How to Use the Power of Prayer
by Harold Sherman
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The purpose of this book is to convince you that there is always an answer to prayer–when you have learned how to pray. To get the right answer to prayer, you must know how to prepare your mind and heart so that you can enter consciously into the God-presence which exists within. Once this is accomplished–once you have felt this indescribable union with God, the Great Intelligence–if only for a fleeting, transcendent second–you will never be the same again. You will know that God exists for you–the God of your faith, the God for whom you have searched, the one and only Power in this great and wonderful universe!
Love—the Essential Key to PrayersYou are a product of love. You were conceived in love by your earthly father and mother. You were loved before you were born into this world. Loving preparations were made to care for you before your arrival. The first words ever spoken to you were, no doubt, words of endearment. You felt the warmth of your mother’s breast, the deep peace and comfort and protection of her arms. And, as you grew in childish comprehension, you felt an increasing sense of security in the knowledge that your parents cared for you, that you could go to them when in trouble and that somehow they would make everything all right.
Not too many years after this, you began to realize that the love and understanding of your father and mother, however much it may have meant to you, was not enough. You discovered that even their love for each other was not quite sufficient for them. You found that they were reaching out as you had reached out when a babe–helpless and alone, save for them–seeking to find a higher love upon which they, too, could lean–the love of God.
Perhaps, if they came from religious backgrounds, they satisfied their inner longing by church affiliation. If so, your first concepts of God were formed through this association. You learned then that the simplest and yet the finest interpretation of the Creator of the universe could be expressed in three words: God is love.
When you thought of God as your heavenly Father, and you were told that you were made in His image, you could understand His love for you because you had known the love of an earthly father. Somehow, being able to picture God as a father made Him real and close and personal to you. You probably offered up your childish prayers with unquestioning faith. You loved God because He was supposed to protect you and give you the things you wanted. You may have feared Him a little when you were naughty, but you knew God would forgive you if you asked Him, just as your own father would.
This relationship between God and yourself may have continued for some years. It may still exist. But the chances are, as you have matured through experience, your concept of God has changed. You may no longer think of God as an anthropomorphic being. You may regard Him now as infinite Spirit, Great Intelligence, Creator of an unthinkably vast cosmos, comprehensible only through His eternal laws and principles.
The magnitude of your present God-concept may have destroyed your childish faith. If you still pray, it may be more as a tribute, a recognition by you that some mighty, intelligent, creative force is behind all life and you must at least acknowledge it, even though you no longer believe in the existence of a personal God. To pray for help in meeting any of earth’s problems may now seem futile, except as you know that any attempt to attain a peaceful, self-assured state of mind is always productive of good.
What your concept and whatever your attitude toward God at present, I want to give you the positive assurance that you can reestablish a personal feeling for God in a much more intimate, understanding, and demonstrable way than ever before. You can find God as I and millions of others have found Him–within your own mind and heart. You can become aware of God’s presence when you have learned how to free your consciousness from fears and doubts and other disturbed thoughts, so that you can make contact with your real inner self and realize the miraculous fact that you actually are a part of God!
Science has revealed that, despite the different elements, there is only one basic substance in the universe and one Intelligence behind this substance, expressing itself through infinite forms and dimensions. The Bible tells us: “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) In this, science and religion are in agreement.
The great spiritual leaders throughout all time have sought to solve the mystery of God and creation. They have offered varying interpretations but have generally concurred that love, in its fullest and most unlimited meaning, is the greatest force in the universe, and that through love and love alone it is possible for us to express our feeling for God and sense His feeling for us in return. These spiritual leaders have emphasized, again and again, the individual as well as humankind’s need of love–its power to heal, to protect, to inspire, to attract all manner of good things.
As you know, Jesus was asked: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” He replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and added that “a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37, 39)
Jesus knew that if we observed these commandments the other commandments would take care of themselves. He knew that humans, with their heritage of animal instincts, were beset with fears, hates, suspicions, superstitions, resentments, jealousies, and other destructive passions which had made it difficult for them to develop and maintain love in their hearts and souls and minds for certain of their fellow humans or for God.
