It's a new month; so we have a new theme - "Minding Your Ps and Qs!" As a youth, you may have heard this phrase from your parents when you misbehaved - yes? But during the month of November here at Unity of Castro Valley, the phrase "Mind Your Ps and Qs" will take on a different meaning. We are going to look at being MINDFUL:
to PRACTICE PRAYER (that's today);
to PURSUE PLAY;
to QUICKEN OUR DIVINE POTENTIAL; and finally
to be mindful to POSESS A GRATEFUL PRESENCE (perfect, of course, for Thanksgiving weekend!)
. . . all of this with the intent to step into a life of peace, joy and power. Now, this is turning out to be a difficult year for some, so we are going to begin our time together each week with a mindfulness exercise to help us turn (and re-turn) to Spiritual Truth..
I'd like you to just touch in to what is going right now in your life despite what might be "going wrong."
On the material/financial level, you have clothes on your back; food in your belly (if not, go to the fellowship hall after service to take care of that); and a means by which you got here - you really have all that you need in this present moment.
On the physical level, even if something may not be working in your body exactly as you would like, be mindful of all that is.
On an emotional level, turn to someone, look them in the eyes and feel the love that is in the room! If that brings up tears - It's OK!
On a spiritual level, breathe in the presence and the power of Divine Energy - God. Now give thanks for all that you have and all that you are. And as you open your eyes, we say AMEN and AMEN,
OK, I think my work here is done! No, wait, I do have some things to say - and more for you to experience -- around BEING MINDFUL to PRACTICE PRAYER.
Prayer is, of course, a staple spiritual practice and a staple topic of ministers' sermons - I wonder how many talks I have given on it? But I am ever seeking opportunities to go deeper and higher into our spiritual understanding and practices, which is why I chose to talk about PRAYER again today because a life built on prayer is a life built on a strong foundation.
The foundation Jesus spoke of when he said at Matthew 7:23, 24: ". . . whoever hears these sayings of mine, and follows them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; yet it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock."a
Today, I want us to establish that kind of foundation!
In the Science Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes tells us that there is no group of people that believes more in prayer than Metaphysicians do. He writes: "Prayer is essential, not for the salvation of the soul, for the soul is never lost; but to the conscious well-being of the soul that does not understand itself. There is a vitality in our communion with the Infinite which is productive of the highest good. As fire warms the body, as food strengthens us, as sunshine raises our spirits, so there is a subtle transfusion of some invisible force in such communion, weaving itself into the very warp and woof of our own mentalities. This conscious commingling of our thought with Spirit is essential to the well-being of every part of us."b
I want to ask you a rhetorical question - Do you believe in the power of prayer? Think about your answer as you listen to this story.
In a small Texas town, a new tavern business started constructing a building in which to open up a bar. The local Baptist church began a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers.
Work progressed right up until the week before opening, when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The church folks were rather smug in their outlook about this occurrence until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the destruction of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
In its response to the lawsuit, the church vehemently denied any and all responsibility and any and all connection to the building's destruction.
After reviewing all the documents submitted by both sides, the Judge at the hearing said, "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that doesn't."
I want you to know that I believe in the power of prayer - ALL KINDS OF PRAYER. I know in Unity, we teach a specific type of prayer, which we will get to in a minute, but I am going to out on a limb here and say I really do believe in the power of ALL prayer. And there have been enough scientific studies done now in the medical arena to really prove that prayer heals - again ALL forms of prayer.
So what are some forms of prayer?
1. PRAYER OF PETITION
The one many of us may have learned in our religious upbringing - the prayer of petition - asking an external God; perhaps even begging; could include some bargaining! While we don't teach that form of prayer - it just may serve a purpose!
I can think of two prayers of petition that are very beautiful and very powerful. First, there's the . . . .
a. Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I realize there is no begging and bargaining in there - but it is a prayer of petition - petitioning an external God to "make" something happen. And yet, this prayer has provided many, many people, those working the 12 steps and more, great solace as well as sense of personal power - perhaps even for the first time.
Or another version:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the person I cannot change,
The courage to change the person I can,
And the wisdom to know that that person is me.
b. Prayer of St. Francis
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.
While I am not advocating or teaching the prayer of petition as a regular practice - we can evolve out of it -- it may just be the best we can do in the moment. And if it's the best we can do (even if we know better!), then do it!
