Could you give us some highlights on how to pray? What should be part of every prayer, every day?
The Guide: The spreading of truth among humankind. Praying for unhappy souls and human beings generally. Praying for loved ones – which is easy. Your prayers should also be for those whom you do not like. The more you dislike them, the more you should pray for them. Then try to observe your feelings when you wish them happiness.
Do not deceive yourself. Say to yourself, “A part of me wants this; another part of me is still struggling against good wishes for certain people.” In this way, you will not be living a lie. Try it and ask God to help you to feel wholeheartedly within yourself, love for everyone, at least while you pray.
Everyone should pray for peace, for love, brotherhood, justice, the spreading of divine law. But you can only be a great contributor to peace and brotherhood if you cultivate these qualities within yourself. As long as hatred, resentment and intolerance exist in you, you contribute to the opposite of all that you pray for.
Your realization that you are a part of the universe and can further or hinder divine truth, peace and love, will make you feel more responsible. Your prayer for all these highest values will not be divorced quite so much anymore from your own development and your sense of participation with every other creature in existence.
The self-will, pride and fear inherent in every human being will give way to humility, love and the willingness to have God’s will done in all respects. But do not only pray for this in general; try to observe in yourself exactly where you react, think and feel differently from what is pleasing to God.
Pray that you may find out specifically what your fears are. And once this prayer has been answered, pray that you can overcome your fears by being able to accept what you fear, provided it is God’s will for you, and it is good for your development and spiritual growth. Pray for the ability to embrace pain as well as happiness.
Pray that you do not love your ego so much that you shirk the healing agent of occasional pain. Pray for the courage to take pain in the right manner. Then, in the ultimate sense, pain must be one with happiness. When you reach a certain point on your road to God, you will not know the difference between pain and pleasure. Pain will be happiness and happiness will be pain in a blissful sense. All is one in the end.
I realize, my friends, that these are merely words just now – perhaps even dangerous words for some of you. You should not try to force the state of being I am explaining here. You cannot force it. Anything can be perverted, especially when it is forced.
So beware of forcibly assuming the states which I am describing here. Simply continue on your path, step by step, and every day you will accomplish something. And that is good. Do not hurry. Results develop organically out of immediate efforts and needs. If you pray for all this and, in addition, introduce your changing personal problems into the fabric of your prayer, you will reap the fruits.
There are some theories that say that in order to achieve the discipline of daily prayer, one should set aside the same time every day. I think that this leads rather to the routine against which you warned us. Which is right?
The Guide: You cannot generalize. For some people, it is right to do it one way, for others, another way. If a person continues to have difficulty in mastering a discipline, then the same time and same place every day may be helpful. There are also cases when discipline can be just as well or better developed if one does not bind oneself pedantically. This depends on the person’s way of life, on his or her character, on many circumstances. One cannot make a rule.
I should say that every person can devote at least two or three minutes to prayer when they get up and when they go to bed. But that does not necessarily have to be the time. Some people may find another time of the day better, but they should still rise and retire in God and with God. This does not take more than a few minutes and should be done in addition to the long prayer that will take at least half an hour.
The important thing for the longer prayer is that you know you have sufficient time and that no one is going to disturb you, so that you can be wholly relaxed. When that time should be, is different for each person. There is an individual rhythm for everyone.
Are the batteries of both willpower and courage recharged by prayer?
The Guide: Of course! If you pray specifically for willpower and courage for a good purpose, as outlined in Lecture #38 Images, the prayer will certainly be answered. If you pray for something else, you will get something else, provided it is good and according to law. It is so very important to know what to pray for at any given stage of your development.
People seldom realize that they must pray to get ahead. Often it is not clear to you what you need most at specific phases of your development. You may put emphasis on something that is less important now than it was two months ago. Your needs may have changed.
As Jesus Christ said, “Knock and it will be opened unto you.” The knocking symbolizes being alert and interested enough to figure out what you need most at various stages of your path. The path changes constantly. And you surely cannot pray with equal concentration on everything at once.
What about the problem of selfishness in prayer?
The Guide: I know that many people are afraid that their prayers are selfish. But that depends very much on how you pray. You cannot say of any act that it is selfish or not, without examining it.
Aside from crass instances, it is your motive that counts in all desires and attitudes. Selfishness always depends on the how. To determine this is really very simple. If you pray for things solely because you want them and because it would be pleasant to have them and for no other reason, then, of course, it is a selfish prayer and it will do no good at all. For only a pure spiritual force coming out of your soul will have an effect.
