"Therefore, I say unto you, what things soever you desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them." — Mark 11:24.
It is evident from the foregoing statement of Christ, that man has something to do with the answer to his own prayers. Understanding the facts back of this statement will reveal that man's failure in the matter of answered prayers is not the fault of an unwilling God. If he has met the previous requirements of prayer, the unanswered prayer shows a lack in man's ability to receive the for which he has asked.
We have learned in our preceding lessons that God is self-operative, that he is already doing for us all and even more than we could ask, and that it is his "pleasure to give us the Kingdom." It must therefore follow that we are in some way lacking in
our ability to come into possession of the Good which is always moving in our behalf. This failure on our part is at least one outstanding reason why our prayers seem to have remained unanswered.
Suppose that some one should offer you a gift. So far as that person is concerned, this gift belongs to you the moment he decided to give it to you. But it would forever remain the possession of the friend unless the transaction is completed through your acceptance. It becomes yours in a practical sense only at the time of your acceptance, for acceptance is the first law of ownership. It is by this practice of accepting things that you have come into possession of everything which you now have, whether it be good or bad. Do not people refer to "my cold," "my rheumatism," "my failure," "my poverty"? When did these things become the possession of the individual? It is only at the point of acceptance that they could possibly become his personal possession. One does not need to lay claim to a thing, even when it is seemingly forced upon him. It is this accepting and claiming all manner of things and conditions, that bind them to us and build them into the very fabric of our being. We must therefore train ourselves to use this tenacious phase of our nature to reject that which is undesirable, and to accept only that which is truly desirable and in harmony with our highest sense of progress.
After a great storm a few years ago, the writer
was talking to a man who had also been in the very center of its fury. During the entire storm the man said he had been in constant prayer, as were all the other guests of the hotel where he stopped. He said he had "prayed constantly that God would protect them, but expected every moment that the building would cave in upon them." It was certainly the logical and natural thing to pray under such circumstances, but the logical attitude was hardly sustained in the attitude of his expectancy. Here is revealed a clear inconsistency to say the least; for if one does not expect an answer to his prayer, why pray in the first place? Furthermore, if one has enough faith to pray at all, why not be consistent enough to take the next step in the process by at least expecting that for which he has prayed? Why pray, asking for anything, unless we can employ the next essential attitude by the further act of praying "believing that you have received"?
Believing, which of course is faith, is to the mind of man what the hand is to the body. When gifts are offered to us, or when we ask for gifts in the realm of tangible forms, we reach out with the hand and anticipate or accept the gift. But not all things that contribute to life and progress are in the realm of tangible forms. There are forces which the hands cannot manipulate, and they must be handled and appropriated by those more subtle factors of man's consciousness. Faith is the only means
we have of accepting those things which belong primarily to the more vital phases of our nature. In fact, the act of appropriating anything even by means of the hand is an act of faith. It is only by faith, or acting upon that which we believe is a possibility, that we ever appropriate anything unto our mind, body, or life in any way. The prayer of believing is the prayer of faith, and it is only this practice which has marked the progress of man from his most primitive states. He has always acted upon, relied upon, that which was beyond his manifest achievements. By mentally accepting things, taking them for granted, all outer achievements have been realized. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," truthfully runs the old adage. This is a sort of accepting a thing before it is apparent; and once man has accepted it, it becomes a part of his being, and his being is enlarged to that extent. You might call it the prayer of assumption, or taking something for granted before it is outwardly apparent.
The prayer of believing, though it applies to all things which we have need of, has a much deeper significance than our physical needs and desires. It is in reality the means by which the mind accepts the realm of spiritual facts back of the various forms with which we commonly deal in our everyday experiences.