2. THE PRAYER OF GRATITUDE
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
A very powerful spiritual practice is, in the memo part of every check, write "thank you, God!" and offer a prayer of thank you for the service or product you received. When you write your tithe check, say a prayer of gratitude for the abundance you have received enabling you to write that check!
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."
3. AFFIRMATIVE PRAYER
This is the type of prayer I referred to a moment ago:
It is . . . for achieving Unity [I'd change that to 'a consciousness of Unity'] with God and Its limitless life, substance and intelligence. It is not something we do to God, but to ourselves.
In Lessons in Truth Emily Cady describes prayer in this way: "In preparation to pray truly a person must mentally unload his human desires and emotions, that he may become holy enough to feel the God presence, still enough to hear the God message, open enough to receive the God gifts.
Then we need to relax. To relax is to become open and receptive. If in prayer we truly let go of the outer and enter into the God presence, we become again as a little child and receive of that which the Father holds for the Son. In this attitude of mind we let the living stream of life flow into every cell, purifying and lighting it, giving to it its original state of perfection.
To pray we need concentration. We find many thoughts that need redeeming and lifting up, which can come about only through our concentrating on high and holy thoughts, giving them constant attention, holding them close in the heart and letting our words take form from them, our acts pattern after them.
The I AM or Christ within each of us is the Truth, and if we but turn within to this law of our being and make complete union with it, there is nothing more needed, for we shall find in it the fulfillment of all our needs, the consummation of all our desires, the righting of all our wrongs
Then through the stillness of our being God will express Himself in the manifest plane: in our body, His temple, in our life, His activity, we shall express our likeness to Him.
NO ONE CAN tell another person what is to come to him from the silence, what message he will receive from the One who dwells in the holy of holies within his own soul. No one can tell another what he will bring back with him into his life from the Creator of his being. Each one of us goes to God with different needs, in different states of consciousness, taking different steps in search of Him. Whatever the human heart craves, whatever the body needs, will be given in the silence, for whenever a cry goes from the heart Godward, He immediately answers, "Here am I."e
4. RS FORM OF AFFIRMATIVE PRAYER - SPIRITUAL MIND TREATMENT
Spiritual Mind Treatment is the Religious Science form of Affirmative Prayer, and perhaps the name "Spiritual Mind Treatment" conjures up something mysterious, but there is nothing mysterious at all about it. In fact, Ernest Holmes tells us in the Science Of Mind textbook that: "Since we must all begin right where we are, most of us will be compelled to begin our healing work with a mechanical process."f
And so that is what Spiritual Mind Treatment is -- a straight forward, yet powerful, mechanical process, or way to pray.
a. Spiritual Mind Treatment for Things
We often use Spiritual Mind Treatment to treat for things or experiences. Now, there is NOTHING wrong with this - but there is more than this! In fact, Ernest Holmes says in the textbook, if we need a dollar then we should pray for a dollar - but there is more. . . . In fact, we pray many times to God to bring us what we need and yet we are like the man standing neck deep in a clear, cold stream of fresh water begging someone to give him a drink.
Of course, he needs only to bend his head and drink to his heart's content.
b. Spiritual Mind Treatment 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 any thing; it will be a knocking and an opening for more light, greater spiritual wisdom, greater discernment."g
Peggy Bassett (influential RS minister; contracted Lou Gerig's Disease and passed away many years ago): "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?"h
The greatest purpose of prayer 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.
Theologian Henry Nouwen, who has taught for many years at Yale Divinity School once said: "Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at the point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. There God's Spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place. There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, within us."i
Kahil Gibran in The Prophet said: "What is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether."j
I believe this is the highest form of prayer.
Let's take a moment right now to expand ourselves into the living ether through prayer. Not a prayer of petition, not just a prayer of gratitude (although that will certainly be present). It will be an affirmative prayer, in fact a Spiritual Mind Treatment, but not for any material thing, not for a change of condition, but rather to open to the presence and power of God.
I'm going to speak it in the first person, because I cannot speak for you. But, if what I say resonates with you, then make these words yours as well.
Mother, Father, God I thank you for creating me as a unique and free being. Through your grace I create divine order in my life. I know that the abundance of the Universe is at my command. I open to your guidance and know that I am safe and protected. I now experience the connection between me, God, and all things. In this consciousness my mind, body, and spirit are healed. I am the health, wisdom, and prosperity of God individualized.
Thank you, God
aMatthew 7:23, 24
bScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes p. 152
eLessons in Truth Emily Cady
fScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes
jKahil Gibran The Prophet