There is a great significance in that passage in St. Mark: “All the things whatsoever ye pray and ask for believing ye have received them and ye have.” We are bidden to believe that what we wish has already been fulfilled; that if we take this attitude we shall obtain our desire.
The benefit we derive from prayer is the harmonizing poising, balancing of our mind, putting ourselves into closer communion into a more vital connection with the Divine Mind, through which we receive a larger supply of our Father’s blessings.
Prayer is the opening up of the pinched supply pipes of the mind which shut out the divine inflow; it is the letting into our lives greater abundance from the unlimited supply which continually flows from the Source of all sources.
“Mary,” said a young girl to a Catholic friend, “why do you carry that rosary everywhere, and what possible good does it do you to count those beads over and over?”
“Oh,” answered Mary, “I never could make you understand what a comfort this rosary is to me. When I am tired out, or blue or discouraged about anything; or when I long very much for something that it seems impossible I should ever get, I take my rosary and begin to pray. Before I have gone over half of its beads, everything is changed. The tired, discouraged feeling is gone, or if I have been asking for something I long to have, it doesn’t seem nearly so far away as before; and I know that if I don’t get just what I ask for, I’ll get something better.”
Those who are too narrow-minded or too prejudiced to see anything good in a creed that is not their own, often sneer at the Catholic custom of “saying the rosary.” To them, it is only “superstition,” “nonsense,” to repeat the same prayer over and over. These people do not understand the philosophy as well as the religion underlying this beautiful old custom. They do not know the power that inheres in the repetition of the spoken word, and in the influence of the thought expressed.
Anyone can prove this for himself or herself. It isn’t necessary to get a rosary made of beads. You can make your own, an intangible but very real rosary, and if you say it over, not once, or twice a day, but over and over many times, and especially before retiring at night, you will be surprised at the wonderful results.
Is it a fault you wish to rectify; is it a talent or gift you desire to develop and improve; is it money, or friends, an education, success in any enterprise; is it contentment, peace of mind, happiness, power to serve, power in your work,—whatever it is you desire, make it a bead in your rosary, pray for its accomplishment, think of it, work for its fulfillment and your desire will materialize?
There are many ways of praying. All our prayers are not vocalized petitions to the Almighty. They are also our inspirations, the aspirations of the soul to be and to do. Desire is prayer. The sincerest prayer may be the longing of the heart to cultivate a talent or talents, or the intense desire to get an education so that one may be of greater service in the world. That which we dream of and struggle to attain, our efforts to make good; these are genuine prayers.
When Jane Addams, as a little girl, longed for the power to lift other little girls and make them happy; when she dreamed of a time when she should be grown up and doing great work in the service of humanity, she was praying. She was even than laying the foundations of Hull House, and the Hull House of today is an answered prayer. Her whole life from childhood up was prayer because it was a preparation for great and noble work.
When the child, Frances Willard, longed and dreamed in her remote Wisconsin home, she was praying and building as surely as in her later years when she was the moving power of the great organization she had brought into being. “I always wanted to react on the world about me to my utmost ounce of power,” she said in telling of her early life and aspirations. “Lying on the prairie grass and lifting my hand toward the sky, I used to say in my inmost spirit, ‘What is it? What is the aim to be, O God?'”
Such noble heart yearnings are, in the truest sense, prayers. The uttered prayer clothed in beautiful language, that which is delivered in the pulpit to be heard of men, may not be a real prayer at all. The collective prayer of the congregation may be a mockery. I have often been in churches where people were repeating prayers automatically, while looking all about the auditorium watching other people, mentally occupied, while their lips moved in a so-called prayer, in noticing what they wore and how they looked. There is no real praying in such a performance as this. It is not soul expression, not heart talking. It is mere parrot talking. All mechanical mumbling of prayers in our church services is an insult to the Creator, who does not hear prayers that do not come from the heart.
“Prayer is the heart’s sincere desire.” What we long for and hope for we pray for by our very longing and hope. The real prayer may be struggling in the heart without words, it may be a noble desire, a heart longing which no language can express. It may be voiceless or it may not, but the true prayer always comes from the heart, and it is always answered.
A remarkable illustration of this is afforded in a story told by John Wesley. He was once riding through a dark wood, carrying with him a large sum of money entrusted to his safekeeping. All at once a sense of fear came over him, and dismounting from his horse, he offered up a prayer for protection. Years afterward Wesley was called to see a dying man. This man told the preacher that at the time he had passed through the wood, so many years before, he, the robber, had been lying in wait to rob him of the money he carried. He told Wesley that he had noticed him dismounting and how, on his remounting and resuming his journey, the appearance of an armed attendant riding beside him had so filled him with awe and a great fear that he had abandoned his purpose.
