There are four ways to direct prayer: good for our selves, good for others, good for the world, and good in the form of gratitude and praise for others. For those on a spiritual path, the objects, nature and goals of prayer will usually change as concepts of God evolve. If we believe that we are basically sinful and believe in a punishing God, our prayers will be motivated by fear and pleas for forgiveness. If we have a “Santa Claus God,” we ask for material things.
At the present time, most of my prayer time is focused on good for my self. To understand why, I’ll explain my history of prayer. My first introduction to prayer took place in my latency years. My father wrote out a sample prayer to guide me to pray every night. He wanted me to pray for our family, to give thanks for life and its opportunities. God was an external being who would listen to my requests and hear my gratitude.
Attending a Jewish service in temple was mostly boring. I did not know what was going on because of the strange language and customs. But there was something ineffable that went through me via the chanting and singing of the worshippers, choir, and cantor. I did not know why, but the music engendered in me a lofty feeling of joy, bliss, and sacredness. Much later on in life, I realized that the paradigm of prayer could be expanded to feeling a presence, connection, and communication with God through music.
In my last year of college, I visited the office of the Cornell United Religious Works for counseling. I saw the director of this interfaith group. At the end of the session he said: “Your problems would be solved if you believed in God, but it doesn’t seem that you do.” He was right and that marked the end of my counseling with him. I realized that I was an agnostic. I had observed that some folks believed that an entity in charge of the universe was omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. This idea seemed ludicrous. Not believing in a God took me out of the loop of prayer-there was no one power or being to pray to!
I am not sure what led me to further pursue the whole subject. In retrospect, I realize that I was looking for spiritual answers and truths rather than to hook up with any religion.
So, over the succeeding years, in addition to my studying Vedanta philosophy and practicing Eastern meditation, I studied Christian Science, Unity, and Science of Mind. I learned about truth principles from the mystics of the major religions. Over the last fifteen years I have been immersed in the books and audio tapes of mystic Joel Goldsmith, in the studies called the Infinite Way. More recently I have been influenced by the books of psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Hora, the founder of Metapsychiatry.
From these sources, I learned about three basic tenets, which altered my view of God and prayer radically:
First, that the nature of God is all loving omnipresent good, omnipotent, omniscient, whole, perfect, infinite, and eternal.
Second, that God constitutes individual being. Since we are one with the creator, as humans we embody all of the above attributes. The kingdom of God is within us, as our soul and consciousness. I and the Father are One.
Third, that gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise is in itself prayer. In so praying, we acknowledge God as the source all good.
I have evolved to a view of prayer in line with the prayer of contemplation and absorption outlined by Dr. Sam Menahem in his book “When Therapy Isn’t Enough”.1 My predominant goal in prayer is for myself- to feel and realize my true identity, to attain glimpses of Reality
What is Reality? Dr. Hora, who incidentally was familiar with the ideas of Goldsmith, said that Reality cannot be experienced or imagined; it can, however be realized. Prayer was the method whereby we become connected with the source of love, vitality, assurance, peace, joy, and gratitude. Prayer is an endeavor to bring our consciousness into a condition where we can hear what God has to say to us. It is a method not of influencing God, but being influenced.2 Prayer will help us to realize that the purpose of life is to glorify God, to achieve more peace, assurance, gratitude, and love (PAGL), and thereby be a beneficial presence in the world.
Goldsmith has helped me to understand how there could be God, and yet sin, disease, and death in this world. 3 I have begun to see that it is not God’s will to inflict suffering. Rather, it is the ignorance and hypnotism of mankind in perceiving a separation of God and man, and the human belief in two powers, good and evil. A glimpse of this understanding has enabled me to more fully love God.
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