The actual form of the prayer which is the application of this prayer of believing, is to be found
in what we might term "affirmative prayer." The prayer of believing is affirming the fact which we desire to come into being, even before there is any outer evidence of its arrival. This affirmative prayer is the means by which we accept into our nature and into our environment those things which are desirable. Through this habitual and thoughtful claiming of these things as our own, they become our vital possessions; and through this process actually work themselves out through our own nature into tangible form. Affirmative prayer, therefore, becomes a process by which we purposefully accept into our nature that which is desirable and in harmony with our progress. Denial is a means by which we purposefully reject that which is false or undesirable.
Everything man says is either an affirmation or a denial. He is habitually affirming the existence and reality of certain things, and on the other hand he is habitually denying other things. It is by this means that he has appropriated to himself that which he has, and separated himself from that which he has not. At first thought this may seem unreasonable and an altogether farfetched and fantastic theory; but it will become a self-evident law in the life of any individual who will sincerely study himself in this light for a time.
It should be kept in mind that affirmative prayer applies fundamentally to a realm of man's nature which is infinitely above and beyond the sphere of
his body, his bodily desires, and those possessions which relate to his body. When functioning in its own plane, affirmative prayer becomes most effective. Of course all outer things are important, as we have previously admitted; but their importance is secondary as compared with those more essential things which move in life and progress and formulate within the mind and character of man.
In order that we may perfectly understand the science and correct application of the principles of affirmative prayer, or the prayer "believing that ye have received," let us for a time study the relationship between the mind of man and a rule of mathematics; the application of the rule to the problem, and the answer which comes as a manifest result. Herein we have a perfect illustration of the application of the prayer of believing.
Now let us suppose that we have a problem which we are required to solve. If we were to apply the principle of affirmative prayer, as many people seem to understand it, we should begin at once to affirm "I have the answer," "I have the answer," etc., etc. Anyone should recognize at once that this would not be the proper approach to the problem and its answer, nor would it be the right use of the principle of affirmation. However, there might be a certain possibility involved even in this procedure. We all agree that Mind is everywhere. In Mind, in its universal sense, there is all knowledge ; and all things are known in that mental ether.
That mind as Paul describes it is "in you all, through you all, and above you all." If this be true, the answer to our problem is known in that mind, and that mind being in us, the answer to our problem is also within us. Affirming that which is true in our inner nature and in the ethers about us, we might readily open our mind to admit this "known" answer. But when one has received the answer in this way, would he really have the answer to the problem? He might have the figures which appear at the conclusion of the problem, and they might be entirely correct; and of course he actually received these figures out of the all-knowing Mind about him. One's secret affirmation that he has the answer might also become such a force in his own consciousness that some other person might be inspired to give him the answer; and in this case, would one really have the answer to his own problem? Should the teacher ask one to explain how he arrived at the answer, she would not approve of either method. Then should another problem be given to one which involved the same general rule, his demonstration would have to be made all over again. One sees at once the possibility of a vastly more satisfactory procedure involved here.
In an intelligent procedure we should recognize that the affirmation, to be worthy of that name, must conform to facts within the principle and not in accordance with our desire for results. Therefore the rule, as stated in the textbook is the standard
of affirmation that we should seek. Every rule in mathematics is a mathematical affirmation; for it affirms, or declares, the activities which exist within the principle itself.
Once we have selected the mathematical affirmation which is designed to cover the particular demonstration we are face to face with, the next step is perfectly clear. We would not repeat the affirmation in the hope that it would project the answer to our problem, and project it in such a manner that it would mysteriously appear either in our minds or upon our slate. There is no thought whatever regarding the results either upon the slate, the problem itself, or anything else in the region of form and shape. The affirmation is made purely for its effect upon the mind. That is, we repeat the mathematical affirmation in order that we may understand that which is back of the words. "What is the meaning?" is our only motive in repeating it over and over. We repeat it thoughtfully, seeking to look behind the words for the process which the words outline. And all of this process is a means of accepting into the mind, that which was not previously understood. By this procedure one finally understands the idea. Another way in which we state this condition is that at first we do not "see" what the rule meant. Then finally when we have drawn the meaning into our mind through the process of affirmative acceptance, we declare, "Oh, I
see." And it is the "land thou seest, that will I give unto thee as an inheritance."
