Chief of Midwayers
91.5.1 In ancestor worship, prayer leads to the cultivation of ancestral ideals. But prayer, as a feature of Deity worship, transcends all other such practices since it leads to the cultivation of divine ideals. As the concept of the alter ego of prayer becomes supreme and divine, so are man's ideals accordingly elevated from mere human toward supernal and divine levels, and the result of all such praying is the enhancement of human character and the profound unification of human personality.
91.5.2 But prayer need not always be individual. Group or congregational praying is very effective in that it is highly socializing in its repercussions. When a group engages in community prayer for moral enhancement and spiritual uplift, such devotions are reactive upon the individuals composing the group; they are all made better because of participation. Even a whole city or an entire nation can be helped by such prayer devotions. Confession, repentance, and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations, and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of valorous achievement.
91.5.3 If you truly desire to overcome the habit of criticizing some friend, the quickest and surest way of achieving such a change of attitude is to establish the habit of praying for that person every day of your life. But the social repercussions of such prayers are dependent largely on two conditions:
91.5.4 1. The person who is prayed for should know that he is being prayed for.
91.5.5 2. The person who prays should come into intimate social contact with the person for whom he is praying.
91.5.6 Prayer is the technique whereby, sooner or later, every religion becomes institutionalized. And in time prayer becomes associated with numerous secondary agencies, some helpful, others decidedly deleterious, such as priests, holy books, worship rituals, and ceremonials.
91.5.7 But the minds of greater spiritual illumination should be patient with, and tolerant of, those less endowed intellects that crave symbolism for the mobilization of their feeble spiritual insight. The strong must not look with disdain upon the weak. Those who are God-conscious without symbolism must not deny the grace-ministry of the symbol to those who find it difficult to worship Deity and to revere truth, beauty, and goodness without form and ritual. In prayerful worship, most mortals envision some symbol of the object-goal of their devotions.
91.6.1 Prayer, unless in liaison with the will and actions of the personal spiritual forces and material supervisors of a realm, can have no direct effect upon one's physical environment. While there is a very definite limit to the province of the petitions of prayer, such limits do not equally apply to the faith of those who pray.
91.6.2 Prayer is not a technique for curing real and organic diseases, but it has contributed enormously to the enjoyment of abundant health and to the cure of numerous mental, emotional, and nervous ailments. And even in actual bacterial disease, prayer has many times added to the efficacy of other remedial procedures. Prayer has turned many an irritable and complaining invalid into a paragon of patience and made him an inspiration to all other human sufferers.
91.6.3 No matter how difficult it may be to reconcile the scientific doubtings regarding the efficacy of prayer with the ever-present urge to seek help and guidance from divine sources, never forget that the sincere prayer of faith is a mighty force for the promotion of personal happiness, individual self-control, social harmony, moral progress, and spiritual attainment.
91.6.4 Prayer, even as a purely human practice, a dialogue with one's alter ego, constitutes a technique of the most efficient approach to the realization of those reserve powers of human nature which are stored and conserved in the unconscious realms of the human mind. Prayer is a sound psychologic practice, aside from its religious implications and its spiritual significance. It is a fact of human experience that most persons, if sufficiently hard pressed, will pray in some way to some source of help.
91.6.5 Do not be so slothful as to ask God to solve your difficulties, but never hesitate to ask him for wisdom and spiritual strength to guide and sustain you while you yourself resolutely and courageously attack the problems at hand.
91.6.6 Prayer has been an indispensable factor in the progress and preservation of religious civilization, and it still has mighty contributions to make to the further enhancement and spiritualization of society if those who pray will only do so in the light of scientific facts, philosophic wisdom, intellectual sincerity, and spiritual faith. Pray as Jesus taught his disciples - honestly, unselfishly, with fairness, and without doubting.
91.6.7 But the efficacy of prayer in the personal spiritual experience of the one who prays is in no way dependent on such a worshiper's intellectual understanding, philosophic acumen, social level, cultural status, or other mortal acquirements. The psychic and spiritual concomitants of the prayer of faith are immediate, personal, and experiential. There is no other technique whereby every man, regardless of all other mortal accomplishments, can so effectively and immediately approach the threshold of that realm wherein he can communicate with his Maker, where the creature contacts with the reality of the Creator, with the indwelling Thought Adjuster.
91.7.1 Mysticism, as the technique of the cultivation of the consciousness of the presence of God, is altogether praiseworthy, but when such practices lead to social isolation and culminate in religious fanaticism, they are all but reprehensible. Altogether too frequently that which the overwrought mystic evaluates as divine inspiration is the uprisings of his own deep mind. The contact of the mortal mind with its indwelling Adjuster, while often favored by devoted meditation, is more frequently facilitated by wholehearted and loving service in unselfish ministry to one's fellow creatures.
91.7.2 The great religious teachers and the prophets of past ages were not extreme mystics. They were God-knowing men and women who best served their God by unselfish ministry to their fellow mortals. Jesus often took his apostles away by themselves for short periods to engage in meditation and prayer, but for the most part he kept them in service-contact with the multitudes. The soul of man requires spiritual exercise as well as spiritual nourishment.
91.7.3 Religious ecstasy is permissible when resulting from sane antecedents, but such experiences are more often the outgrowth of purely emotional influences than a manifestation of deep spiritual character. Religious persons must not regard every vivid psychologic presentiment and every intense emotional experience as a divine revelation or a spiritual communication. Genuine spiritual ecstasy is usually associated with great outward calmness and almost perfect emotional control. But true prophetic vision is a superpsychologic presentiment. Such visitations are not pseudo hallucinations, neither are they trancelike ecstasies.
