OUR PERSONAL PRAYER
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
I didn't have time to pray.
Troubles just tumbled about me
And heavier came each task.
Why doesn't God help me, I wondered,
God answered, "You didn't ask."
I tried to come into God's presence,
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"Why child, you didn't knock."
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on gray and bleak,
I called on the Lord for the reason,
God said, "You didn't seek."
I woke up early this morning
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.a
There's such wisdom and truth in the poem, isn't there? And how very true it can be for us, particularly at this time of year with so much, so much, so much to do, places to go, meals to cook, parties to attend, etc., etc.!
But today, on the last day of the year, on this New Year's Eve Day, we will bring our theme of the Master's Prayer to a close by digging into and, I trust, elevating our own personal prayer work.
I want to offer you my Top Ten List for having a rich and robust personal prayer life. And because there are ten, we'll zip through them fairly quickly. That's why in the bulletin handed out as you came in, there's the list with some space for jotting down notes if you like. Are you ready for today's Top Ten list? Good, strap in because here we go.
10. TAKE AN INTENTIONAL FEW MOMENTS EVERY DAY TO SIMPLY THINK ABOUT GOD
Often as we go about our day, we think about (or should I say we dwell on!) our problems and all the things that are causing us concern, worry, upset, nervousness, stress. Or perhaps we aren't dwelling on the upset or concern, but we are completely wrapped up in all that has to be done, bouncing from this project to that. Running on auto-pilot, really. Is that familiar to anyone?
How about if several times a day (perhaps set an alarm on your watch) you stop for a moment, take a breath and turn your attention to God. Turn with no agenda; no desires; no "asks."
Just stop what you are doing and think about the Divine Flow of Life that lives and moves and has its being as you. Think about the vastness of the Universe. Think about the Divine Intelligence that brought this entire Universe into being. Think upon these things, just for a few intentional moments every day.
This is the golden key that author Emmett Fox wrote about in his book of the same name, "The Golden Key." Think about God instead of the problem. When you simply think about God, everything begins to change in a miraculous, wondrous way.
9. PRAY USING SIMPLE, NATURAL WORDS
When you pray, pray in a language that you understand and that has meaning to you. You may hear ministers or chaplains pray with beautiful flowing flowery words and think "oh, I wish I could pray like that" and then you try and get all hung up on the words being just right and find yourself lacking and perhaps even getting discouraged. "I can't do this right," you might even think and then you don't pray.
But here's the deal. There is no right or wrong way to pray! So let that go and simply pray the words that come naturally to you. Simple. Ordinary. Uncomplicated. Natural to you.
8. USE AFFIRMATIVE, POSITIVE WORDS - ONLY
Now I know I just said there are no right or wrong ways to pray - and that is totally true - but there are more and less effective ways to pray, and we believe in New Thought that the affirmative prayer is the most powerful and effective way to pray.
The affirmative prayer is not a prayer of petition or of begging God to do something for us, but a prayer of accepting God's highest good that is already available to us.
So we use words of positive acceptance, stating what we want, NOT what we don't want! Let me say that again because it is so important -- we use words of positive acceptance, stating what we want, NOT what we don't want!
7. PRAY WITH BELIEF AND FAITH
The words we use in our prayers are important (I just said that, didn't I?!), but what is even more important is the belief, the faith, that is behind the words.
I want to illustrate this in a story.
A man was flying in an airplane right after America's first commercial jet air service began with the flight of the Boeing 707. This man was a traveler on a piston-engine, propeller-driven DC-6 airline. He struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger. The passenger happened to be a Boeing engineer.
The traveler asked the engineer about the new jet aircraft. The engineer was most enthusiastic about this new development in aviation. He began speaking at length about the extensive testing Boeing had done on the jet engine before bringing it into commercial service. He recounted Boeing's experience with engines, from the B-17 to the B-52.
When his traveling companion asked him if he himself had yet flown the new 707 jet airliner, the engineer replied, "I think I'll wait until it's been in service a while."
It's one thing to talk the talk, but do we have faith and belief behind the words?
In Mark 11:23-24, Jesus said:
"Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."b
So, bring as much faith and belief to your prayers as you possibly can and as you grow in experience with the power of prayer, your faith and belief will grow as well.
6. OFFER PRAYERS OF GRATITUDE AND ONLY GRATITUDE ON A REGULAR BASIS
I love the Yiddish saying:
"If we thanked God for the good things, there wouldn't be time to weep over the bad."
