In our previous lesson we learned that prayer originates in man's inner nature and that the practice of prayer is primarily the urge of this inner or potential nature to come forth into outer expression. This was illustrated by one's inner urge to become a musician, and the way in which this inner musical urge assumes the form of desire. In other words, desire is the guide to one's potential capacity. Furthermore, we learned that this inner desire is fulfilled by devotion to and practice of the principle of music until a character embodying the elements of the principle, is developed in the student. In nature this process was further illustrated by the urge within a seed or bulb to grow
into the plant, thereby fulfilling its potential and inherent capacity.
In the case of the music student it is obvious that there are those elements in the musical principle which he may lay hold of through devotion and practice, and may build into his nature for the purposes of satisfying his inner desire by the development of his musical character. This is the manner of character development and the true mode of satisfying desire along all lines. Likewise every seed, root, and bulb finds in the principle of nature that which it may lay hold of in the process of its growth and the fulfillment of its potential nature. In fact, in all phases of life we find that there are tangible elements and forces which may be utilized by any organism to enlarge its particular sphere of existence. In this manner each organism fulfills its particular function in the creative system.
That which is true in the above illustrations is also true in every way regarding man's being. To satisfy his hunger, there is an abundance of food yielded by nature. To satisfy his thirst, there is an abundance of water. To satisfy his need of oxygen, there is an abundance of air. It would, therefore, be only logical to assume that there must be in the Universal Scheme, that which satisfies every other longing resident within his nature. In other words, it is only logical to assume that for every cry in the heart of man, there is supply in the being of God. It must be according to natural
law that all the elements which man may need are in the Divine Principle, and that these elements may be utilized by him under certain conditions peculiar to that principle, to meet every requirement or desire of his individual nature.
Just as man takes stock of his everyday desires and thereby estimates his capacities for their fulfillment, so must he learn to take stock of his innermost desires and approximate the possibilities for their achievement. The whole nature of man is enlarged in that sphere which occupies his attention. He has enlarged his estimate of his limitations by studying the appearances of his body and of his environment. He may enlarge his capacities along desirable lines by giving his attention to the inner phase of his nature, his hopes and his ideals. Furthermore, he should give diligent heed to the fact that there is present in the Divine Principle of his being, every element of which his inner nature his being; every element by means of which his inner nature is actually developed until his highest desires are fully expressed.
Since the beginning, man has been aware of the fact that some beneficent force has been at work continuously in his behalf and contributing to his well-being. This force has worked quite independently of his own efforts. Whatever his notion has been regarding this force, it has become his God. He has made his various advances toward, and directed his appeals to, this force according to his
aspirations or fears, his needs, and his desires. His advances in this direction have constituted his prayers. His prayers have increased to a greater or less degree his awareness of the nature of this force. He has also grown accordingly in his awareness or assurance that this power may be invoked in his behalf; and his own capacity has been increased and enlarged thereby. With the advent of Jesus Christ and his teaching, man's concept of this beneficent influence which he had hitherto worshiped in part, was revealed in its completeness as Universal, Infinite, All-Knowing, All-Loving, All-providing and All-Powerful. It was Christ who revealed to us that all the elements in God — his intelligence, his power, his life, his love, and his substance — were available to man to the degree that every desire of the heart, every hunger of the body, and every thirst for righteousness could be satisfied through conscious communion with this ever-present source of all things.
The next important step in an intelligent and effective approach to the practice of prayer is the recognition that God, or whatever power produced the created universe, is self-active. Creation itself is evidence of this fact. Without a previous activity of creative force or power, there never could have been a creation. There can be no effect without a cause. Prayer is therefore not directed to arouse or stimulate God into action, nor in any way to change his action. God is already doing for us
what we need and desire, if we but knew it. The chief thing which seems to delay our good is our own unawareness of his activity in our behalf, and our inability to receive and appropriate that which is already moving to fulfill the purpose of creation in every department of our being. Is not this fact apparent in every phase of creation? Is not the sun shining, the rain falling, the air moving, and the forces of the earth always in operation to meet every need of what we call the natural creation? Isn't the growth of all plant life just the outer evidence of the self-operative and continually moving force of nature? Aren't all of these operations instantly and universally available to every growing thing which is in a position to receive? When we finally awaken to the truth of the entire matter of prayer, we shall discover that the arrival of the answer to our prayer, preceded the prayer itself, and it was this very fact which caused us to pray.
Likewise all the elements in the nature of God are moving upon all men, working in behalf of all men, and are universally and instantly available to whomsoever will receive; for as it is said in the Scriptures, "To as many as receive my spirit, to them gave he power to become the sons of God."
Furthermore, God did create in the beginning; and unless there were in God every element and force to sustain creation, there never could have been these elements in his nature to create in the first place. Therefore there can be no logical denial
of the fact that God is man's instant and ever available supply of life, substance, and intelligence.