Now let us see what has happened in addition to the effect which the rule has had upon our mind. Before we return to the problem, and before we make a single mark upon the slate, we know we have the answer to our problem. Not only that, but we have the answer to any number of problems coming under the same rule, and the matter of outward results is merely one of mechanical detail. In other words, if one seeks first the kingdom of mathematics and its right use, the power to solve problems and gain correct answers, is given unto him. And again, "he that hath the spirit" of mathematics, or he who is aware of its manner of action, "hath the sign also."
In other words, through the medium of rules — mathematical affirmations or prayers of acceptance — we have a means of appropriating into the mind the will and processes of the principle. This is a correct procedure with respect to spiritual affirmations, also; for they are, after all, only an attempt to define certain facts which are true in God. They outline the facts and processes which move in the Divine Principle, and which produced heaven and earth. Was this not the procedure of Christ when he "lifted his eyes unto Heaven," and then proclaimed "What I see the Father doing, that I do"? And when he said, "Thou hast heard me and I KNOW thou hearest me always," was not this the
awakened assurance that he had already received the answer to his prayer? And was this not his mode of accepting it, even before there was any evidence before him?
The first function of affirmation is to acquaint the mind of man with the realm of spiritual facts. "Acquaint now thyself with me and be at peace." Once the individual sees clearly that certain facts remain unalterably the same in life, irrespective of appearances, he becomes endowed with the same confidence and power as when he understands the mathematical rule back of any complex problem; and with the boldness that was characteristic of Christ he applies his rule and proclaims, "Be thou whole," "Come forth," if this be the objective toward which he has discovered the Universal Principle to be moving.
When one understands that the principle of affirmative prayer is never an attempt to define conditions as they appear, but on the other hand, are attempts to define certain unalterable facts in the nature of God; then he can begin to understand why he can truthfully use affirmations even though they completely contradict all appearances. This is following the instruction of Christ to "turn the other cheek." From whatever point of view the world of appearances strikes at you, meet it with the positive declaration of the spiritual fact back of it. If a child writes on the blackboard "two plus two equals five," immediately you say, "No! two
plus two equals four." This is the exact procedure that applies in spiritual treatment, or in the use of the affirmative form of prayer.
One may learn how to formulate his own affirmative prayer correctly, by studying his own inner nature, because the very law of God is written in the hearts of men. What would any situation be, if it exactly fitted into your highest sense of right and perfection? If the situation were such that it would absolutely conform to your deepest and highest sense of right? If the outer condition were all that it should be, what would it be like? If you were all that you should be, what would you be like? This sort of questioning accompanied by an honest attempt to answer according to our innermost feelings, is not only the key to formulating our affirmative prayers, but in starting the processes of divine revelation.
In the individual approach to the question of already formulated affirmation, the student should first seek to know if it is true to the principle of Life. Does it conform to the standard of perfection which would be required by an exacting and Infinite God? One may get very close to this fact, at least, if he will proceed to check up the affirmation with his own highest sense of right, as in the foregoing paragraph. That is, does the affirmation define the outer condition in such a manner that it perfectly conforms to your own inward sense of perfection? Does the affirmation, should it be fulfilled,
seem to indicate that state of perfect satisfaction?
