by Stephen Lampe
Periods of tragedies are usually marked by increased and fervent prayers. We are in such a period, and prayers and vigils are being intensified by many groups. However, observations of the manner many people pray these days and the prayers they say strongly suggest a lack of understanding of the meaning and mechanisms of prayers and praying. In many cases, one can only say that the teachings on the subject contained in the Bible and in the Koran are ignored or almost completely misunderstood. Prayers operate within the irrevocable and eternal Laws of Creation that express the Will of God. These include the Law of Sowing and Reaping (or the Law of Reciprocal Action, also called the Law of Retributive Justice), the Law of Homogeneity (or the Law of Attraction of Similar Species, or more simply, the Law of Like Attracts Like), and the Law of Spiritual Gravity.
In illustration of the working of these Laws, we note that to be linked with the realms of Light, which true prayer implies, we must rid ourselves of evil thoughts, anger, and must not harbour any hatred. This is to say that we must carry a measure of homogeneity with the realms of Light, which are characterized by goodness and love. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”. In other words, we reap forgiveness only if we sow forgiveness. The purer and the more spiritually open we are, the lighter our prayers will be, and in accordance with the Law of Spiritual Gravity, the higher the prayers will rise spiritually in the direction of the Throne of God. God, the Creator, maintains the whole of Creation, including our earth, strictly through His eternal and unchanging laws. He does not act arbitrarily. The Creator’s strict adherence to His own immutable laws also applies to the granting of His Grace as well as to His response or non-response to our prayers.
Formal praying is an attempt to become invisibly linked with the Luminous Heights and thereby to open oneself to holy streams of power originating from God. One would then apply here on earth the power that one absorbs and would take appropriate actions according to the guidance and inspiration that flow into one’s consciousness. The holy streams of power flow perpetually throughout Creation, but we can only be connected with them at those moments when we are inwardly open, when our spirits bow down to God in humility and purity. Once we attain a genuine state of humility and purity, the Light of the Creator automatically envelops us. Thanks to technological advances, we can nowadays understand the concept of being linked with invisible radiation or power originating from God. We know that our atmosphere has numerous television waves (local and cable) floating around all the time and that we can link with them and make their content visible and audible only with the appropriate equipment ? television sets. It is the same with radio waves. In an analogous manner, the spirit (the inner self, not the intellect) is the appropriate “equipment” that can absorb the waves of power originating from God and flowing perpetually in Creation. One can also say that the human being, when he/she prays aright, can become invisibly linked with the spiritual realms, in the manner that a cellular phone caller is invisibly linked with the person with whom he/she is speaking.
When the human spirit is truly enveloped by the invisible radiation from the Luminous Heights, it is incapable of many words. In that state, the spirit expresses itself in its own language, which is a language of pictures. Moreover, while the spirit is linked with the lighter realms, all its real needs (including those that the human being may not be aware of) become evident to the many servants of God. And, in accordance with the immutable laws of God and in consideration of the human being’s best spiritual interest, the needs are addressed. For these reasons, the Lord Jesus taught that “in praying do not heap up empty words as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8, Revised Standard Version of the Bible).
Praying is an activity of the spirit and must, therefore, be done in an environment that facilitates spiritual unfolding. It is in part for this reason that the Lord Jesus Christ advised that in praying we should not behave like hypocrites who pray at public locations, so that many people might see them and thereby earn their praise and admiration. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6). Unfortunately, the teaching about praying behind shut doors and in few words is routinely ignored these days, especially by members of certain sects who consider themselves the most devout Christians. In praying, our first concern should be to ascertain that the environment is right and that we are in the right mood to bow our spirit in humility and purity. If we really understand that in praying we are attempting to approach God, we would be able to appreciate how seriously the act should be taken.
One of the five pillars of Islam is five prayers said at specific times during the waking hours. The hours of the prayers stipulated in the Koran are so arranged that a human being who really prays aright will be in a state of humility and inner purity throughout his or her waking period. He or she would be incapable of thinking evil, much less deliberately harming others, because his worshipful state lingers from one prayer to the next. The last of the five prayers is to be said as the last thing before one goes to bed, ensuring that the spirit maintains its link to the Luminous Heights while the physical body sleeps. The five prayers are, of course, of no effect, if they are merely thoughtlessly rehearsed, or said while one is harbouring evil thoughts and planning evil schemes. The prayers do not also have the full desired effect if we say all of them at the same time or even two or three of the five at the same time (because we forget or are too busy during the day). This is because the timing was deliberately determined to put one in a prayerful mood and ensure a constant link with the Luminous Heights throughout the day; this objective may be defeated if the prayers are not said at the stipulated times.
Perhaps the most important point to remember about prayers is that they do not, and cannot, set aside the Will of God. They are answered (or unanswered) only in accordance with the eternal and immutable laws of God --- the laws that manifest the Will of God. This fact should be self-evident to Moslems. Since Islam means submission to the Will of God, it would be totally illogical for a Moslem to expect his or her prayers to accomplish what goes against God’s Will, which manifest in the immutable Laws of Creation. And God’s Will does not and will never change. The same should also be true for Christians, for in His teachings and by His life, the Lord Jesus Christ emphasized that He had come to uphold the laws not to overthrow them. He taught humankind that a person must reap what he or she sows. If a person (Christian, Moslem, or pagan) sows rice, he can only reap rice. No amount of prayers, vigils, and fasting can make a planting of rice yield maize. And we are reminded of this important fact in the Lord’s Prayer when we are told that the forgiveness of our sins is conditional on our having forgiven those who have sinned against us. If we want God to forgive us our sins, we must forgive those who offend us.
The religious establishments of our time are undermining the true teachings of the Lord Jesus and of Prophet Mohamed (Peace Be Upon Him). They distort the spirit of these high teachings by ignoring the crucial fact that they were adapted to the level of knowledge, spiritual maturity, and the needs of the people of those times. They do so perhaps out of genuine ignorance of the truth of progressive revelation. But individual religious leaders and religious organizations also distort spiritual teachings to attract large followership with consequent increased earthly power and influence as well as material wealth. Distortions of the teachings take various forms, including wrong and convenient interpretations, ignoring the cultural, social, and economic context and the prevalent ignorance of natural laws at the time the teachings were given. Moreover, the teachings are distorted when followers are encouraged to believe that there is a broad and easy road to salvation (such as killing those who oppose one’s religion, making donations to one’s religious organization, paying tithes, etc.).