The only essential difference in men's varying conceptions of God is in the degree of their discoveries. True, most men have made little or no effort along the line of personal investigation into the nature of the Source of all things. Most men have in the past been content to take for granted, whatever definition was presented by religionists or scientists in their attempts to define the first cause of creation. And yet there can be no essential difference between the God of religion and the "First Cause" of science, or the "logical conclusion" of cold, skeptical reason, if we lay aside personal prejudice and dare to intelligently consider the subject for the sake of facts. During a brief rest period in the writing of this very chapter, a voice over the radio reminded us that after all there are three sides to every question, — your side, my side, and the Truth.
The Scriptures define God as Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient. That is, the creative cause is an all-pervading, all-inclusive, all-powerful moving force which proceeds with intelligence in its creations. This is in harmony with God's own revelation of his nature when he defined himself as "I am that I am and beside me there is no other." God, then, according to the sacred teachings must be the sum of all things visible and invisible.
The God of science — or the scientific concept of the creative cause of the formed universe — is the
concept of a universal ether made up of moving energies, operating under certain laws and producing certain effects. Scientists have even made various applications of some of these forces or energies and have wrought marvelous changes, even in the structure of metals, for example. Some even claim that they have been able to produce protoplasm, the source of all material forms of life. But they seem to overlook the fact that these combinations which they have made were possible only through the direction of these forces by their own intelligence. Without a universal intelligence, there could have been no direction of these forces to produce the created forms dotting infinite space. With the added acceptance of this universal and directive intelligence — which many modern scientists do admit — the scientific concept of God must correspond primarily with the scriptural definition. And furthermore, without a directing intelligence back of creation, it would be a meaningless and purposeless system, springing from chaos and moving hither toward nothing but uncertainty; and moving toward uncertainty would mean chaos again.
The pride of intelligent reason — so called — declares often that there is no God, and that a belief in God is vague superstition. But does not this same pride of intellectual reason embrace the theory that for every effect there must be a cause? that any effect presupposes a corresponding cause? In that case we must assume a cause for the universal creation,
which is a self-evident effect. Also sound reason must conclude that there can be no element in the effect that is not primarily in the cause, for "like produces like." Therefore, if there is form, or substance, in the created Universe, there must be these elements within the cause from which this form is derived. If there is life in our midst that is apparent, there must be life in the cause. And again, since we have the much cherished and exalted intelligence to conceive it, there must of necessity be intelligence within the cause. Therefore we, through the processes of intellectual reason, arrive at the same understanding of God which the Scriptures define. Religion, science, and reason, therefore, must be in perfect agreement when we arrive at a more complete understanding of the source of all things, which we are wont to assemble under the one name "GOD."
That God remains active in his creation is also a self-evident fact inasmuch as life, mind, ability, and all the elements essential to the sustaining of life are in evidence upon every hand, and act quite independently of man's efforts. Though man seems even to militate against the growth of his mind, and the increase of his life, yet these factors of his being, — somewhat diminished in many cases — still endure. But their action within man's nature can be increased as he learns more consciously to cooperate with their activity and tendency toward larger expression through his nature. Does not the
farmer, the gardener, the florist, prove that the forces of nature produce larger, more beautiful and more perfect specimens by conscious co-operation with the laws of nature? If this is true in the vegetable kingdom, as it is also in the animal kingdom, why not with man?
The Scriptures, particularly the teachings of Christ, are clear in the matter of prayer and worship, that these practices should be directed toward God himself rather than toward intermediaries: with the possible exception of Jesus Christ, who assembled within himself the "fullness of the Godhead bodily." Is not the appeal of a student to a mathematician, the equivalent of direct study of the principle as outlined within the textbook? The help received is identical, and whether through the book or the professor, it is the mathematical principle which meets the needs. But in our prayers to Christ, the difficulty which seems to arise with the average individual is in his failure to discern the difference between Christ as an historical character, and Christ as the embodied presence of God with all men at all times. The Scriptures taught that his name should be Immanuel, which means God with us. However, until the individual has a clearer realization of the truth of Christ as "all and in all" it would be as well to follow the general instruction of the Scriptures that each individual make his direct appeal to the Father. Christ himself was very direct in this respect and he always instructed
men to pray to the Father. The prayer which he gave to us begins: "Our Father." Therefore, one of the fundamental attitudes in prayer is the recognition of the fact that each individual has direct access to all that God is. As the Scriptures say again: "There are diversities of operation; but it is the same God which works through all and in all." This is virtually the substance and interior doctrine of the various existing religions of the world. Epictetus said: "When thou hast shut thy door and darkened thy room, say not to thyself thou art alone, God is in thy room."
This direct approach of face-to-face communion with God is therefore one of the essentials of true prayer. As Paul said of God, he is "in you all, through you all, and above you all," and again, "In him we live and move and have our being." It must necessarily remain that man is as completely enveloped in God as he is with the very air he breathes; and all of the elements in the nature of God are as accessible as the oxygen within the air.