Gotthold Lessing, a German writer in the 18th century, said:
"A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most perfect prayer."c
Ernest Holmes tells us:
"In everything give thanks. An attitude of gratitude is most salutary, and bespeaks the realization that we are now in heaven."d
There is a story of a great religious leader who heard of a holy man who prayed prayers of gratitude constantly. The man lived on an island far away, but the religious leader decided to visit him. When he arrived he found a poor simple fisherman. And true to what the religious leader had heard, the man was constantly saying prayers of gratitude.
The leader, knowing of the more correct way to pray, decided to teach the man, who listened patiently and then repeated the words the leader had taught him. Finally, the man humbly thanked the leader and the leader boarded his boat to return home.
The religious leader was just thinking to himself what a fine service he had done this ignorant fellow, when he turned toward the island with a look of astonishment. There, walking on the water, he saw the fisherman approaching the boat.
When he got within hearing distance, the man shouted to the religious leader, "Excuse me, Sir, it seems I have forgotten some of the words. Could you instruct me again."
The religious leader was dumbfounded, but found his voice to call back, "No, No. Forget what I taught you. Just go on praying as you are used to doing."
5. PRAY AS YOU GO ABOUT THE BUSINESS OF THE DAY
The Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing, and this is good counsel indeed. In order to have successful prayer life, you have to have a rhythm, a regularity.
If I were doing this whole lesson about air, and trying to tell you how good air is, and you were to take in just one breath, it would not do because VERY soon you would be depleted again. The thing that makes air successful is the regularity of breathing. And the thing that makes prayer successful is a regularity of going to God, a regular talking to God and a regular listening to God. You become continually refreshed.
When we get into the rhythm of the regularity of prayer and bathe ourselves in it mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, then something happens-a quiet powerful change occurs inside of us. New spiritual energy comes through us. We fell better; we feel as if a transformation has taken place - because it has.
Often you will say to yourself, "Well, I just don't have the time to pray. I wish I did, but I have to do this, and that. If I only had the time, the luxury, to sit down and enjoy God, I would, but I don't, so I can't!" just as our opening poem reflected. But you have the time to take one minute.
Prayer is the language of Spirit. It bypasses time and space. One minute with God is tremendously healing. You can take one minute breaks many times during your day, and you will be surprised at how refreshed you feel and what these one minute prayers do for you in your life. You will be surprised how near you feel to God's Presence, God's Peace and God's Power.
4. PRACTICE THE ATTITUDE OF PUTTING EVERYTHING IN GOD'S HANDS - AKA SURRENDER
Yes, of course, we offer our affirmative prayers with faith and belief as we already talked about, but then we need to let them go. Turn them over to God. As Unity minister Jack Boland used to say:
"My part is to believe; God's part is to provide all that is needed."e
Vetura Papke, a powerful spiritual leader and Religious Science Practitioner who served as Ernest Holmes' practitioner, always told her clients that after she prayed for them about whatever their issue was that they should wash their hands every time they wanted to take the issue back through worry, doubt, uncertainty, trying to make it happen or any other emotion or activity, thereby physically reminding themselves that they have "washed their hands of it"f and given it to God.
3. PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE YOU DO NOT LIKE
Resentment, hurt, unforgiveness are the #1 blockade to personal spiritual power.
In Mark 11:25 Jesus said:
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."g
I once heard Michael Beckwith answer a question with what I found to be a surprising answer, but one that made perfect sense after I thought about it for a moment. The question was "how do you stay in alignment with your vision?" His answer was, "I pray for my enemies." Wow! That is high and holy work.
And a beautiful, simple, outrageously powerful prayer for "our enemies" is the Ho'oponopono Prayer. Do you know that? It's an ancient Hawaiian prayer brought into public light by Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, who co-authored a book with Joe Vitale called Zero Limits.
The prayer is simply this. When someone for whom you feel, hurt, resentment, upset pops into your mind, offer this prayer: "I love you. I'm sorry."h Simple as that. Yet, life transforming.