Balzac said truly: “When we are enabled to pray without weariness, with love, with certainty, with intelligence, we will find ourselves in instant accord with power, and like a mighty roaring wind, like a thunderbolt, our will cut its way through all things and share the power of God.”
Everybody prays, because everybody hopes and desires, have longings and yearnings which he hopes will be realized. In a sense the atheist, the agnostic, the unbeliever, although they may not know it, pray just as much as do believers, for every longing of the heart, every noble aspiration, is a prayer. We pray as naturally as we breathe, for the desire for a better, nobler life, for grander and higher attainment, is an unconscious prayer. Prayer is our heart hunger for oneness with the Divine, with the Eternal. It is the union of the soul with its Maker. It is literally what Phillips Brooks described it to be, the sluice gate between God and the soul.
Many people mistake the very nature of prayer and complain that it is no use to pray because their prayers are never answered.
The reason is clear, and is admirably expressed in Irving Bacheller’s pithy verses on “Faith.”
“Now, don’t expect too much o’ God, it wouldn’t be quite fair
If for anything ye wanted ye could only swap a prayer;
I’d pray for yours, and you for mine, an’ Deacon Henry Hotspur
He wouldn’t have a thing to do but lay abed an’ prosper.
“If all things come so easy, Bill, they’d have but little worth,
An’ someone with a gift o’ prayer ‘u’d member own the earth.
It’s the toil ye give to git a thing—the sweat an’ blood an’ care—
That makes the kind o’ argument that ought to back yer prayer.“
If your prayers come back to you unanswered it is because they are not backed by the conditions on which the answer to prayer depends,—faith and work. You don’t get the thing you pray for either because you don’t believe you will get it, or you don’t back your prayer with the necessary effort, or because you fail in both requisites.
To pray for a thing and not work for it, not strive and do our level best to obtain it, is a mockery. To ask God to give us that which we long for, but are too lazy to help get ourselves, is begging. In answer to our prayers and longings and efforts, we get that which we call out of the universal supply, which is everywhere. Every day some prayer is made visible, something is wrought out of the invisible, manifested in the actual by those two mighty instruments—prayer and work. But if you think your stumbling block will be removed, or your desire realized without raising a finger to help yourself, you may pray until doomsday without ever getting an answer. Prayer without faith is of no avail. And faith without work is a barren virtue.
In the second stanza of a little poem entitled “God’s Answer,” Ella Wheeler Wilcox gives us the answer to the plaint of the discouraged, unsuccessful soul, who cries that his prayers are not heard and that no hand is stretched out to lead him to the heights he would attain.
“Then answered God: ‘Three things I gave to thee—
Clear brain, brave will, and strength of mind and heart,
All implements divine to shape the way;
Why shift the burden of the toil on Me?
Till to the utmost he has done his part
With all his might, let no man dare to pray.'”
The answer to your prayers is right inside of yourself. They are answered by your obeying the natural as well as the spiritual law of all supply. If you don’t do your part in the actual working world down to the minutest detail your prayer is bound to come back to you unanswered.
Everything in the universe has its price, a can realize what you desire if you are willing to pay the price, and that is an honest, earnest, persistent effort to make it yours. The Creator answers your prayer by fitting you to answer it yourself, by enabling you to put into practice the law of demand and supply, the fundamental principle on which the answer to prayer is based. You must put yourself in absolute harmony with the thing you pray for. It cannot be forced. You must attract it. Answer to prayer comes only to a receptive mind in a positive condition, that is, in a condition to create, to achieve.
The law of affirmation and the law of prayer is the same. “Affirm that which you wish, work for it, and it will be manifest in your life.” Affirm it confidently, with the utmost faith, without any doubt of what you affirm. Say to yourself, “I am that which I think I am—and I can be nothing else.” But if you affirm, “I am health; I am prosperity; I am this or that,” and do not believe it, you will not be helped by affirmation. You must believe what you affirm; you must constantly strive to be what you assert you are, or your affirmations are but an idle breath.
Make yourself a New Thought rosary, not of set formal prayers, but an original one whose beads shall be your heart’s aspirations, your desires to evolve the strong, radiant, successful happy man or woman the Creator has involved in you.
