When the question is asked: "Do you believe in prayer?" I for one answer, "it depends upon what you mean by prayer." If you mean getting down on bended knee and addressing a petition to a god outside of yourself, purely imaginary, which the intellect has enormous labor in attempting to conceive of, and therefore is not instinctive in the human heart, then I must answer: "No, not prayer of that type. That is an abdication of the god within denying its own right, and appealing for help outside itself. That is supplication, petitioning, begging for benefits."
True prayer is the rich, deep, spiritual humility of the human self envisioning the ineffably grand. It is a yearning to become like the heavenly Father, as Jesus phrased it, yearning to become a son of the Divine. It is almost a command of the man to himself to arise and pass on to higher things, upwards towards the Divine, of which a spark pulsates in every human soul. When we come into sympathetic relationship, into identic vibrational frequency, with this inner heart-beat, this pulsing of the Divine, then our lives are made over; we are completely reformed, no longer begging for favors and thereby weakening ourselves. We begin to recognize our identity with the Divine. Dignity steals over us and enfolds us like a garment. And what prayer is nobler than this: for the son to yearn to become like unto its divine parent?
Prayer of this kind is not merely an attitude of mind. It is a way of living, clothing him who follows it with dignity, enriching his mind with understanding, making him sympathetic to all that lives. It means progressively making our consciousness greater to include a little more of the world around us. Our consciousness, after this way of prayer, of living, of thinking, of feeling, grows ever larger, until some day we shall in our thoughts and feelings be able to encompass the universe.
True prayer is aspiration. It means not only enlarging the personal consciousness towards becoming at one with the universal consciousness, but putting this experience into practice. Otherwise we are but as tinkling cymbals and the rolling bellow of empty drums — a voice and nothing more. But when you practise prayer, then you reinforce your own powers by exercise. What you have yourself felt, you begin to practise. You see the light of understanding flash in the eyes of other men, a new and secret sympathy springing up between man and man. It is a new life-force. Thus this kind of prayer is likewise a way of life. It is likewise science; it is philosophy, it is religion.
We are children of the Infinite, of the Divine. Our Deity is intra-cosmic and yet transcendent, just exactly in the same way as a man is not only his physical body, and not only his mind or his spirit. He is body and feelings and emotions and mind and soul; but above these he is transcendent; there is something in him which is greater than all this. That is the spark of the Divine, the spark by which he is linked with the Invisible, with Divinity. That spark is the most important, the most powerful element in us. It is the predominating and governing factor in our destiny, and if we want to grow nobler and higher, we have to raise ourselves by living what we know up towards that spark. Then our life will become grand. And finally, when practice has become relatively perfect, the vision of true genius will steal into the mind. For genius is cosmic wisdom. With genius, understanding grows and grows, and finally we begin to realize that we are not merely a man with perhaps a post-mortem life in heaven or hell, but that our destiny is the destiny of the infinite: we are co-eval with duration, with cosmic time, for the boundless universe is our home.
This is what we should aspire towards, should pray for: an ever-enlarging consciousness by aspiration, by study, by living the life we profess — an ever enlarging consciousness towards that Ultimate, unity with the Divine. We pass through all the kingdoms of nature, grow from being a man to godhood, and up the endless ladders of life.
That divine spirit of which we speak so glibly represents an intuition, a yearning, an ineffable hunger within us to realize that divinity. Should we pray? We can make our daily lives a prayer in action. We have the Ariadne's thread, we have the key in every ancient scripture. What then is the lock? It is man himself, taking this key. Inserting it into our own consciousness, turning it however slightly, magic streams forth from the slightly open door, from the ineffable mysteries hidden within, drawn from the cosmic font. No man can ever name it. It is nameless. Names but degrade it. Aspiration towards it always and forever — that is prayer.
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