what I needed; in the new way, I affirm that God is Health and Abundance. I know that wholeness and abundance are God's will for me; I know that I am well, whole and perfect. It makes no difference what I think about it; human conception does not determine the state of my Being; Truth does this. I do not plead, but I train my thinking to realize that in God-Mind I have my Being; this Mind is always manifesting. Mind and Mind in action is the Universe. Before I call for health, God has answered by being Health, Love, and Harmony. The new prayer is affirmation of fulness. All things are possible to the one who prays the prayer that is in accord with principle. There will not be one thing that seems to be wrong that can not and will not be righted, when we identify our thinking with God-Thought.
Faith is the dynamic power, remember. Above all, pray. The praying life is the life of power; Jesus lived it. The new prayer is the prayer of illumined faith, and of the acknowledgment of God's Presence and Power. It is the foundation of all true seeing and believing; and through it comes the greatest of all joys, the realized comradeship between God and man. Through praying the larger prayer we become constantly more conscious of God and God in action, and of Infinite Mind everywhere in all life experience.
Sometimes one longs to pray the old prayer--to ask the Father for something very near to the deepest desires and aspirations of the heart. I have felt this, and I have known that God has understood. Even though we do not consider that the prayer of supplication is that of the highest vision, still, we know that it has brought satisfaction to the lives of many men. Sometimes a few words like these spoken from the heart bring comfort and rest: "Dear Father, you know for what I am praying, and I trust you to help me to realize that which is best about it." Prayer is the essential.
I recall the evolution of prayer in my own life. First I prayed for things; then, there began to come within me a deep longing for a greater Something; at first I did not know for what. One Sunday morning when I was ten or eleven years old, all of the family were at church; I went out into the garden, and walked up and down between two old-fashioned flower beds, gay with flowers that my mother loved. I can see again the glow of sunshine that flooded the garden; it was there that I had my first deep religious experience. I prayed, "Oh, Father, make me good; I want to know You--to come close to You, Father." The aspiration which awoke in my heart that morning is the fundamental aspiration of my life today; this great desire underneath every act of my life, this aspiration to get closer to God, has been a constant experience. God answered my prayer; although I could not see then in what way the answer would come. This desire within me to know God has been steadily realized; it is supreme above everything in my life.
Our prayers are answered; the fundamental things come to us in answer to our deeper prayers; while those things which are not essential, and do not further our development in deeper realization are withheld. Prayer prepares us for bigger things. That which is best for our development comes to us by the eternal working of the Law of Life. At one time I prayed for light; and light came. I felt that I was touching God; I was alive in God. I am living my answered prayer now. I do not ask for this and that; I seek realization. The larger prayer in my life grew out of years of deep inner longing, without my knowing what the results would be. The way was opened for me to come into a greater revelation of truth. I was led to study; I entered the first class held in Pueblo thirty-six years ago; in that class my prayer of the years was answered. I found God. I saw my first great light; it has been growing deeper, clearer, and more powerful ever since. In this light there is no darkness. I was one of a simple little group searching for more of truth when I saw this great light; how well I recall that afternoon in the class when radiant glory filled the room. I knew that I was healed. I felt the Spirit's blessing upon me; I had touched God.
We have been taught to pray without ceasing. What does this mean? It means true aspiring, high thinking, being infinitely patient, keeping the faith, trusting deeply, serving with integrity of purpose. Prayer is not a matter of words merely; it is a treatment, an affirmation, a thought of love, an assertion of faith; these establish within us an attitude of certainty and of confidence in the goodness of God-Law and Love which is the most powerful prayer. When I am going on a journey, I do not say that this or that must be done; I rest in the certainty that Spirit is going before me to prepare the way. Your ways and my ways are divinely directed; all is well. When I rise to speak before a strange audience, I know that only the Spirit is speaking; I get myself out of the way. These are some of the ways of praying without ceasing.
We are agreed, I trust, that all prayer is powerful; its effect is always uplifting. It reacts for good upon the one offering it. The one who knows that he is praying according to the nature of the Universe, and whose affirmations are backed by faith, prays the dynamic prayer, and it reacts wholesomely upon him. The man who lives the praying life is not moved by outer conditions; he is able to solve these. He says with Paul, "None of these things move me." The praying life is the powerful life, for it touches all the fundamental principles and is able to apply these. To him who knows himself one with all Life only good comes; all of his prayers are answered; his thoughts, words, and deeds are worthwhile. The praying attitude was the Jesus attitude; he identified in his thinking with Spirit, and showed us the meaining of praying without ceasing.
There is no longer mystery about the perfect communion of God and man that we call prayer. We have found the key that unlocks all of the mysteries in the concept of Omnipresence. In the light of Omnipresence we see that God and man are One; that heaven and earth are One; it is this established attitude that is our most powerful prayer. Time and space vanish from our thinking as we grow in the realization of Truth. We see now that the garden in which Adam walked at the close of day was itself Infinite Mind in manifestation, and that as we walk among the flowers, we walk with God. Sincere that there is no separation, there is no true need, uplifted thought, or loving aspiration, of which God is not aware. Instead of asking to be given more, let us make the best use of what we have--the gift of God within us. What is the powerful prayer? It is the life lived in the realization that God and man are one.
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Symphony of Love