Life of Prayer I - Lesson 1: Why, When and How to Pray
The video you see to the left is segment eight of On Wings of Truth, which was produced by Unity sometime in the 1990's.
The video tells us that the most important thing about prayer is not about the words we use; it is not about the language. What matters in prayer is who we become. It's all about the consciousness from which we pray. And, ultimately, it's about the character that is expressed. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, your language is irrelevant.
Note that none of these Unity leaders make any mention of the language or the words we use in prayer. There is no caution about talking to God. On the contrary, Sharon Poindexter and Jim Rosemergy use very traditional language in these clips: "Praying, often, for me is my talking at God, talking to God" (Poindexter); "Through prayer we give ourselves to Spirit and we are then like the clay that the Father can then work with" (Rosemergy).
The God to Whom We Pray
The title of this chapter is "The God To Whom We Pray." I believe that there is no better explanation about this topic than Eric Butterworth's lecture on Meister Eckhart, given in his audio series Great Teachers. Besides listening to this particular clip, you are encouraged to listen to the entire lecture because it portrays a God who is continuously expressing himself/herself through you. You will find there an explanation about the nature of life and why we have an unquenchable desire for prayer.
Here is Eric's clip from the Great Teachers series:
Clip #16 from Eric Butterworth - Meister Eckhart
- True Prayer
- Intellectual Silence and Spiritual Silence
- (Supplementary) God a Present Help (Cady) - Chapter 7
- (Supplementary) Meditation in the Silence (Ingraham)
- (Supplementary) Prayer the Master Key (Freeman)
- (Supplementary) Discover the Power within You (Butterworth)
Introduction: Some definitions of prayer
- Prayer has purpose.
Prayer is communion between man and God. It takes place in the innermost part of man's being.
- It is the only way to cleanse and perfect the consciousness and thus permanently heal the body.
- Prayer is the spiritual bridge that enables man to approach God and permits God to come close to man. It is a sacred fusion of the infinite with the finite.
- It is going into the inner chamber. Names for the inner chamber of the soul:
a. Secret place of the Most High
b. Holy of Holies
c. The Father in me
d. The kingdom of God within you.
Unity teachers talk about prayer
Listen to the audio clips below. These clips show that our founders taught that we ought to pray to God from a consciousness of God's good. Unity teaches that you and I are a Christ, an expression of God, and that we should call God forth through that expression. Calling God forth is talking to God.
From Myrtle Fillmore:
You remember the spiritual inspiration that Paul had, an inspiration that is also ours as we claim the light, power and love that are God's expression through us. If the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his spirit that dwelleth in you ...
From James Dillet Freeman:
I wrote this when my first wife was dying and I went to pray in the Silent Unity Prayer Room and as I prayed I heard a voice, an audible voice like mine is now. I'm always listening for an inner voice but that morning I heard a voice that was not mine. And this is what the voice said to me. Do you need me? I am there. ...
From Martha Smock:
When we pray in the name and through the power of Jesus Christ, is it the mere pronouncement of the name that heals, that transforms, that blesses? No, it is what we experience when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus said "where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them. When even one person prays in the name of Jesus Christ he invokes the living presence of the loving Christ. We're not alone when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, he is with us. His presence and power are with us and the power that is of God flows through us...
From May Rowland:
If you feel disturbed, restless and perhaps fearful, this is the time to listen to that ever-present one within you saying "Be still and know that I am God" ... Feel and realize that this is God talking to you. A great peace and calm will come over you and you will be assured that God is looking after you. Feel the presence in the quietness of your own soul then you will feel his presence always with you and about you.
From Eric Butterworth:
What this says is, in its simplest possible terms is while you may be involved in praying to God, the ultimate reality is God is praying for you. Understand that? The Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, the Allness has but one intent as far as you're concerned, that is to perfect itself and to express itself in and as you. ... This is why I say so often, "don't pray to God but pray from the consciousness of God ... Be still and know that ... God is present, not absent ... and I allow that infinite process to do its perfect work ... it has no other intent as far as I'm concerned except to heal me, to guide me, to direct me ...
From Ernest Wilson:
That prayer is not only asking, you see, but more deeply it is knowing, knowing God as our unfailing supply and support. ... Eric (Butterworth) says prayer is not a position, but a disposition ... it is not flattery, but a sense of oneness. It is not asking, but knowing. It is not words, but feeling. Feeling is the secret. It is not will, but willingness. So, ask, believing that you have received, said Jesus, and you shall have it.