If you are unhappy, crushed by repeated failures and disappointment, suffering the pangs of thwarted ambition, put this bead in your rosary and say it over to yourself frequently: “The being God made was never intended for this sort of life. Mary (or John),” addressing yourself by name, “God made you for success, not failure. He never made any one to be a failure. You are perverting the great object of your existence by giving way to discouragement, going about among your fellows with a long, sad, dejected face, as though you were a misfit, as though there were no place for you in this great glad world of abundance. You were made to express gladness, to go through life with a victorious attitude, like a conqueror. The image of God is in you; you must bring it out and exhibit it to the world. Don’t disgrace your Maker by violating His image, by being anything but the magnificent man or woman He intended you to be.”
Back up every “bead,” or prayer you put in your rosary by action during the day, otherwise, you might as well save yourself the trouble of stringing your beads, for
Don’t be afraid of thinking too highly of yourself, not in the egotistical sense, but because (the Creator having made you in His image) you must have inherited divine qualities, omnipotent possibilities. It is an insult to God to depreciate what He has made and has pronounced good.
If you are a victim of timidity and self-depreciation, afraid to say your soul is your own; if you creep about the world as though you thought you were taking up room which belonged to somebody else; if you shrink from responsibility, from everything which draws attention to yourself; if you are bashful, timid, confused, tongue-tied when you ought to assert yourself, turn to your rosary and add another bead.
Say to yourself, “I am a child of the King of kings. I will no longer suffer this cowardly timidity to rule me,—a prince of heaven. I am made by the same Creator who has made all other human beings. They are my brothers and sisters. There is no more reason why I should be afraid to express what I feel or think before them than if they were in my own family. I have just as much right on this earth as any potentate, as much right to hold up my head and assert myself as any monarch. I am my Father’s heir and have all the rights of a prince. I have inherited the wealth of the universe. The earth and the stars and the sun are mines. I will quit this everlasting self-depreciation, this self-effacement, this cringing habit of forever appearing to apologize for being alive. It is a crime against my Maker and myself. Henceforth I shall carry myself like a prince. I will act like one and will walk the earth as a conqueror. I will let no opportunity pass today for assuming any responsibility which will enlarge me, for expressing my opinion, for asserting myself whenever and wherever necessary.
“This specter, this shadow of self-depreciation which has held me back so long, which has darkened my path in life must go, for I shall walk henceforth with my face toward the sun so that the shadows of life will fall behind me, and not across my path as before. I am going to face life with a self-respecting, victorious attitude, with a hopeful outlook, for I know that I am victory organized. Hereafter I am going to think more of myself. I am not going to put myself on the bargain counter any longer by going around as though I had a skim milk opinion of myself. No more of the poorhouse attitude of inferiority for me. I know that I was born for victory, born to conquer. I am going to win out in this great inspiring game of life.”
If you feel that you lack initiative, if you are not a self-starter, boldly assert the opposite and add the assertion to your rosary. Stoutly affirm your ability to begin things, to do them as well as they can be done, and to push them through to a complete finish. Learn to trust the God in you. This trust is a divine force which will carry you through. Never again allow yourself to harbor thoughts of your inferiority or deficiency. Say to yourself, “I am going to assert my manhood or womanhood and stand for something. I am going to be a force in the world and not a weakling. I was made to make my life a masterpiece and not a botch; I was created for a great end, and I am going to realize that end. There are forces inside of me which if aroused and put into action would revolutionize my life, and I am going to get control of them, to use them. I am going to find myself and use a hundred per cent. instead of a miserable little fraction of my ability.”
If you are obsessed with the idea that you are not as bright, that you have not as much ability as most other people; if you have been called dull, dense, stupid by your parents and teachers until you have lost confidence in yourself; if you have been dwarfed by the suggestion of inferiority, either through what others have said of you, or the thought you have held of yourself, you must change all this. You must assert your ability and hold tenaciously the ideal of the able, efficient man or woman you long to be and that it is in you to become. You must not only affirm your power to be that which you wish, but you must replace the picture of your inferiority with the ideal of wholeness, of completeness, of the man or woman the Creator intended you to be. Cling to this ideal of yourself, assert your superiority, and you will soon drive out the dwarfed, inferior, defective image that others, or your false thoughts, have established in your subconsciousness. Holding the truth, the perfect ideal, in mind will give you confidence, assurance to do the thing you are capable of doing.
Thousands of students have failed to pass examinations not because of the inability to answer test questions, but because of fear, loss of self-confidence engendered by the blighting suggestion of inferiority. This is especially true of high-strung, sensitive natures.
If you brood over the failure suggestion, if you visualize an inferior picture of yourself, you will become obsessed with the failure idea, with the thought of your inefficiency, and make it well-nigh impossible for you to succeed in any undertaking. If for any reason you have dropped into the failure habit, you will have to make a very determined effort to break away from it, or your life will indeed be a failure.
