A CONVERSATION WITH GOD
Today is our last week to look at the topic of "Interesting Conversations." If you were here last week, you will remember that we discussed prayer - affirmative prayer. And as I was preparing for last week, something tugged at my heart to share, but it didn't really fit in last week. So, I decided to save it for today. The tugging was to share an ancient prayer. It's a prayer that many of us know.
It is a prayer about which some of us have warm, loving feelings. And, it's a prayer about which some of us have old unresolved hurts and beliefs. It is a prayer that we don't often use in New Thought churches for that very reason.
Some New Thought ministers think it is old and worn and not relevant for today. But, I was inspired to go out on a limb today (you know why it's important to go out on a limb every now and then, don't you? Well, it's where the fruit is, of course!)
Anyway, I was inspired to go out on a limb today and conclude this month with a Conversation with God that the Master Teacher Jesus had, which he told his followers was the "perfect prayer." It's the prayer that became known as The Lord's Prayer or The Our Father and it really is full of wonderful stuff for us.
In his great book, The Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox wrote: "The Great Prayer is a compact formula for the development of the soul. It is designed with the utmost care for that specific purpose; so that those who use it, with understanding, will experience a real change of soul. The only progress is this change, which is what the Bible calls being born again. It is the change of the soul that matters. The mere acquisition of fresh knowledge received intellectually makes no change in the soul. The Lord's Prayer is especially designed to bring this change about, and when it is used, with understanding, it invariably does so."a
So this morning, we are going to look at the Lord's Prayer, with perhaps a new level of understanding, to see how it can bring about a change in our souls that allow us to live more God-filled lives.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
And to set the tone for today's talk, I'd like to start by simply reciting the Prayer, say it silently to yourselves with me if you would like.
Minister: Our Father, which art in heaven.........
Female & Male (said together with the word elongated): Y - e - s?
Minister: [Stunned . . . look around . . . shake head . . . act a little rattled . . . say to congregation] Excuse me. I . . um . . . Wow .. . .The strangest thing just happened . . . . Did you hear . . .well, never mind . . . let's start over again. Our Father, which art in heaven . . .
Female & Male (together): Yes, did you call me?
Minister: Call? Call who? OK! Who out there is messing with me? Maxine, Mary, Dalphine, Jeshua? Just cut it out. No heckling please! One more time . . . "Our Father which art in heaven..."
Female & Male (together): There you go again.
Male: You called me. You said, "Our Father which art in heaven..."
Female: So, here I AM. What's on your mind?
Minister: What's on my mind? You know, they say when we talk to God we're praying, but when God talks to us we're schizophrenic? Have I lost it? Have I gone over the edge?
Female & Male (together): No, I don't think so.
Minister: That's a relief. Well, nothing's really on my mind. I'm a little busy here - as you might see, I'm a minister and I'm giving a Sunday talk on Jesus' ancient prayer for living.
I was just reciting the prayer right now to set the tone. And besides, we don't often say this pray in a New Thought church, so I thought it would be nice. Of course, you already know all of this, so why am I saying all of that! But I really don't have anything particular on my mind!
Female & Male (together): All right then, go on.
Minister: Thank you. So -- Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name......
Female: Excuse me, but I just have to ask you . . .Do you know the meaning of what you just said? Because, it is really, really important.
Minister: [Exasperated] You know, I'm trying to do a sermon here. I've got all these people waiting to hear something inspirational from me - and you're really interrupting.
Male: [Amused] I'm interrupting? Oh, really?!?
Minister: God interrupting a sermon. Ok, Ok, I see the irony! My apologies! Well, let's see. "Hallowed be thy name?" "Hallowed be thy name?" It sounds pretty good, but what does it mean? This is a test, isn't it? You're testing me to see if I'm up to speed as a minister! I knew this would happen some day!!
Male: Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Haven't you learned yet that I don't give you tests? I was just wondering if you knew the power in the words you just spoke. "Hallowed" means wholeness and perfection. "Name" refers to the nature of something.
So, when you said, "hallowed be thy name" what you really said was that wholeness and perfection are my nature. And that is such an important concept to grasp -- one that I think your congregation could benefit from fully understanding . . . .
Female: . . . Because if my nature is wholeness and perfection, then I know nothing of separation and imperfection. I know nothing of sickness, of troubles, of sorrow, of failure, of pain, of hurt. Hallowed be thy name means my nature is altogether good and that I am the author of perfect good!
[Snicker in voice] And since you called me Father [pause] implying a parent-child relationship, you must realize the tremendous significant connection here. Because the nature of the parent is automatically transferred to the child. It is a cosmic law that like begets like.
Just like it is impossible for a rosebush to produce lilies or for a cow to give birth to a dog, my offspring must be of the same nature as I. And since my nature is wholeness and perfection - so is yours, my dear, so is yours -- whatever appearances may say to the contrary. Now that's something to share with your congregation, isn't it?
