THE THIRD SECRET OF ANSWERED PRAYER
This month we are deepening into the power of prayer by exploring three secrets to answered prayer according to the spiritual novel The Prayer Chest.
And because Religious Science teaching and Unity teaching are so similar I will again share what Ernest Holmes in The Science of Mind, wrote: "No class of people on earth believes more in prayer than we do. Our whole theory is based not only on the belief in Spirit, but in the availability of It - Its immediate response. We even go so far as to say in everyday language: "Pray right and God cannot help responding.""a
We have been using The Prayer Chest to answer how to pray right. In fact, it offers this promise:
Bring your prayers to the Prayer Chest, my son,
And all that you ask shall be answered one by one.
And then it says:
Slip 100 prayers into the chest
and do not use the secrets of the Prayer Chest
and all 100 shall go unanswered.
But slip 100 prayers into the chest
utilizing the secrets of the Prayer Chest
and every last one shall be answered . . . to the utmost. b
So far in the book Joseph has lost his wife, the farm is being repossessed, and it appears that all is lost. Joseph then discovers the Prayer Chest and a notebook from his distant relative. He has uncovered the first two secrets of the Prayer Chest which are:
Prayer is answered through you.
Prayer is answered when you listen.
If you recall, you had an assignment last Sunday to spend the week listening! Would anyone like to report in on how that went?
And so we move to the third secret. In our novel, we've left Joseph distraught over the news of losing the farm and having just discovered the second secret to answered prayer: Listening.
The next morning as he and his children are packing their belongings, the banker returns. Joseph is not too receptive to his being there, but has spent the night pondering the idea of "listen," so he decides he better. What he hears is amazing.
The banker has had a change of heart. Because of a family connection he discovered, he wants to help Joseph and his family. He wants to hire him to do wood working for him; he wants to pay him a healthy sum to do that; he wants to help him stay on the farm.
In fact, he said that the following Monday morning, right at 7:00 am sharp, he would send his carriage for Joseph so that he could get to work. Oh, yes, things were looking better and brighter. Hey, maybe there is something to this prayer chest stuff!
Then Monday morning arrived and so did 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 10 am and there was no carriage, there was no word, there was no anything. Of course, Joseph imagined the worst. The banker forgot, or tricked him or didn't care what happened to him and his family after all. What little bit of faith he had been building turned to fear, fear, fear, fear!
How many times have things like this happened to us? We've made progress on our spiritual path; we are feeling more alive, more connected, more in tune with life, more supported, more loved. And our outside world is starting to show the effects of this inner change.
And then boom -- something happens that you do not expect. Something happens that you do not want. Something happens that seems to completely contradict the wonderful direction you are heading. Maybe even takes you to your knees. You have had that happen?
This happens to Joseph. He storms out of the house. He is angry. Enraged, really. And he is so, so afraid. What will happen to his children? Yet, even in his fear, he remembers to listen.
He hears the voice of his beloved wife Miriam telling him that his real enemy, his deepest challenge isn't anything he thinks. It isn't the banker; it isn't the farm; it isn't even her death. It is, in fact, his fear. And so he opens his heart just enough to be willing, even a bit excited, to see what the third secret of the prayer chest is. And this third secret is a place of powerful transformation - a place where not only prayers are answered, but lives are changed forever.
And so Joseph sat down with his children plus his dear friend Grace and her daughter Rose, opened the notebook and began to read. Prayer is answered when you welcome everything.
Notice it doesn't say, prayer is answered when you accept, tolerate, put up with, endure, or muddle through everything, grumbling about it all the way. No, it says prayer is answered when you WELCOME everything! This goes beyond blessing everything; it goes even beyond being grateful for everything. It says welcome everything.
Rumi, a 13th Century Persian mystical poet, knew what he was talking about when he wrote his famous poem The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness. Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house . . . empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.c
Welcome everything knowing that the instant you slip your prayer into the Prayer Chest, everything everything, everything, everything that comes your way is a portion of the answer to that prayer.
And your welcoming everything in your life keeps your answer coming through you rather than being repelled by you. It keeps you in vibrational harmony with that which you desire to experience.
I love this line from the novel: "It may not be immediately apparent how failure leads to flourishing or loss fertilizes the ground for gain, but trust that it does."d
And, of course, this is the place where the rubber meets the road - so to speak. This is when we put up or shut up. This is where we either believe it or we don't!
Or as Ernest Holmes says in one of my favorite Science Of Mind passages: "To abandon the Truth in our hour of need is to prove that we didn't really know the Truth in the first place."e
It is precisely when those things come to us that do not look like answered prayer, that we must WELCOME them, knowing they are part of the answer - that they have an important role in the big scheme of things.
The answer to our prayers often requires a shift and change; a letting go of the lesser so that the greater can come through.
One of my favorite Biblical stories is the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery because they were jealous of him for being the father's favorite. Through a series of events that definitely did not look like answered prayer, Joseph became the right hand of the Pharaoh.
A famine came upon the land and his brothers came to Egypt for grain, and the grain was stored there because Joseph convinced the Pharaoh that they needed to stockpile some in the event a famine came upon them.
The Bible tells us that when his brothers saw him and realized who he was, they fell to their knees and said: Behold, we are your servants.
Joseph said to them: Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people.f
Emma Curtis Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice: "Have confidence that if one man does to you what seems to be a wrong, your genius, your Spirit, your God is that moment working good for you. The man is the instrument."g
What if you starting looking at life through the lens that every individual or situation in your life really is a part of the answer to your prayer? How does your life look when you realize that every experience you have after a prayer has been prayed really is a part of it being answered in a most marvelous, magnificent, spectacular, fantastic, beyond your wildest imagination way!? Puts a bit of a different spin on it, doesn't it?
And our little novel unfolds in some pretty wonderful ways - not just for Joseph and his children - but for many, many, many people.
Joseph's prayer that he placed in the Prayer Chest was a simple one: Take care of my children. And my, my were they - and many more children - taken care of in ways that he never could have foreseen.
How many of you have read the book completely? So you know that it leaves an opening for a 4th Secret. Joseph writes it down in the prayer notebook, but we are not privy to it. The final lines of the book read: "Joseph could not know that with the original three secrets, the Prayer Chest would have saved dozens of lives. But with the Fourth Secret that he added, the chest would save thousands."h
But, as I said, we are not told what the Secret is. So, I have an assignment for you - should you desire to take it. I invite you to prayerfully consider what the 4th secret to the Prayer Chest - the 4th Secret of Answered Prayer -- might be.
- Prayer is answered through you.
- Prayer is answered when you listen.
- Prayer is answered when you welcome everything.
This knowledge alone is good, it is very good. But IS there one more important piece? And, if there is, what do you think it might be? Write it down or email it to me this week. We will create our own fourth secret to be revealed next week!
And, remember next week to bring your personal prayer chest to church. We will bless them.
aErnest Holmes The Science of Mind, p. 283
bThe Prayer Chest August Gold & Joel Fotinos
dThe Prayer Chest August Gold & Joel Fotinos
eErnest Holmes The Science of Mind
gEmma Curtis Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice, p. 187
hThe Prayer Chest August Gold & Joel Fotinos