2. PRAYER FOR A CLOSER RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The spiritual healer and teacher Joel Goldsmith wrote about prayer:
"You begin to see that God cannot give and God cannot withhold. You can shut yourself off from the grace of God, but through prayer, you can be reunited with your Source. Your prayer will not be a seeking for anything; it will be a knocking and an opening for more light, greater spiritual wisdom, greater discernment."i
Peggy Bassett was an influential Religious Science minister. She was the founder of Huntington Beach church and the founder of Ernest Holmes School of Ministry and she contracted Lou Gerig's Disease and passed away many years ago. About her illness, she once said:
"We tend to think that the purpose of prayer is to terminate sickness, but we forget that the purpose of sickness may be to initiate prayer, or to deepen our relationship with the Divine. If illness is in the service of our own growth- then what really is healing?"j
I believe the second greatest purpose of prayer (we still have one more!) is to bring our conscious awareness into the Presence of God. It is to help us look at life from an elevated viewpoint, to see our life as God would see it.
Kahil Gibran in The Prophet said:
What is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether.k
Lastly I want to give you what I believe is the number one way for us to have a rich and robust personal prayer life, and it is:
1. Open yourself to be used by God.
Say in prayer, "God, use me." Not "God this is what you can do for me" (which is OK and often necessary), but rather a deeper place of "God how can I be used by You?" I believe this is the highest form of prayer.
And there is no more powerful prayer of "use me" than the Prayer of St. Francis. As we close out 2017 and step into the new year, let us make this our prayer. So close your eyes and join me as I say:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon -- Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope -- Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console -- To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
And so it is.
WHITE STONE CEREMONY
As we start the year 2018, know that a new year is a time of beginnings. The white stones that we are using are from Hebron. Just allow yourself to feel the energy of the stone you are holding.
The Bible verse we are using is taken from Revelations: "Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying. To everyone I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it."l
And the new name is that of Christ, or God, as was written in the Old Testament in Isaiah:
"The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give."m
Take your stone and look at it, see its beauty, see its newness.
As we journey on the path of our spiritual awakening, the white stone in each of us is constantly being renewed.
The white stone in each of us is being revitalized, redeemed.
The white stone, and the name written on it, is a symbol of our spiritual growth, whereby we cancel out the old; discontinue our old way of thinking and put an end to our habit of forgetting who and what we truly are.
As each of us partakes in the Manna, or spiritual food that is ours for the asking, we become nourished and whole. The energy that we derive from this Manna, gives the inner energy that we need in order to reach a higher state of consciousness, of a purified state of consciousness; a state of consciousness that is symbolized by the white of your stone.
As this renewal process takes place within, we gain the knowledge of a 'new name' within us, and more importantly, we gain a deeper understanding of that new name and where it might lead us.
Does everyone have a pen; does everyone have a white stone?
As you hold your white stone in your hand, know that you are starting with a clean slate. In this ceremony, we are going to be writing down a new name for ourselves.
The white stone is an ancient ritual. In Jesus' day, when someone served time in prison or in bondage of any kind, they were given a white stone when they were released. Each of us comes from bondage of some kind today, and we are being given a white stone to signify our freedom. All of your past nonsense was as a prison to you, but now you are free to go and be and do anything you choose. Anything you can believe and conceive - you can be and do.
So the first part of the verse tells us to listen, to develop the ear of the soul. To sit in the silence and listen to Spirit.
And then it says, "To everyone who conquers." For us, as followers of Spirit, this is not an outer war at all, but an inner war that requires our surrender... for us to be in the world, but not of the world. And yet, how many times have we not surrendered to that sweet Spirit that calls us in every moment? ... But when we do surrender to that Spirit and go within, then and only then do we conquer. What a paradox. Only in surrender is there victory.
The second part of the promise is: 'And I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.'
At this time it was believed that when the people had overcome and had made their connection with the Divine; then they got a new name. That new name was written on a white stone. The name was given to them directly by God. No one else intervened, no one else was aware of this new name. It was a new nature, the freedom from bondage.
In the Bible, you see many name changes. For example, Saul (personal will) was transformed to Paul, which means enlightened will. He became will that followed God's will.
In Biblical times, a name was a very meaningful and sacred thing. Every name represented a quality that was in the person who carries the name. You didn't choose a name for your child because you liked the name. You chose it for whatever essence you saw in the child.
After we surrender to that inner Spirit, we are promised a new name. This refers to the new and higher realization of the I AM. Before coming into truth, when we said, "I AM" we were usually thinking of only our current opinions of ourselves. After study and greater realization of "I AM" we came to realize that it is more than an opinion of one's self, it is more of an awareness of the God self, of the higher self, or real self. Our God self, is so much greater than any opinions we can ever have of ourselves. It requires our reaching a higher level of consciousness within ourselves to even bear facing a realization of our real self, God self. This is the white stone mentioned.