I know a young man who is both efficient and ambitious, but when the opportunity for which, perhaps, he has been working a long time comes, he wilts. His courage fails and he does not feel equal to it. He can see how somebody else can do the thing required, but he fears it is too much for him. He has never done anything like it before, and he is afraid to attempt because he might fail.
Now, if you feel this way about yourself, just add another bead to your rosary. Cut “I can’t” out of your vocabulary and substitute “I can,”—for he can who thinks he can. Napoleon, one of the greatest achievers the world has ever seen, hated the word “can’t” and would never use it if it could be avoided. He did not believe in the “impossible.” When he was praised for his daring and genius in crossing the Alps in the dead of winter, he said, “I deserve no credit except for refusing to believe those who said it could not be done.”
Did you ever think that every time you say “I can’t” you weaken your confidence in yourself and your power to do things? Did you ever know a person who has a great many “I cant’s,” and excuses in his vocabulary to accomplish very much? Some people are always using the words, “Oh, I can’t do that;” “I can’t afford this;” “I can’t afford to go there;” “I can’t undertake such a hard task, let somebody else do that.” These negative assertions undermine power. Have nothing to do with them. In all questions of achievement, let your rosary deal in affirmations. Instead of “I can’t,” say “I can,” “I must,” “I will.” Begin what you fear to undertake, and half its difficulties will vanish.
If you are vexed, worried, and like Martha, “troubled about many things;” if you are suffering from all sorts of discord; if you are not feeling well, you will get great comfort from turning to your rosary and repeating some of the blessed Biblical promises. “Neither shall any plagues (discord or harm) come nigh thy dwelling. This is the promise to him that dwelleth in the secret place of the Highest. I will restore health into thinking and I will heal thee of thy wounds.” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Highest shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” “The Lord is my refuge, my fortress. In Him will I trust.” “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day,” “Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, from the pestilence that walketh in darkness,” “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.”
The contemplation of God and the frequent repetition of these beautiful Bible passages will increase your faith and your consciousness of oneness with the Infinite.
Make it a rule never to affirm your health, your success, or yourself what you do not wish to be true. Don’t say that you feel “rocky,” that you are used up, played out, that you feel miserable, that you don’t feel like doing anything. Never tell people of your aches and pains, for every repetition means etching the black pictures of these conditions deeper and deeper into your consciousness. Instead of thus intensifying them, say to yourself, “The Power that created, and that sustains me every instant of my life, repairs, renews, restores, cures me. I am a health, I am vigor, I am power, I am that which I think I am.” Refuse to see or to hold for an instant an imperfect, discordant sin or disease-marred image of yourself. Do not harbor a suggestion of your inferiority, physically or mentally. Always picture yourself as a great, strong, splendid man or woman, clean, true, beautiful—a sublime specimen of humanity. Do not allow yourself to harbor a thought of physical or mental weakness. Think health, power, perfection at every breath. Persist in holding the thought of yourself as you long to be, the ideal which your Creator saw ahead of you when he fashioned you. Cling to your vision of health without taint, weakness, or defect.
Have you a hair-trigger temper, and do you fly all to pieces over the least provocation, starting raging fires in your brain that are as destructive to your mental and physical forces as are the great forest fires to the vast tracts of territory over which they sweep? If you have you are minimizing all your powers and seriously endangering your success, your happiness, your life itself. Ask Sing Sing what the hot tempers, the fires of uncontrolled anger, of jealous rage, of revenge, of hate, of all the explosive passions have done. Ask the poorhouses, the insane asylums, the morgues, ask the records of human wreckage everywhere, what the fruits of uncontrolled passions of every sort are.
Anger, whatever its cause, is temporary insanity. Are you in the habit of losing your temper, of flying into a rage over trifles? If you could only see what a miserable spectacle, what a fool exhibition, you make of yourself on such occasions, when you go all to pieces and rave like a madman because you miss your train, or because you think someone insults you when you step down from the throne of your reason and let the brute sit there and rule in your place, you would be so chagrined and mortified that you would leave nothing undone to rid yourself of your fault. Why, nothing could hire you, when in your right mind, to make such a ludicrous and contemptible exhibition of yourself. You only do it when under the stress of angry passion, when shorn of your power by this temporary insanity.
To retain self-control, mental poise, equanimity, under all provocations, great or small, is an index of a fine strong character. It is a triumph of strength over weakness, of greatness over littleness. The habit of conquering ourselves is the habit of victory; it strengthens all the faculties.