The next effort in the manner of handling an affirmative prayer, is to try to determine just what it means. In other words, try to grasp the inner significance of it. Ask, "What does it imply?" and let the mind go on to grasp the magnitude of all that is implied within it. To illustrate, let us take the affirmation "God is my instant and inexhaustible supply." First, is this true to the Divine Principle? If God is the source of creation, it must be that he is the sustaining and providing principle as well. Surely there is no other way by which creation could be sustained. God not only moved to create, but the activity of the Spirit of God within creation would necessarily be the law of supply working in all present created forms. Next, what does this statement mean? Well, it means exactly what it says: that God, as we have stated, is the source of all things, both visible and invisible. If this is true, he is of necessity the only source of supply. An engine is produced by the application of the principle of mechanics and is maintained and sustained by the same principle. Could any other principle or plan of action sustain a mechanical production? Likewise, all visible form having been created from the activity of invisible forces, or the Spirit of God, the activity of these same forces must be the source of supply in sustaining these forms. What is true of creation generally must also be true
of man. Therefore, man's supply consists first of an awareness of this invisible movement of the Spirit of God always working in his behalf, and moving to sustain him in every particular and to provide him with every necessity. Since God is within, through, and around man — "In him we live and move and have our being" — man's supply is instantly available. Since God is all, the sum of all things visible and invisible, this supply must also be limitless.
Understanding the fact that man's supply must of necessity be infinite, must be ever present, and is therefore instantly available, one has then arrived at the most vital step in regard to prayer. He has opened his consciousness to the influx of facts and forces direct from the Source. Then he should continue to dwell upon these facts until they become an inner conviction or realization. When he becomes as thoroughly convinced of the ever-present and inexhaustible bounty of God, as he has previously been convinced of his own lack, then he will have passed all sense of limited supply. Once this structural change is made in thought and feeling through consciously receiving the spirit of God into to his consciousness, and sustaining this realization in his outer relations, the completion in manifest form is as natural and automatic as life itself. One can therefore see the importance of intelligent and positive affirmation as an effective application of
Christ's teaching, "Pray believing that you have received."
Spiritual progress and demonstration is not a matter of merely taking Truth for granted. It involves a positive declaration of the facts of God until they are trained into the nature and character of the individual, just as a student proceeds with any other principle. Any individual who will firmly, intelligently, and positively lay hold of the facts of God, has every assurance that any desirable state of mind, body, or affairs can be attained. Pray "believing that you have received and you shall have," leaves no room for doubt or any question of uncertainty.
It should always be kept in mind that affirmation is the affirmative form of prayer; that it is not used to dominate the world of manifest forms, and to compel people and things to obey your dictations. It is a means of adjusting the individual mind to the mind of God. In other words, the prayer of believing is a means by which the individual accepts into his mind the ways and activities of the mind of God, until he "thinks the thoughts of God after him."
Considering the Lord's prayer in this light, the next step for the individual to take in its use would be to turn all the requests of this prayer into their affirmative form. In other words, one should immediately place himself in the attitude to receive the things for which he has asked in his previous use
of this prayer. Since he has requested that the Kingdom of God should come, he should now pray, "Thy Kingdom IS come"; thereby accepting the thing for which he has asked. This would be a particularly logical thing to do since "it is the Father's pleasure to give you the Kingdom." Likewise with the request, "Thy will be done." It should be restated in its affirmative sense: "Thy Will IS done." And so on through the entire prayer.
Following, we present a restatement of the Lord's prayer in an affirmative sense, and somewhat enlarged. Carefully consider it in this light, and give yourself to its faithful practice in this form for the next thirty days, and see if its practice does not vitally affect and change your entire life and affairs for the better:
"Our Father, who are in the highest and the lowest, the first and the last; thy Name is upon the Heavens and the Earth, for Thou art all."
"Thy Kingdom, the sphere of thy rulership, is within me, seeing which I may enter into the harmony of thy Presence and thy Perfection."
"Thy Will is the ruling power in the Heavens and the Earth; therefore it governs me and all my affairs. Thus it is well with me and with all men."
"Thou art this day my inexhaustible supply, feeding me with living bread and clothing me with the raiment of thy righteousness."
"Thou hast always given me thyself for myself,
and the power to transcend my nature in receiving thine."
"Thou hast set before me the task of accepting my Divinity whereby I am delivered from myself and into thyself."
"For thou art the Kingdom, the Power that rules therein, and the glory of thy own creation."