91.7.4 The human mind may perform in response to so-called inspiration when it is sensitive either to the uprisings of the subconscious or to the stimulus of the superconscious. In either case it appears to the individual that such augmentations of the content of consciousness are more or less foreign. Unrestrained mystical enthusiasm and rampant religious ecstasy are not the credentials of inspiration, supposedly divine credentials.
91.7.5 The practical test of all these strange religious experiences of mysticism, ecstasy, and inspiration is to observe whether these phenomena cause an individual:
91.7.6 1. To enjoy better and more complete physical health.
91.7.7 2. To function more efficiently and practically in his mental life.
91.7.8 3. More fully and joyfully to socialize his religious experience.
91.7.9 4. More completely to spiritualize his day-by-day living while faithfully discharging the commonplace duties of routine mortal existence.
91.7.10 5. To enhance his love for, and appreciation of, truth, beauty, and goodness.
91.7.11 6. To conserve currently recognized social, moral, ethical, and spiritual values.
91.7.12 7. To increase his spiritual insight - God-consciousness.
91.7.13 But prayer has no real association with these exceptional religious experiences. When prayer becomes overmuch aesthetic, when it consists almost exclusively in beautiful and blissful contemplation of paradisiacal divinity, it loses much of its socializing influence and tends toward mysticism and the isolation of its devotees. There is a certain danger associated with overmuch private praying which is corrected and prevented by group praying, community devotions.
91.8.1 There is a truly spontaneous aspect to prayer, for primitive man found himself praying long before he had any clear concept of a God. Early man was wont to pray in two diverse situations: When in dire need, he experienced the impulse to reach out for help; and when jubilant, he indulged the impulsive expression of joy.
91.8.2 Prayer is not an evolution of magic; they each arose independently. Magic was an attempt to adjust Deity to conditions; prayer is the effort to adjust the personality to the will of Deity. True prayer is both moral and religious; magic is neither.
91.8.3 Prayer may become an established custom; many pray because others do. Still others pray because they fear something direful may happen if they do not offer their regular supplications.
91.8.4 To some individuals prayer is the calm expression of gratitude; to others, a group expression of praise, social devotions; sometimes it is the imitation of another's religion, while in true praying it is the sincere and trusting communication of the spiritual nature of the creature with the anywhere presence of the spirit of the Creator.
91.8.5 Prayer may be a spontaneous expression of God-consciousness or a meaningless recitation of theologic formulas. It may be the ecstatic praise of a God-knowing soul or the slavish obeisance of a fear-ridden mortal. It is sometimes the pathetic expression of spiritual craving and sometimes the blatant shouting of pious phrases. Prayer may be joyous praise or a humble plea for forgiveness.
91.8.6 Prayer may be the childlike plea for the impossible or the mature entreaty for moral growth and spiritual power. A petition may be for daily bread or may embody a wholehearted yearning to find God and to do his will. It may be a wholly selfish request or a true and magnificent gesture toward the realization of unselfish brotherhood.
91.8.7 Prayer may be an angry cry for vengeance or a merciful intercession for one's enemies. It may be the expression of a hope of changing God or the powerful technique of changing one's self. It may be the cringing plea of a lost sinner before a supposedly stern Judge or the joyful expression of a liberated son of the living and merciful heavenly Father.
91.8.8 Modern man is perplexed by the thought of talking things over with God in a purely personal way. Many have abandoned regular praying; they only pray when under unusual pressure - in emergencies. Man should be unafraid to talk to God, but only a spiritual child would undertake to persuade, or presume to change, God.
91.8.9 But real praying does attain reality. Even when the air currents are ascending, no bird can soar except by outstretched wings. Prayer elevates man because it is a technique of progressing by the utilization of the ascending spiritual currents of the universe.
91.8.10 Genuine prayer adds to spiritual growth, modifies attitudes, and yields that satisfaction which comes from communion with divinity. It is a spontaneous outburst of God-consciousness.
91.8.11 God answers man's prayer by giving him an increased revelation of truth, an enhanced appreciation of beauty, and an augmented concept of goodness. Prayer is a subjective gesture, but it contacts with mighty objective realities on the spiritual levels of human experience; it is a meaningful reach by the human for superhuman values. It is the most potent spiritual-growth stimulus.
91.8.12 Words are irrelevant to prayer; they are merely the intellectual channel in which the river of spiritual supplication may chance to flow. The word value of a prayer is purely autosuggestive in private devotions and sociosuggestive in group devotions. God answers the soul's attitude, not the words.
91.8.13 Prayer is not a technique of escape from conflict but rather a stimulus to growth in the very face of conflict. Pray only for values, not things; for growth, not for gratification.
91.9.1 If you would engage in effective praying, you should bear in mind the laws of prevailing petitions:
91.9.2 1. You must qualify as a potent prayer by sincerely and courageously facing the problems of universe reality. You must possess cosmic stamina.
91.9.3 2. You must have honestly exhausted the human capacity for human adjustment. You must have been industrious.
91.9.4 3. You must surrender every wish of mind and every craving of soul to the transforming embrace of spiritual growth. You must have experienced an enhancement of meanings and an elevation of values.
91.9.5 4. You must make a wholehearted choice of the divine will. You must obliterate the dead center of indecision.
91.9.6 5. You not only recognize the Father's will and choose to do it, but you have effected an unqualified consecration, and a dynamic dedication, to the actual doing of the Father's will.
91.9.7 6. Your prayer will be directed exclusively for divine wisdom to solve the specific human problems encountered in the Paradise ascension - the attainment of divine perfection.
91.9.8 7. And you must have faith - living faith.
91.9.9 [Presented by the Chief of the Urantia Midwayers.]