Prayer is the Soul's sincere desire.
Men pray cream and live skim-milk.
Prayer is a form of concentration. Men pray to their ideals.
- Theodore Parker.
Uttered not but comprehended Is the Spirit's voiceless prayer.
More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of.
And so I sometimes think our prayers
Might well be merged in one, And nest and perch, and hearth and church,
Repeat "Thy will be done!"
O Indra! have mercy upon me and give me daily bread! Sharpen my mind like edge of iron! Whatever I now utter longing for thee, do thou accept it! Make me possessed of Thee.
- Rig Veda. (Quoted by Max Muller.)
The influence of a calm trust and faith expressing itself in prayer, uttered or unexpressed, over the functions of organic life, cannot be over-estimated. It is a spiritual and potential influence and force brought to bear upon the hidden spring of disease. It is one of the most potent prophylactic agencies against the inception and cause of all morbid conditions. * * *
- F. W. Evans.
Among the many forms and methods of concentration, prayer is the most common and the most potent. The secret of the religious world has been that by prayer at altar, with prayer-book, through hymn, ritual, rite, and environment, it has led the soul to contemplation of holy thoughts, and through concentrating upon them, the thought thus sown in the mind has influenced the life for good. You can learn valuable lessons from any church service. Any form, any rite, any book, any ritual, written prayer, or hymn has a value to the one who concentrates upon it as Truth, or as a way to Truth It is not through form or book, but through the thought - through the attitude of the Mind that benefits come. There Power lies. We would partake of the charity and humility of Whittier when he says: -
A bending staff I would not break,
A feeble faith I would not shake,
Nor even rashly pluck away
The error that some truth may stay,
Whose loss might leave the soul without
A shield against the shafts of doubt.
All these religious institutions grew out of human needs and minister to human needs, because they are but methods of concentration under holy thoughts; to the extent they are accepted in faith, they produce results in holy living. For this reason noble characters are found in every clime and under every creed. They concentrated upon their Ideals in religious services. The Ideal element in each draws, inspires and holds. Paul gave the Philippians a most excellent rule, when he said: - "That ye may approve things that are excellent ; that ye may be sincere and void of offence." Sincerity is the only condition of receptivity and that Ideal which we sincerely accept, we cling to till it manifests. But prayer is the "Soul's sincere desire!" we pray from the Ideal and to the extent that we are persistent in our prayer, it becomes realized in the objective life. "Pray without ceasing!" can only mean, "Concentrate upon the desire expressed in your prayer." Again we are told, "Whatever things ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye have received them and ye shall have them!" This is the statement in another form of the principle of Affirmation. Affirm that you are the Ideal and through that Affirmation you create conditions through which the Ideal shall manifest.
Thus there is but one Principle, uniform in all its operations in all religions and in no religion. Without understanding men have unconsciously obeyed the Law. That Law is found in the Principle of Concentration in sincerity upon the ideal. This is but another way of saying "I AM THAT WHICH I THINK I AM!" I pray, thinking I have received, and lo! I have received. Thus prayer is a common and instinctive method of arriving at health, happiness and success through Concentration. Tennyson tells us "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," because through prayer the Principle of Concentration is applied to daily living. When the Law is understood and practiced by you, you will have found the only way in which conscious man has directed his development. He has wrought through the concentration as Will. upon that thought which is born of desire. Any form of prayer which one sincerely uses, will work the end which is desired in the Thought expressed. Thoughts are materialized into life through prayer.
Therefore the selfish and the generous, the proud and the humble, the ill and the well, the failures and the successes, may all use the same formulas, utter the same prayers, but the results in each life will be as different as are the feelings awakened by the petition; for the objective results are decided by the real desires of the heart and not by the words. Since most of the prayers are selfish and personal, looking to some outside power for help, asking for something which the petitioner really possesses, but is not conscious of possessing, the answers, like the petitions, are selfish and limited to temporary and personal likes. Should a person of quick temper pray sincerely to be cured of the habit, he will be cured as he says: - "Lead me not into temptation." But should he pray through fear of the pain which an outburst of anger brings, he will find relief from present pain, but not from the cause, which will remain to bring pain again through another outburst of anger. So with sickness; a prayer for health will be answered according to the faith in which the prayer is uttered. "Lord! Save or I perish!" will bring salvation according to the thought embodied in the words expressed, and not according to the Power really dwelling within any person, potentate, or God, outside the Soul of the one who prays.
God-In-You answers His own prayer. He cannot answer till you give him opportunity by making conditions by faith.
Prayer is the best method of cultivating faith, for through it one learns to "Cast his burdens" off his conscious mind and allow the thought born of the Ideal to fall into the sub-conscious, there to become the director of the conscious expression. Prayer is the state of forgetfulness of the present and of the objective self; a state of concentration and is entered into with some dominant thought which has the power of an Auto-Suggestion. This Auto-Suggestion is received by the Sub-conscious and creates the spiritual condition desired, and that condition produces the desired objective results. Therefore when one says, "I cannot concentrate," I reply - Each time you sincerely desire you are concentrated. Each time a wish becomes desire you are praying; you are concentrating. The thought of this section is beautifully expressed by a poem translated from the Arabian, by James Freeman Clarke:
"Allah! Allah!" cried the sick man, racked with pain the long night through, Till with prayer his heart grew tender, and his lips like honey grew. But at morning came the tempter, said, - "Call louder, child of pain! See if Allah ever answers, Here am I, again'." Like a stab the cruel cavil through his brain and pulses went. To his heart an icy coldness, to his brain a darkness sent. Then before him stands Elias, says, "My child why thus dismayed? Dost repent thy former fervor? Is thy soul of prayer, afraid?" "Ah!" he cried, "I've called so often; never heard the 'Here am I!' And I thought, 'God will not pity! Will not turn on me his eye!'" Then the grave Elias answered, "God said, 'Rise Elias, Go; Speak to him the sorely tempted; lift him from his gulf of woe. Tell him that his very longing, is itself my answering cry. That his prayer, 'Come gracious Allah!' is my answer,
'Here am I' Every inmost aspiration is God's answer undeflled;
And in every 'O, My Father!' slumbers deep a 'Here my child.'"