A selfish prayer indicates a misunderstanding of life and is therefore made in untruth, even though you are not deliberately dishonest. Nevertheless, an untrue thought, innocent and in good faith as it may be, cannot meet with the true forces of the cosmos. Like attracts like, and this law cannot be changed.
One of the first things you learn on this Path is to ask yourself about your motives for desiring a certain thing, to ask yourself about the why of some of your emotional reactions. If you do not find the answer, it is a good beginning to pray for the will to recognize yourself fearlessly and truthfully. Thus, in such an instance, you would pray that your motives should become purified.
This cannot be construed as selfishness. Furthermore, it is certainly not selfish to pray for the good of other creatures. If you can bring yourself to pray for those who have harmed you – and mean it – that in itself is an act of purification. And if you pray for strength and understanding to overcome your cowardice to face yourself, and to overcome your resistance to developing yourself, there is nothing selfish in that.
If you believe that wanting the happiness that inevitably results from purification, after a certain point is reached, is self-serving, then remaining unpurified and unhappy would seem to be a higher aim because it would seem selfless!
In this connection, you must understand how God’s laws work: only those who are happy can bring happiness to others. I do not mean cheap and easily obtainable happiness, but the real thing that comes only by hard labor and that no one can take away from you. You will never see an unhappy person who can truly bring happiness to others. That is impossible.
An unhappy person may do a good deed, a single unselfish act, but cannot possibly make another person happy. Therefore, your purification and development should be the main intent of your prayer, apart from praying for others, and consider the resulting happiness a byproduct, a means to an end, rather than the end itself.
If selfishness, namely the desire to become happy, enters your motivation a little bit at the beginning of your upward climb, recognize this, but do not mind it too much. Accept yourself as you are, as still imperfect. Even if the selfish motive is not as pure as expecting happiness only as a byproduct, it is still a step forward in the realization of truth. Only by purifying yourself can you become happy. The person who has a lower degree of consciousness, however, believes that happiness results from giving in to all the desires coming from the lower nature.
If you are not free from selfishness – and scarcely a human being is – it is certainly healthier to see this clearly instead of forcing it away. In that way, it will only hide in your soul and cause you more harm than the clear and courageous recognition of its existence. Know that the aim is a higher one, and know that you are emotionally not there yet.
Also, realize that secluded happiness is impossible. The separating wall must crumble, and that is what all of you are afraid of; it threatens you. You do not realize that by keeping your separating wall, you defeat your own purpose and you contradict your desire to develop, which exists just as strongly as your fear of it. You all desire happiness and you all desire to give happiness, yet you cannot achieve either one without losing your separateness.
And how do you lose your separateness? By doing the very thing that seems hardest to you. Perhaps it is giving up your pride, going through your apparent shame. When you approach the problem this way, you will realize that in this kind of prayer there is certainly nothing selfish. For God wants you to be happy.
It is a long tradition of misunderstanding, often unpronounced, that to be godly means to be unhappy and severe. To be godly is supposed to be martyrdom. This image is engraved in humanity as a whole. No, my friends, it is not so. So do not feel guilty if you also become happy. But do not pray directly for happiness.
Pray for the strength and ability to remove the obstacles you have placed between yourself and happiness. This means going through the unhappiness, self-inflicted by error and ignorance. The outcome will be the clear light of peace, harmony, beauty and joy, that will be yours regardless of other people’s actions. That is the spirit you should have when you pray.
Is silent prayer, without uttering words, sufficient, or does formulation and verbalization in loud words make prayer more effective?
The Guide: Silent prayer, if the words are concisely thought, is, of course, just as effective. There is no doubt about it. For the thought is a form, just as much as the spoken word. In fact, if a spoken word is expressed lightly, without the impact of emotion and meaning, it has much less power and effect, and therefore is a much weaker form than the word that is thought and deeply felt. However, if in a group gathering a person finds it difficult to pray in front of others, that is something to look into, for that means a block.
What does the block mean? It often indicates pride. Yes, my friends, this might seem strange to some of you, for you may have so beautifully explained away that your inability to pray in front of others is modesty. Still, when you analyze your feelings about why it is so embarrassing to say a prayer in front of your friends, you will discover that your embarrassment comes from a feeling of humiliation.