What was true in the time of Jesus is still true. You are a witness to “man’s inhumanity to man,” and you contribute to this inhumanity to the extent that you permit feelings of hate and prejudice and resentment and jealousy and suspicion of others and general negativity to exist in your consciousness.
Hate is the great destroyer–love is the great creator. You, as a creature of free will and free choice, may, any time you choose, exercise the power of hate or the power of love in your life.
If, under the influence of hate or other destructive feelings, you elect to misuse your God-given creative powers, God doesn’t step in and warn you or try to drive out these wrong emotions. God knows that the only way you really learn the value of love is to have the experience of hate. You harm yourself every time you do not think and act in accordance with the physical, mental, and spiritual laws of the universe. Whenever things do not turn out right, it is not God’s doing, it is your own. Somewhere along the line, you have failed to live in harmony with His laws–and the results are automatic, because you are living in a universe ruled by cause and effect.
Wrong thoughts infallibly produce wrong results just as right thoughts infallibly produce right results. In the realm of mind, like always attracts like. If you hate someone, you will attract hate in return. You cannot attract love with hate.
The spirit of evil is not an attribute of God. It is a creation of your own mind when you, as a creature of free will, elect to disobey God’s laws. These laws are absolutely impersonal in their functioning. God plays no favorites with any member of creation, high or low, on any plane. Each form of life must earn its right to live and survive and evolve by its own efforts. God supplies all that is necessary for this living and surviving and evolving if His creatures only exercise the will and the intelligence to make the most of their God-given opportunities.
Jesus tried to make the people of His day understand that the kingdom of God is within, but few could really comprehend His great message. In the Lord’s Prayer, He said again, “On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) But, because most humans lacked inner vision, they looked for a heaven outside themselves, not realizing that heaven is actually a state of being.
When you are in harmony with the God consciousness within you–you are in heaven. When your mind and heart and soul are filled with love for others and for God–you are in heaven. When Jesus said: “My kingship is not of this world,” (John 18:36) He was referring to that eternal kingdom of oneness with God which exists within.
It is an incorruptible, indestructible kingdom. It has always existed and can never perish since you are a part of the God consciousness which created it. It was conceived in love and is eternally sustained by love. But you cannot enter this kingdom and experience its transcendent joys and indescribable bounties without love. Hate always drives you out of the kingdom, but love is the one unfailing key to your return.
Love is your only means of communication with God. Love is the highest, finest, most sublime feeling in the universe. Your capacity for love is unlimited, dependent upon the degree to which you can control your opposing feelings of hate, jealousy, resentment, prejudice, and all other destructive emotions to which you, as a human creature, are heir.
Why, you may ask, have you been born into a world of such sorrows and trials and hardships and disappointments and disillusionments and heartbreaks? Why, if God is love, has He permitted such evil things on this planet? Why the unbroken history of wars, the crimes of passion and violence, the unspeakable catastrophies of nature and of man? Why the bitter difficulties between even friends and loved ones? Why the wanton poverty, the savage competition, the monstrous economic inequalities between individuals and peoples? Why the crippling accidents of birth and life, the ravages of disease, the impairment of minds as well as bodies? Why, after all this must be endured, should it end in death? How can an all-merciful, all-loving God, Father of all, stand by and see His children lost in the wilderness of confused thoughts and feelings, seemingly unable to extricate themselves, without coming to their aid and setting things right?
“It is unthinkable,” many have philosophized, “if a personal God possessing infinite compassion and love exists, that He would not have intervened on behalf of His long-suffering children.”
On the surface, it would certainly appear that the Creator of this vast universe is not a God of love but a fiend incarnate! We, as earthly parents, would spare our children all that we possibly can of grief, unhappiness, and pain. This is our first instinct. Yet, the wisdom of our own experience teaches us that a too-protective attitude weakens rather than strengthens a child. If we do for the child what the child should do for himself, we rob that child of his individual development, his right to find himself and prove himself through his own self-assertion and self-expression.
We realize that we can best serve those we love by setting an example of right thought and right conduct, and giving them the free opportunity to pattern their lives after us in their own way. We know that if we encourage them to lean upon us, they are apt to be comparatively helpless when we are no longer with them. Would God exercise any less wisdom in giving us, His children, the freedom to develop our own powers of self-reliance and our individual ability to cope with the world within and without ourselves?