Minister: Yes, I'd say so. [Pause] Since you brought it up, may I ask a question about this father thing?
Female & Male (together): Certainly. A lot of people do.
Minister: Why "father"? Why are you always portrayed as masculine?
Female: It's really pretty simple. Just remember. This prayer was spoken over 2000 years ago. Using masculine terminology was the norm. Look at your Unity books, for example. Charles Fillmore wrote as recently as the 1900s, and yet it still uses masculine terms. By the way, I want you to know that I don't mind every time you gender neutralize a Charles Fillmore quote!
I know that some of my children did not have human fathers who were nurturing, supportive and unconditionally loving and so, for them, thinking of me as father may not feel very good. But what is important is the Cosmic Concept of the Perfect Father. That is what I am. Because wholeness and perfection are my nature, I know only love, I know only support, I know only nurturing.
Male: I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't care what label you put on me! Call me Father, call me Mother, call me Sally, call me Howard -- you know as in "Howard be thy Name" -- I don't care!
Now, why don't you get on with your prayer. We're taking up a lot of service time here.
Minister: Oh, you're right. I've still got a talk to give. Let's see, where was I? "Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed by thy name." Yes, here I am. "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Male: Now, here's where things get interesting. Do you really mean what you just said?
Minister: Well, yes, I think so. I mean, yes, of course, sure, I mean that!
Male: You're praying to have my kingdom come and to have my will be expressed on earth. That's quite a goal! And you realize, of course, that this one is up to you. That is to say, your work is to bring more and more of my ideas such as peace and love and harmony and abundance into concrete form upon this plane. Now, I don't mean just you. I mean everybody. That is what you are all here to do!
Remember, you were born to make manifest my glory that is within you. Hey, how do you like that - God quoting Marianne Williamson!
Anyway, here's what I want you to do. You've got to get the word out to let people know that I have glorious and wonderful plans for them. My will for them is that they express life fully and freely and joyously.
It is NEVER my will that they suffer. But I know a lot of them do. Please tell them, in whatever way you can, that it is NOT my will that brings this about, but it is their sense of separation from me. It is because they forget that my nature, and therefore their nature, is whole and perfect. . . .
Female: . . . They forget that I am as close as their breath. They forget that when they think, they are using my Mind and my creative power. If they realized the power in their thoughts, they would think twice before they think!
And tell them to listen to those creative urges within them. Tell them to pay attention to those deep inner knowings they all have - Tell them that that's me talking to them. Tell them it's me trying to get their attention. But so often they just dismiss my voice as a pie-in-the-sky dream. What they forget is that they bring the kingdom to earth and express my will here on earth by living fully!
Of course, I could tell them all of this directly if they would only listen.
Minister: Um? I wonder how well I listen.
Male: Well, now that you mention it, you could continue to work on that. But remember, you are a work in progress, just like everyone else!
Minister: Look, Lord, I need to get on w/reciting this prayer, so I can start my talk. This is taking a lot longer than I expected. So, let's see, what's next? "Give us this day our daily bread."
Female: You know, you might benefit from cutting out some of the bread. All those carbs aren't good for you.
Minister: Hey, wait a minute! This is starting to get kind of personal! I didn't really want to hear that.
Male: Praying can be a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed, you know. That's what I'm trying to get across to you. You called Me and here I AM. It's too late to stop now. Keep praying, but before you do, let me remind you of the importance of this line.
Female: It's not really about bread, you know - but about what "daily bread" represents. "Give us this day our daily bread" is simply a reminder that I absolutely, completely and totally will take care of your every human need, every day. There is only one thing required for this to happen - you have to trust me. It's not that I need you to trust me, but it is through your trust in me that you access the Divine Supply. Your trust is sort of like the key to the storehouse of heaven! You've already got the key, you just have to use it. Simple, isn't it?!
I'm interested in the next part of your prayer.......(pause)......Well, go on.
Minister: [squirming] Given the way this whole conversation is going, I'm not so sure I want to.
Male: Why not?
Minister: I'm afraid of what you'll say.
Male: Why don't you try me and see.
Minister: [Deep breath] OK, here goes. "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Female: Let's get one thing straight right up at the front. I don't forgive!
Female: You heard me. I don't forgive!
Minister: Well that news certainly fills me with warm and fuzzy feelings!
Male: Just think about it for a minute. Go back to that "hallowed by thy name" part we just went over. If my nature is wholeness and perfection, then I know nothing else; and if your nature is wholeness and perfection, then I know nothing else . . . of you. And if I know nothing but your wholeness and perfection, then I know of nothing to forgive! Simple as that.
You, on the other hand, are a different story. When you don't forgive, you really clog up the works. My wholeness and perfection have a pretty hard time expressing through you when you're unforgiving.