When you pray to God, you quite naturally feel humble. And to appear so humble in front of others makes you feel as though you were humiliated. To be humble is what a part of your emotions wants to avoid. In the presence of other people, you want to appear secure, on top of the world.
You do not want to show yourself to others as you really are, as you must show yourself to God: groping, insecure, uncertain. In other words, to show your true face, as you show it to God, gives you the impression of humiliating yourself, and that is pride. For the truly humble person does not fear to show himself as he really is. She has the courage to be herself.
Therefore, in this one small symptom of having difficulty praying in front of others lies a very significant factor of your emotional state that needs looking into. If you cannot pray from your heart in front of others, this inability is the very thing you should overcome – not necessarily by forcing yourself to do so, although that may help, but by looking into your psychological reactions and evaluating them in the light of your present truth. It is always good to approach the goal from two sides, the outside and the inside.
I noticed that some people pray by addressing God in the third person. In other words, they speak about God. They say, for instance, “I ask God…,” rather than speaking directly to God. Is there any significance in this? Does it make any difference?
The Guide: Yes, there is a significance. Perhaps the best way to describe this difference is that it is a stage in coming closer to the Creator. The person who addresses himself directly to him is already in a state in which he or she wants a direct, intimate contact with God. A one-to-one dialogue, as it were, is a substantial part of your relationship with God.
Those of you who pray by expressing what they would wish to give to him, or what they wish to receive from him, do this because of a still-existing shyness, a fear, a not daring to move too close to the source of all life, of all supply that you need in this life. Perhaps you can tune in on yourself and test the difference in you when you pray by addressing him directly, or when you express what you wish to say to him in the third person. This difference will become very clear in you once you set out to observe your own reactions. Then you will see the significance.
May I ask why is it so difficult at times to start praying at all?
The Guide: You all know that your development does not proceed upward or downward along a steady line. It fluctuates, going up and down in spirals. And sometimes, while you are on a downward curve, you do not realize you are a step higher than the last upward curve you were on. Although the last upward curve was, on the whole, lower than the present downward curve, every upward curve feels better.
You felt an elation and a liberation that you do not feel on the downward curve, which you have now worked yourself up to. Whenever you are on a downward curve, you encounter conflicts that you have not yet resolved. They disquiet you; they make you restless and fearful, until you have laboriously worked them out and understood them, until you have fitted them into as much of the whole picture as is available to you now. When this is done, the upward curve sets in again, and you enjoy the clear air of a gained truth a little further.
But when the downward curve comes again, you must delve into the darkness of your confusion and error, and that cuts you off from the divine stream. You may oversimplify this by saying: “Things are depressing; I experience unpleasant things and that is why I am cut off from the divine flow.” You are only half right, and that is always dangerous. The unpleasantness you are experiencing is only a reflection, a necessary effect, of the cause you have within yourself that waits to be dug out.
That is why, when you are on the downward curve, which may vary in length according to the personality and the inner problems to be solved, the flow is cut off. You are surrounded again by the strong impressions of the world of manifestation. You can no longer connect with the feeling of reality you have tasted at other times. The disconnection is necessary; it provokes a battle on your part to attain victory again. Every victory means a new upward curve.
It is quite natural that in such periods of temporary darkness, you cannot feel God’s absolute truth, that you do not vibrate with it. This cannot be forced by your will. But what you can and should do during these periods is to think clearly and reasonably about your findings in the light of what you now know – although temporarily this knowledge sits only in your brain – and to wait until you become filled with this knowledge again.
Can you please provide some guidance for how to get started?
The Guide: Let us all become very still, and I will say the words, and inside of you try to go along with these words: “Be still and know I am God, the ultimate power. Listen to this power within, to this presence and to these intentions. I am God, everyone is God. God is all, in everything that lives and moves, that breathes and knows, that feels and is.
“God in me has the power to make the separated little ego know the ultimate power to integrate this ego. I have the possibility to feel all my feelings – to deal with and handle all my feelings. This possibility is there in me, and I know this potentiality can be realized the moment I know it. And I now choose to know I can be alive; I have the strength to be weak and vulnerable.
“I can accept my numbness now, my insecurities, my feeling state and my nonfeeling state. I can listen into this state and wait. I can be still and feel into me. I can be still and hear my superior intelligence, the God intelligence, instruct me. I can establish this contact.
I will pay the price by giving the best I have and am to life. I will live my life honestly in wanting to give the best. For then I will be able to receive the best without cringing. I do not fear to invest the best of myself into life.”