You can bring this great force of control to your aid, by calling on the divinity within you, by asserting your oneness with the Divine who is eternal calm. Say to yourself, “God’s image is in me. I am of divine lineage. I was not intended to be passion’s slave. It is unworthy of a real man, of a real woman, to be the plaything of temper or any sort of explosive tearing down passion. There is something divine in me and I will not allow my lower nature to get control.”
The constant affirmation of your oneness with your Creator, with the One, will give you a wonderful sense of power and will help you to overcome every handicap. But you must be very positive, very insistent, and persistent in your affirmations. No matter what fault you are trying to overcome or what good quality you are anxious to acquire there must be no weakness, indecision, or vacillation in your affirmations or your efforts.
If you are cursed with the fatal habit of indecision; if you are a weak vacillator, always taking things up for reconsideration because you are not quite sure that you have done the right thing; if you allow yourself to waver, to doubt the wisdom of your decision, you will be incapable of ever under any circumstances arriving at an intelligent conclusion.
You can cure the curse of indecision by asserting your power to see clearly, think quickly and act decisively. If you are in doubt as to what career to choose; if you hesitate regarding what course you should take in any difficulty, which of two or three paths you should follow, whatever your problem may be, ask for light and the divine power within will come to your aid and guide you aright. Repeat the “I am” in every instance. “I am positive.” “I can decide vigorously, firmly, finally.” Resolve every morning that you will, during that day, decide things without the possibility of recall or reconsideration. First, go over the matter to be decided very thoroughly and carefully. In making your decision use the best judgment at your command and then close the incident. You will secure yourself against vacillation by refusing, after it is thus closed, to wonder whether you have done the wisest thing, by resisting every temptation to open the matter for reconsideration.
If you feel that you are a coward somewhere in your nature, you can strengthen this deficient faculty wonderfully by holding the courageous ideal, by thinking and reading about heroic people and things, holding the thought of fearlessness, that you are God’s child, that you are not afraid of anything on the earth. Study the stories of heroic lives; think, act, live, the heroic thought. Say, “I am a son of God, and I was never made to cower, to slink, to be afraid. Fear is not an attribute of divinity. I am brave, courageous; I am a conqueror.”
If you are suffering from the poverty disease, if your whole life has been stunted by poverty, saturated with poverty-stricken thoughts and convictions, if you have been heading towards the poverty goal, just turn about-face, and put the law of abundance into operation. Face towards prosperity and success instead of poverty and failure. All the good things you need are yours by inheritance. Claim them, expect them, work for them, pray for them, and you will realize them in your life. Make this last stanza of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s splendid little poem “Assertion” a new bead on your rosary. Repeat it frequently, and work cheerfully, confidently, courageously toward its fulfillment.
“I am successful. Though hungry, cold, ill-clad,
I wonder for a while. I smile and say,
‘It is but for a time—I shall be glad
Tomorrow, for good fortune, comes my way.
God is my father, He has wealth untold,
His wealth is mine, health, happiness, and gold.'”
If you have made fatal mistakes for which you have been ostracized from society; if you are morbidly worrying over some unfortunate experience, thus making it bigger, blacker, and more hideous, just thrust it out of your mind, bury it, forget it, say to it, “You have no power over me; I will not allow you to destroy my peace and thwart my career; you are not the truth of my being; the reality of me is divine, and you cannot touch that. I can and I will rise above all my troubles, make good all my mistakes and errors. From now on I will work with the God in me. I will not be overcome. I will overcome.”
If you are the slave of a demon habit which has blasted your hopes, blighted your happiness, thwarted your ambition, cast its black shadow across your whole life, say to yourself: “I will break away from this vile habit. I will be free and not a slave.”
If it is impurity, say, “I was not made to be dominated by such a monstrous vice. God’s image in me was not intended to wallow in this filth. I have suffered long enough from this damnable habit, which is undermining my health, killing my chances of success in life, and lowering me below the level of the beast. I am a child of the Infinite, sent here to make a worthy contribution to humanity, to make good. I am going to make good. I am going to free myself from this base habit and recover my self-respect, my manhood, at any cost. I am going to be a MAN, not a THING, a son of God, not of the devil.”
Continually flood your mind with purity thoughts and affirmations which will neutralize your sensual desires. Repeat again and again your determination not to allow your life to be spoiled by unrestrained passion. Make such an emphatic and vigorous call upon your better self, make the demand so appealing that your higher nature will be aroused and will dominate your acts. Say, “The Creator has bidden me look up, not down. He made me to climb, not to descend and wallow in the mire of animalism.”