It has been said that “the worst affliction of all is never to have been afflicted.” Can you appreciate the absence of pain, never having experienced pain? Can you know joy, never having undergone sorrow? Can you exult over a victory, never having tasted defeat? Can you rejoice in fulfillment, never having encountered disappointment? Can you value health, never having been ill? Can you judge what is good, never having encountered evil?
Look back over your life and you will see that it has been filled with what might be called sins of omission and commission, mistakes you have made in thought and deed which have hurt others, as well as yourself. But, if you have reacted as you should toward these mistakes which produced unhappy results, you have grown by them. You are stronger in character because of them. You know now that you can face similar situations and deal with them in a constructive manner.
It has been said that life is a school containing many lessons. Many of these lessons are not learned easily or painlessly. So often, we are tempted to blame others and circumstances seemingly beyond our control for the things which have happened to us. We have filled our minds and hearts, as a consequence, with the destructive feelings of fear and hate and resentment. We have assumed bitter, unforgiving attitudes. We have prayed, if we have prayed at all, not that our shortcomings should be removed, but that our enemies should be destroyed. We have sought answers to our problems, not from within, but from without.
In such seeking, we have sought to express our will, and not God’s, in our lives. We have made wrong use of His creative power by so doing, and have caused it to attract to us what we have not wanted. Each time you are impelled to action by hate, you can be certain that you are not acting in accordance with God’s will and that the result cannot be good. If there dwells within your mind, at present, a deep hatred for some person or thing, you must remove it so that this hate can no longer stand between you and the right functioning of this God-power.
Love is the key to everything good and lasting in life. When it replaces your feelings of hate and other destructive emotions, you instantly feel a release of mind and body tensions. The conflicts within your consciousness cease, and you sense a union with a power greater than yourself, a power now freed to serve you constructively, to bring you the right answer to prayer as opposed to the wrong answers you have been getting when your consciousness has been dominated by wrong feelings.
To maintain love in your mind and heart, not only for your fellow creatures, but for God, is a difficult daily assignment, surrounded as you are by many who are living for themselves alone, who are out to get what they can any way they can, who will take advantage of you at every turn, who have few moral scruples and even less principle, and who are almost constantly–through their self-seeking, negative thinking–making wrong use of this God-given creative power. They have one objective in life–to get. Such people, it is true, often do get results on a material plane, not counting the cost in health or happiness or love and respect of others, or peace of mind. Only when life has punished them sufficiently does realization come that their way of thinking has not brought them the one thing they have really been trying to achieve–the inner security of knowing the love of someone near and dear to them, of having the capacity to love that person in return, and of experiencing the love of God.
Basically, whether or not any individual of any race or color or creed recognizes this deep inner urge, it is the quest of every human soul. Misguidedly, they may pursue a love of money, of things, of power, of position and prominence, of achievement–a love of anything and everything but the one, all-embracing love which, when it is possessed, causes all else in life to assume its rightful value and proportion. We may seek these other loves as a substitute but, once attained, we find that the inner satisfaction we thought would be experienced is still wanting.
True love must be shared; it cannot be hoarded. To be blessed by love, it must be expressed, not repressed. That is why the product of love is always good, and the product of hate is always evil. That is why God, the Great Intelligence, has permitted you, as a creature of free will and free choice, to discover this great truth for yourself–to learn the age-old lesson, forever new, that “as you sow, so shall you reap,” either with love or with hate. You are never compelled to do right, but the power is always there for you to use rightly or wrongly, depending on your choice.
Perhaps now you can understand why it is imperative that your mind and heart be filled with love when you pray. It is not the words you use but the thoughts you think which influence the creative power within. People throughout all time have prayed for peace and cessation of war, but their prayers have not been answered. This is because the minds and hearts of most of them have been filled with hates and prejudices so that their prayers, however well-intentioned, were actually little more than lip service. Once having bestowed upon mankind the priceless gift of free will, God is helpless to assist until and unless we attune ourselves voluntarily to God’s will, in obedience to His law.
So start now in preparation for the good things which will be set before your soul when you have illumined the path of your life by the light of love!