White metaphysically represents Joy, Victory, and Purification.
In this white stone, or purified state of consciousness we know that the Father and I are one and we remember what God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM," and we learn our "New Name," an entirely new realization of our true "I AM."
We conquer and receive the hidden manna, our full potential, by consciously surrendering, letting go of that unnecessary baggage. By prayer and meditation, by utilizing the tools of affirmations and denials and by remembering that, I AM: GOD IS.
As we surrender and follow the tools of Spirit we make a space for unlimited possibilities to become manifest in 2018. In creating a space in our consciousness, we open ourselves up to unlimited potential in 2018.
And so I encourage you to consciously invite the activity of God - the Holy Spirit - into your heart and mind for the next few minutes. Perhaps there is a new career, a new title, or a new quality that Spirit is pressing out through you. I ask you to give your ego a few minutes off and let that Divine Holy self in you come through. Give yourself permission to know that you have a new quality, a new name.
I've seen people who, when they write the word peace, love, or presence, take on a new essence of who they are.
Later, you will be invited to write the name on your stone, and to carry it with you, and carry that name in your heart.
Whenever we ask there is always an answer.
You can close your eyes and open them whenever it is comfortable for you.
Let's become still for a minute and allow God to express through you and as you. I invite you to take the white stone in your hand and know it as a symbol of a new life. See it as a symbol of who you have become, or of who you are becoming, or of who you would like to become.
Feel the presence of God and know your oneness with God. Know your I AM'ness with God. Feel that loving presence of God as it surrounds and supports you. Know right now that you're safe and secure. You are loved and supported by the presence of God. Know that you are encouraged by your fellow travelers. Know that you are loved and appreciated by this spiritual community.
Behold, the Christ of God in each of us says, "I make all things new. "
And so this white stone is the promise of a new life. It is the symbol of a clean slate,
Whatever has gone on in the past, we let it go. This is a sign of our ability in this moment to live in this new beginning. This is a moment in which we know we are free, free from all that has bound us, free from the prison in which we had put ourselves.
To those who move forward with faith, a new name is given. So now we meditate on our new name, for each of us has overcome adversity. We have freed ourselves to live more fully, conscious of the activity of the whole spirit of God in the creative life force and in every aspect of our lives. We are now free from limiting thoughts about ourselves, each other, and our world.
Anytime you look at your white stone realize that you have the gift of choice; the gift to live differently, to live a more fulfilling life, to begin again, to connect with God and co-create with God.
John wrote in the book of Revelations that the white stone carries a new name, the spiritual identity and a deeper awareness of what God has planned for you. No one, in the entire universe except you and God, knows what this new name is. But it has come to you to be lived out, to be expressed, to be embodied as you. It is what God is calling you to be or do. It is a whisper from your soul that you are so much more than you have ever let come into expression.
Begin to reflect on a new name. Let it come to you easily, without trying to make it happen. Let a name come to you that marks your new beginning, feel the stone in your hand. Hear it beckon to you. Spirit has decreed a name for you to be written on the stone. What will your life be called from this point forward?
And so, as you are guided by Spirit, (and it may feel to you as if you are making it up because it may seem so wonderful or so much what you have yearned for), but still I invite you to trust in this now moment, ....as Spirit gives to you in this sacred place...in this moment of Truth...an insight into your divine purpose...an insight into your holy essence, and so in that secret place of the most high, I invite you to allow yourself to hear the new name that God has for you.
And, as that name becomes clear, just allow yourself to write it...it may be a title, it may be something like published author...or clean and sober...or grateful...whatever.
If a name has come to you, stay quiet and allow yourself to ask for a deeper understanding, to ask if there are any steps to take. In this moment allow yourself to simply open to Spirit, to say, 'God in me reveals my true essence. God in me reveals my next step. God as me lives a joyous, peaceful, fulfilling life.'
"Behold, I make all things new...for you are my beloved in whom I am well pleased. "
A thankfulness flows over us as we receive our new name. Along with it comes the power and guidance to achieve all that we desire. This is our new name. We see it. We decree it. We are on the path to gaining greater insights and awareness and mark a new beginning.
"It is your Father's good pleasure to give you this kingdom. " Accept this consciousness of ever increasing good in your life. I invite you to carry this white stone as a reminder of that promise." Amen."
aInto the Day Author Unknown
hDr. Ihaleakala Hew Len
kKahil Gibran The Prophet