2. Why We Pray
- Because there is evidently some basic law in the structure of the universe that faith (or confidence) whether it be placed in good or bad shall be automatically responded to.
- Because the act of praying, the conscious focusing of attention on God's presence, force's us to look at things and people from other angles than our own private ones. It helps us get rid of erroneous opinions. The Hebrew word for prayer is "tefila" which means to judge yourself.
- Because when we are faced with the urgent need of making some difficult decision, we need a true answer.
- Because praying delivers us from living the "unexamined life," which is injurious to posterity as well as being boring to us.
- Because praying does something (as much as we will let it) to save us from snap judgments.
- Because praying "breaks through the crust that is around the impressible part of men's minds" and stabs us into awareness.
- Because praying sustains hope even when hope seems irrational.
- Praying tends to reduce self-will which is perhaps our chief enemy.
- Praying brings us face to face with the Lord of our being, the Christ within.
- Because prayer is the way out of difficulty. It is the way in to peace, harmony, abundance, health, joy, comfort, and contentment.
3. When To Pray
When to pray is as important as why and how.
- Daily prayers to keep ourselves healthy in body and soul, a daily spiritual cleanout is necessary. Otherwise, one may become clogged and cluttered up by an accumulation of vague feelings of anxiety, doubt, and perhaps guilt. It is a good practice to keep at least five to ten minutes each day for this purpose. A good time is after work, or before going to bed. Choose a time free from interruption. (When you pray go into the inner room and close the door).
- When you have practiced prayer you will be able to pray on the bus, in a plane, in your car, on a walk, or anywhe at all.
4. How To Pray
The following is an exercise in the practice of prayer.
- Relaxation. Relaxation is necessary to get the body out of the way—to still the physical. Some ideas to help with relaxation are take a deep breath, quiet yourself ... slow down your breathing, say to yourself, "With every breath I draw I am taking in something of the creative and revitalizing breath of God." Remind yourself that God is more real than anything you can see or touch. Begin to think of God only and glory in the fact of His very being.
- Concentration. Concentrate now for a full minute on the basic wonder of breathing. (In the symphony of rhythm and harmony in the body, breathing is the secondary rhythm. The pulsation of the heart is the primary rhythm). With the power of concentration it is possible to control these rhythms.
- Imagination. Now, using your imaging power, see a mental picture of what you need or desire. If you need healing, see yourself perfect and whole. If you need prosperity, see yourself with abundance. Whatever your need, picture it.
- Speak the Word. Now you are ready to give voice to your need. Remembering that the power center is in the throat. (Fillmore: Twelve Powers of Man) speak an affirmative prayer.
- Gratitude. Always end your prayer time with giving thanks. Gratitude is a grace as well as a duty. Not to say "thank you" is to show oneself ill mannered, uncouth.
- In the name of Jesus Christ. We pray in the manner that Jesus taught us. Jesus understood His oneness with the Father. His teachings tell us that we too are one with the Father. Jesus claimed that the works He did were not His but the Father's within Him. It was in this consciousness that He proclaimed: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." (Matt. 28:18) "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it." (John 14:13)
Concentrate your thoughts now. Think about God. Think about His love using the statement, "I live in the wonder of God's love." Or perhaps use the idea "I am one with God now." Try to feel your oneness with God.
Discuss the use of DAILY WORD in preparing one for a life of prayer.
Cultivate the habit of thanksgiving.
There is therapy in thanksgiving. In stating your thankfulness, use clear, definite words. Say what you are thankful for.
Our authority for expecting miracles through prayer comes from Jesus who told us that we should also heal the sick, cast out demons, and so on.
We do not claim to know how healing is done — we only know that through the exercise of our faith, our words are fused into unity with the power of Christ and the work is marvelously accomplished.
See the audio clip by Martha Smock above for more about praying through the name and power of Jesus Christ.
NOW LET'S PRACTICE THESE 5 STEPS.
A Drill in the Silence
The following is Unity's A Drill in the Silence, spoken by Martha Giudici in her series The World of Meditation. Nearly all of the segments of this audio corresponds to the above Relaxation step. The concentration, meditation (imagination), speak the word and gratitude steps are consolidated in segment #45, Relax in the quiet. Read Effectual Prayer by Frances Foulks for a detailed explanation of these five steps of Unity prayer.