One should be materially helped in his practice of prayer by arriving at a correct knowledge of the will of God, or the purpose toward which he moves in human experience, as well as in all his creation. This will of God, or the purpose toward which he moves is Perfection. Once the mind is clarified on this point, the chief barrier to man's spiritual progress, his spiritual and mental well-being, and the readjustment of his affairs, has been removed. No
other belief held by man is so at variance with the facts of life, and as such hinders the answer to his prayer, as the notion that God wills any kind or degree of misfortune in his creation. Therefore, no attitude would be so helpful in man's progress as a clear understanding that the will of God is an uncompromising moving force, whose tendency is toward perfection in every detail of creation.
Jesus Christ in speaking of his purpose in coming into this plane of expression said, "I came not to do mine own will but the will of him that sent me." If Christ bore correct testimony of himself in this statement, and if he was true to his trust, then we can only logically assume that not only his teachings, but his entire ministry, were a revelation of what constitutes the will of God in face of every sort of human experience. He opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped deaf ears, healed the sick, cast out demons, forgave sinners, restored the dead to life, fed the hungry, and even produced money to meet the demands of the commercial system of his time. He further said that it was the "Father within" him who did these works. Surely God would not work through Christ in a manner contrary to his own will. We must therefore conclude that these incidents are more than mere miraculous performances; that they are revelations of the will of God, and that no adverse condition is in any way an indication of the will of God. Indeed, Christ said: "It is not the will of my Father that even the least
of these should perish." God is therefore a Creative Principle and moves, like any other principle, only toward a complete and perfect manifestation of himself. One may pray more effectively when his mind is clear upon this point and he understands that he is not beseeching an unwilling God, but is only conditioning his mind to work in harmony with that perfect state of being toward which God is already "willing" or moving to fulfill. Even before ye ask, he has answered; and as Confucius said: "What heaven appoints is without error."
The act of contemplating or considering the fact that God is ever-present, and that we live and move and have our being in God; and further that all of the infinite nature of God is already moving to perfect himself in every phase of man and nature, would be one of the most effective and intelligent forms of prayer. Christ's original motive always seemed to be in this direction, to find out what the Father was doing; and then he said "What I see the Father doing, that I do." This unifying of the activity of his mind with the Father's mind, seems to have been the fundamental motive of his entire career. In other words his first act was not to consider what he himself might wish or ask, nor what those about him might demand; but what was the action of the Divine source of life itself. "Not my will but thine be done," was the motive of his prayer and his procedure, and was unquestionably
the secret of the marvelous results springing forth in answer to his prayers.
To quicken or increase the consciousness of the Spirit of God in you, spend a few moments each day in contemplating the fact that the Spirit of God is already moving in you and around you; that this Spirit of God is a kindly force and easy to be entreated. It is as kindly as the warmth of the sun and as easily appropriated as the light.
To quicken your understanding of God and to enlighten your mind concerning the Presence of God, merely contemplate the fact that the Mind of God which surrounds you, contains all knowledge; and therefore all that you need to know is already known in the spiritual ethers around you and is seeking to unfold itself in your consciousness.
To quicken the love of God in you, contemplate the fact that the all-embracing Presence of God enfolds you, surrounds you, and binds you inseparably to itself; and that its attitude toward you is kindly, loving, and helpful, willing to give you "every good gift and every perfect gift that cometh from above."
To quicken the life of God in you, contemplate the fact that the spirit of God is a life-giving presence, moving in you, through you, and around you, stimulating into full and vital action with himself, all the forces of your own spirit, mind, and body. Ponder the fact that God, the source of the all-enduring life of infinite space, is also the
source of your life, and quickens you to newness of life, health, and strength.
To quicken the substance of God in you, which is your real and fundamental supply, contemplate the fact that all the elements out of which the visible universe is formed, which includes your body, fill the very spaces within you, beneath you, above you, and around you; and that the will and purpose of God is that this substance should so feed, enrich, and supply you that your every need is fulfilled even to overflowing. Contemplate the fact that your need is not so much for visible supply, but for this invisible substance of God which is the real source of all outward supply; that this substance feeds and nourishes, strengthens, and sustains the inner spiritual nature from which all our true longings come, — which longings are but the soul's need of nourishment from its own source. This is the living bread which comes down from Heaven of which a man may eat and not hunger again.
But to see, or become aware of this perfect presence of God, you must be pure of heart. To be pure of heart is to be free of every thought and feeling that is contrary to the nature of God, which is the fullness of life, intelligence, love, and substance.
Man's cardinal sin is the sin of separation, and therefore the initial step in righteousness is returning to the consciousness of the Oneness and Allness
of God in and through his creations even as in the heavens. Christ's method for the purification of the individual consciousness regarding this fact was given in his first and greatest commandment: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." The mystics, even before the time of Christ, proclaimed this same doctrine by teaching their followers to "declare there is no strength nor power but in God, to avert the evil one from the world and from your own soul." When man's consciousness is thus purified of all defilement or ignorance of the Presence and Power and Purpose of God, then he is in position to receive that which is designed in the purpose of God to give him, and "it is the Father's pleasure to give you the Kingdom."