“True prayer must avoid the pitfall of asking to entreat. Ask, rather, to receive what is already given; to accept what is already there. (S-1.I.1)”
1 – Advanced Stage of Prayer
Prayer is at a very advanced stage when we DON’T ask to entreat, because most of our prayers, in truth, are requests to God that he fulfill something that we perceive as a need. And this is not lamentable in the early stages of our pathway to salvation. But when we have become certain that God wishes us well, that He is answering our needs (and that He wants to do so), we can instead thank Him for His blessings in a benediction.
2 – Ask, Receive, Thank
Even rudimentary prayer, as outlined by Norman Vincent Peale, a writer/minister in the last century, is to be seen as asking, and then immediately conceiving of receiving, and then showing gratitude by thanking God. If more of our prayers were of the thanksgiving type, we would sooner know that God wishes us well, because when we are thanking Him, we are expressing our faith that He has already answered our prayer. And He does answer all prayers, in my belief, but just sometimes the answer is to wait, and sometimes the answer is no. He has our best interests at heart, and we often don’t perceive our own best interests—hence we ask amiss.
3 – Expert Askers / Inexpert Receivers
We ask to receive. So many of us, as Norman said, are expert askers but inexpert receivers. And we would reverse this. We already know how to entreat God, and so Jesus does not need to give us lessons in this. But receiving is another matter entirely, and we often don’t contemplate the receipt of that for which we have asked.
4 – Contemplation
“Prayer is a stepping aside; a letting go, a quiet time of listening and love. It should not be confused with supplication of any kind, because it is a way of remembering your holiness. Why should holiness entreat, being fully entitled to everything Love has to offer? (S-1.I.5)”
The above passage explains further why entreaties somehow miss the mark. The definition of prayer given here is closer to contemplation, or even meditation, than we usually recognize. But we cannot get through to our innermost Being, the God/Christ within, if we are overwrought. Our emotions are stirring up the ego in us, and we flounder in not being able to perceive or to know guidance. So Jesus asks us to get quiet, to let go and let God. And we listen for the guidance that will be forthcoming, either (as described) from the Holy Spirit or the Christ Self within.
5 – Holiness
When we have remembered our holiness, we are not in the throes of the ego, unless we feel guilty about so praying. The ego believes that we cannot see ourselves as holy, that we are sinful creatures who have thrust off God. This means that it would seem to be arrogance to believe ourselves holy, or even to see our brothers and sisters—others in this world—as holy.
6 – Arrogance?
It is not arrogance. The Christ Self within knows of no arrogance. The altar within is very still, and the still point of our contemplation will assure us that we are innocent, guilty only of making easily correctable mistakes.
7 – One Problem / One Answer
“You have been told to ask the Holy Spirit for the answer to any specific problem, and that you will receive a specific answer if such is your need. You have also been told that there is only one problem and one answer. In prayer this is not contradictory. (S-1.I.2)”
This passage allows supplication, but it points out that there is really one problem—separation, or presumed separation from God. And when this is healed, we do not have to focus on supplication to the extent that we have previously. We will know inwardly what to say and do; we will be heirs of the Kingdom, and we will know ourselves as beloved of God.
8 – Supplication
Yet supplication is not denigrated as long as there is a need, as long as we perceive ourselves as having needs that have gone unfulfilled. Asking, according to Catherine Marshall (an inspirational writer of the last century) is the most elemental form of prayer. And God listens to this form as well. Just remember to thank Him for what we are about to receive. He does not need our gratitude, but we need a soft heart, a full heart filled with thankfulness.
9 – Song
“The form of the answer, if given by God, will suit your need as you see it. This is merely an echo of the reply of His Voice. The real sound is always a song of thanksgiving and of Love. (S-1.I.2)”
This passage sums up the benevolence of God in prayer. Our needs will be supplied, as we perceive them. Our needs never go unfulfilled. It is just our desires that sometimes are answered with a no, and there is a blessing in this, for God knows the context, and He does not give us hurtful things. Often we ask for that which would hurt us, and He would protect normally protect us in this prayer. Only when we are still pursuing a separate pathway, in separation, presumed, from God, does He let us continue along. This is the hard way, the way of turmoil and more problems. And pain. But sometimes we are not ready to learn the easy way, though that is God’s first choice for us.
Be with me as I seek to pray prayers that are in line with Your highest wish for me. I know that You hear my prayers, regardless of how raw they are. You take me as I am. I can always go to You. There is no separation between us. Guide my thoughts to pray prayers that enhance my relationship to You. Be with me throughout the day when I am not actively praying. And thank You so much for the presence that I feel when my prayer seems heard.
I know that my prayers are always heard. Thank You for giving me that reassurance. If life seems good, it is because I have prayed. Thank You for engaging me in mental dialogue. May this form of prayer continue to take me farther along my pathway.