That's really what this line of the prayer means. As you forgive events and people in your life, you are freed from feelings of separation from me.
So, have you forgiven everyone you need to forgive?
Minister: Well, I'm trying to.
Male: As Yoda said in the great spiritual movie Star Wars -- "There is no try, there is only do." I love that line. I inspired it, you know!
Female: So, I'll ask the question again, have you forgiven everyone you need to forgive? [pause] For example, what about your mother? I know she's no longer on this earth plane, but have you really forgiven her?
Minister: I knew it! I knew you would pick something really complicated and hard! That's why I didn't really what to go here. You know she wasn't a very good mother! Essentially, I grew up without one, which really messed up my ability to be in healthy relationships with men. And I had to do a lot of work to heal that! So, OK, I admit I may still have some anger about that, but I have a right to it, don't I?!
Female: Of course you have a right to it; you have a right to feel however you feel -- but what about your prayer? You just prayed to forgive everyone. You just prayed to have your connection with me strengthened. Didn't you mean it?
Minister: Well, yes I meant it -- for everyone except her!
Male: Well, at least you're honest. But don't you see it just doesn't work that way. I can't express through you -- you can't live the kingdom here on earth -- if you insist on carrying around a load of bitterness inside, now can you?
Minister: No. I guess not.
Male: So, what are you going to do about it? Not "try" to do about it but "do" about it!
Minister: Well, I think forgiveness is a process. So, I'll stay in the process.
Male: Nope -- that won't cut it! What you are going to do about it now?
Minister: Right here? Right now? In the middle of service that, by the way, I really need to get back to.
Female: This is important. They'll wait!
Minister: Ok, here goes [Not enthusiastically]: Mom, I fully and freely forgive and release you. I loose you and let you go quickly to your good and in peace. All things are cleared up between us now and forever. I now behold you with the eyes of love and I rejoice in your perfection. You are free and I am free too.
Female: Try it one more time. With a little more gusto.
Minister: Mom, I fully and freely forgive and release you. I loose you and let you go quickly to your good and in peace. All things are cleared up between us now and forever. I now behold you with the eyes of love and I rejoice in your perfection. You are free and I am free too.
Male: There now! Wonderful! How do you feel?
Minister: Hmmm, well, not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, I feel pretty great! Lighter and freer and closer to you; more filled with your Presence. [basking]
Female: That IS the whole idea, you know. [pause] You're not through with your prayer -- go on.
Minister: Leave me not in temptation but deliver me from evil.
Female: Of course I'll do this! I always do this. You're the one who needs to cooperate!
Minister: What do you mean by that?
Male: Come on. Just look at some of the choices you make. Are they always the greatest for you? What about, just this week for example. You choose to stay up late and watch The Daily Show -- although he is pretty funny, I admit -- when you knew you had a full schedule the next day and you needed sleep? Weren't you really tired and not at your best?
[speed up with each example] What about your choice to overload your schedule so that you hardly have any free time for yourself?
What about the choice you make now and then to get involved in negative conversations?
What about the choice to judge other people?
What about the choice to become fearful when appearances aren't what you want?
What about the choice to lose patience with a friend?
What about your choice to think those negative thoughts?
What about the choice to . . .
Minister: OK! OK! I get the picture. I make my choices and I reap the consequences. Right?
Male: See, you are a quick learner. And just so we are really clear about this line of the prayer, I've never been a big fan of the word "evil." People think it means some negative power separate from me. But if I am wholeness and perfection - as we've already established - then a negative power separate from me is, well, it's impossible. . .
Female: I loved it when your Ernest Holmes wrote: "The problem of evil will be met only to the degree that you cease doing evil and do good, for evil will disappear when you no longer indulge in it."b That Ernest was a pretty smart guy. You should listen to him more often! Now, go ahead and finish your prayer.
Minister: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Female: Do you know what would bring me glory forever? Do you know what would really do that?
Minister: No, but I suspect you're about to tell me.
Female: If you realized who walks as you all the time.
Male: If we had these conversations more often.
Female: If you would open yourself up to that still small voice inside - that's me wanting to direct and guide your life.
Male: If you would keep working on that forgiveness piece -- it's a pretty constant thing.
Female & Male (together): Then, my kingdom, my power and my glory would be yours as well -- right here on earth.
Minister: Amen to that.
Female: Yes, amen to that.
Minister: Now, I really have to get back to my lesson today. I've still got a sanctuary full of people waiting to hear something inspiring. So, since I've got you here, let me ask you . . . what should I tell them?
Female & Male (together): I think you and I already did.
Minister: I guess you're right. [Talking to congregation] Now that we all have this new understanding for the prayer, how about it if we say it together. And I bet if we asked, God would even join us.
Female & Male I'd love to!
Our Father, which art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever!
Amen and so it is!
aThe Sermon on the Mount Emmet Fox