Unity views on ... Prayer
The most commonly used type of prayer is the prayer of supplication. We have somehow reached the conclusion that the only way we can have our prayers answered is to beg God. Consequently, we have devised prayers that confess to God our unworthiness to receive, and then we beg for the answer to be given to us anyway. This method of prayer is confusing.
It seems that we have concluded that we must fill the role of praying beggar, that we must always come to God with our "hats in our hands", asking God to give us something that we do not have.
Some prayers are prayers of agony. There are times when we are in despair and desperately need divine intervention in our lives. The unfortunate thing about prayers of agony is that they are often not prayers at all - they are periods of concentrated worry, times when we give to God a recitation of our troubles. At no time during such a prayer do we demonstrate the openness and receptivity necessary for us to detect an answer, which is always positive.
Other prayers are perfunctory. On some occasion, to pray seems like the thing to do, so we pray. There is no real "heart" in our effort. This type of "praying" is sometimes done during a formal church service when we come to the point where the order of service calls for prayer, so we go through the motions of prayer. This is hardly conducive to real results.
Then there are prayers that are read. They are usually "stock" prayers, written in a prayer book, a pamphlet, or some other kind of formal leaflet. We read those prayers because they seem to have the right words in them. These are often composed by professional prayer composers and are beautiful indeed. But because they are someone else's prayers, they often lack the feeling that comes from praying from the heart.
Next, there are prayers that are said - some people "say" a prayer and others "pray" a prayer. Obviously, it is more effective to pray our prayers. Real prayer is an entrance into spiritual communion with God. This can only be done when we pray our own heartfelt prayers, when we pray in order to feel a sense of kinship with God and to know the supreme Power who is eager to give us all that is for our highest good.
The Apostle Paul instructed us to "pray constantly". How is this possible? We must go about our daily chores; we must earn our living and live our lives. Certainly we cannot spend all our time in the formal act of praying. This is where the alternative comes in: it is possible to pray without ceasing. This kind of praying is not done on our knees, or with folded hands; the position of the body is unimportant. But the position of the mind is all-important. We can have a constant attitude of prayer. Perhaps that sounds difficult, if not impossible; but once you understand what a prayerful attitude is, it will not only be possible to attain but highly practical.
To begin with, you will need to ask yourself some questions: Do you appreciate the possibilities of life? Do you want to be of help to your friends - even to people you hardly know? Do you want to have a better quality of life? Do you want to have the ability to think so clearly that you can evolve solutions to all life's problems? If you can answer "yes" to these questions, then prayer without ceasing will come easily for you, even though you must practice an attitude of prayer in order to become adept.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once defined prayer as "the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view". Applying this definition of prayer to our own lives, we can see that prayer without ceasing is, in effect, keeping positive. It is no more than a simple but constant appreciation of life. Life has so many possibilities for us; those possibilities become personal experiences when we have conditioned our minds with appreciation. The mind then becomes similar to fertile soil into which good seeds (divine ideas) fall, to germinate, grow, and blossom into personal virtues.
Do not allow yourself to look at life from a valley. Lift up your thoughts and contemplate life from the highest point of view. From the high plateau of positive thinking, you are able to see life whole - with all its infinite possibilities. If you keep the high watch on your attitudes, you will be praying without ceasing and reaping the rewards.
To take your mind off yourself and pray for others will help in this process. There are two ways you can pray for others: you can use the "arms" or "wings" of prayer. When you use the arms of prayer, you embrace someone in particular, by thinking of him or her specifically in the highest way you are capable of doing. He or she is the specific target of your prayers and is thus taken into the arms of prayer.
When you use the wings of prayer, you simply send your prayers forth to all who are receptive to them. These are great, sweeping prayers, sent winging on their way to do the general good.
There is a passage in the Book of Job that says,"You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you." This is the prayer of a positive mind. It is not a beseeching God to hear; God always hears. This is a prayer of affirming good and accepting it with a grateful, confident heart.
As you condition your mind for receiving answers to prayers, be sure that you make an earnest effort to remove any mental debris you may have been collecting. A mind that is cluttered with negative thoughts cannot be receptive to divine answers. After your mental housecleaning, affirm the things you desire for yourself and for others; then be sure to spend some time in quiet listening. Too many people think that prayer is a monologue; this is not so. Prayer is a dialogue. After you have "let your requests be made known to God", it is important that you spend time in silence, for receiving. The voice of God has been called the "still, small voice". To hear it requires hushed expectancy. Give God an opportunity to take part in this prayer dialogue.
This item is an excerpt from the book "Alternatives" by William L. Fisher, and reproduced with the express permission of Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO.