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Sat on the Rocks

E4. Prayer in All Ages.

In all ages, and in all religions and among nearly all races, so far as human history extends, do we find some form and expression of prayer, and this among peoples widely and always remote; an argument, we think, favoring the thought that prayer is an instinct, a law, a principle in human nature.


“What do we pray to?” may be asked. May we not all unite in agreeing that boundless universe is filled with boundless spirit, mind, intelligence, power—and that of this there are myriad grades, varying in degrees of power and intelligence, extending in such power, intelligence and wisdom beyond our capacity to comprehend? Call this power “God,” or the “Infinite,” or like the Indian the “Great Spirit.” Call it as we may, give it what name we may, its full comprehension will always escape our grasp. As we grow toward it, so its growth, its full realization is ever growing more and more beyond us. We pray to that Power.


Call prayer if you please desire, a quality coming out of the combination of elements moulded into our bodies, minds and spirits. Call it desire to get good so far as we can see. Prayer is demand—is mind concentrated on demand, and the demand may be for greater or lesser good. A man desires strongly to be rich in money. His desire is an unceasing prayer. He prays for good so far as he can see. If he prays in the spirit of money‑making the probability is he will act out his prayer in deeds, He will probably get rich. Perhaps one says: “But this is praying for evil.” Why not call it prayer for mixed good? Or imperfect good? Wealth brings temporary good. The mistake lay in his deeming money the most enduring source of good.


The clearer mind would desire, would pray for qualities instead of gold; would desire, would pray for more courage, patience, purity, gentleness, more power to do, more mental vision to see, more capacity to enjoy. This is the prayer of the greater wisdom. Such desire we think is referred to in the Bible as that of “seeking the Kingdom of God,” or in other words, seeking the best and most lasting happiness—the aim of life. We hold that prayer, desire, is a great law in nature; that it extends from what we call nature’s crudest forms up to the highest; and that all desire if persevered in brings one at least nearer the thing desired; brings somewhere nearer the ideal, though that ideal be a low one or a high one. Call then the most useful prayer, the wisest prayer, the wisest desire or demand. We may be obliged to pray first to know for what we shall pray. That implies the open, the receptive mind, the frame of mind willing to bear, willing to be taught, the mind which unlocks all its doors and windows and throws them wide open to whatever may enter.

Prayer we believe to be based on the instinct of desire, of demand, seen in so many forms in all nature. It extends through every form of life—in plant growth—in animal growth—in what the scientist calls the Law of Selection—the desire for the best, up to the highest cultivation yet seen of human mind. The desire implanted in the dog’s mind {I grant a degree of mind also to the dog), the animal having the qualities of affection, memory, love, hate, fear, courage, all leading features of mind, the desire implanted through human influence in the dog’s mind to run swiftly makes the dog through successive generations anatomically shaped the best for running, the result of desire implanted in the canine nature.


Perhaps one asks, “Do you mean that the dog prays?” I believe that the principle of prayer, the instinct of desire, is implanted in the animal and in the vegetable up to man, and that this principle has a thousand grades of demand, and ten thousand grades of expression. And as for the dog, when he looks up into my face and puts his head on my lap, his is as fervent a prayer for my sympathy, kindness and caress as ever went up from any pulpit, and the care, the anxiety, the love of the animal mother for its young is to me a sacred emotion, a sacred desire, a sacred prayer for its young one’s safety.


We hold that prayer is a necessity of human nature. Call it if you please a scientific necessity, is there any reason that Science and Religion be divorced?


We believe that spaceless universe is replete with life, that it pulsates with life, that life exists in the dust under our feet, and that Death is the one word in the language which represents an impossibility. The very process of vegetable, animal or mineral decomposition is movement, is life, is element, pulling itself to pieces and rearranging itself into new constructions.


Yet Earthly Science, so‑called, seeks to‑day for the “Origin of Life,” while before its eyes, mineral in solution, crystalizes into form and solidity, arranges itself into a precise form and order, while the planet it calls dead whirls itself around its orbit and on its axis with mathematical accuracy. This very so‑called dead planet seems out of itself to originate myriad forms of life.


Abraham was told that if ten righteous men could be found in one of the cities of the plain, that city would be saved from destruction. Was this because the mere existence of ten righteous men in that city would save it, or that it was a mere whim of the Superior Mind that exacted this condition?


May it not have been that the united desire of ten relatively pure and exalted minds, reaching up into the higher kingdom of spirit, might have served as the connecting link, the channel by which the necessary conditions for helping that city might have been effected?


This city, we are told, was steeped in wickedness. Wickedness, low, degraded lives, always involves both mental and physical impurity.


The Materialist will admit that certain concentrations of physical impurity beget spontaneous combustion. Some, who have made this subject a study, aided by suggestion given from the world of spirit, believe that places may so reek with low, degraded thought, as well as low physical emanation, that combinations are begotten, resulting at last in the spontaneous generation of that element at once destructive and purifying— fire.


Because, what we call miracles—that is, the operation and result of laws to us unknown, may work both ways for what we call evil, as well as good.


The prophetic vision of the ancient seer (whether that seer was in the flesh or spirit), may have foreseen the growth of these dangerous combinations which was to destroy that city by fire. The merciful spirit of Abraham prayed to spare the city. The higher knowledge, wisdom and power of the spirit was willing to answer Abraham’s appeal, could he but effect the necessary conditions. And what were these conditions?


The united force, desire of ten minds whose current of thought lifted upward above the cruder elements about them and into the regions of refined and powerful spirit, should serve as the link, the channel, the highway, to bring such aid from the higher world of spirit as should dispel or negative the conditions threatening this city. This we believe. This is as far as we can represent the matter. This we hold may to the intuitive mind furnish a clue and a key to the meaning of the texts and assertions. “The prayer of the Righteous availeth much.” “The prayer of Faith shall heal the sick.”

But where is to‑day the prayer of Faith? I mean the Faith that does not sunder Divine Law from what we call “Natural Law.”


Think you mine a wild speculation as to the origin of the flames that destroyed the cities of the plain? Within the last twenty years extraordinary periods of conflagration have happened in American cities and towns, which all ordinary means have been powerless to check, and to which brick, stone and iron have gone down like tinder. Suppose we put out the thought that concentrations of moral rottenness and physical rottenness have through the operation of Law we are yet to learn, worked destructive miracles! We are now told, and from some pulpits, and I have heard the opinion expressed by some sound orthodox minds, that much of Biblical History (that is found hard to believe) is but allegory. Perhaps when our two worlds, the visible and invisible, are again united and the knowledge of the one is supplemented by that of the other, even Orthodoxy may readily see at once Divine Law and Natural Law, Divine element and Natural element to be the same so as to account for the pillar of smoke by day and of fire by night, the overthrow of Jericho’s walls by seven united series of shootings, the receding of the Red Sea was by something more than the happening of wind and tide favorable to such result. There is great Power to work evil as well as good—great knowledge to work evil as well as good—great intelligence seen and unseen to work evil on the earth plane of both physical and spirit life. Only this to us encouraging truth crowns the dark picture, and that is, that even one single, prayerful, earnest, consecrated man or woman may serve as the connecting link, the channel between the Higher Powers of spirit and this earth life to effect great results, and that the superior knowledge and Power of Light must even in the end prevail over that of darkness. Prayer is the greatest of necessities to such as have grown away from the world and its current motives and purpose. The wisest prayer will ask for the greatest wisdom, the greatest purity, the greatest soul elevation, the greatest power, and the greatest charity. The utterance of these wishes is the utterance of high and lofty thoughts. Remember our thoughts are things, and by the frequent putting out of these “things” we create for ourselves our thought atmosphere about us, and this thought atmosphere attracts a power to effect results in proportion to its quality.


As such thought comes from us it attracts to us the Invisible Mind in unison and sympathy with your own, who are thereby enabled to come closer to us and give support and strength, cheer and courage.


We think that the Prayer—Demand Desire—of the greatest Wisdom will always be based on the sentiment, “Thy Will be Done.”


A Higher Wisdom and Intelligence than ours sees what is really best for us. It may see that what we pray for would, if attained, prove an injury and a misery rather than a blessing. It may see and deny our wish—hard as this may be temporarily for us. It may give what we cry for if we are importunate, refuse to wait and rush on with reckless desire for our individual happiness. Or It may withhold for a time, but promise when a fruition is attained that which may give us the greatest good.


It matters little what we term this Higher Intelligence. Orders of mind exist in the universe far higher in power and wisdom than we can conceive of. The mind that lifts “itself toward them brings to itself their aid, their guidance and their help just so far as they feel justified in extending aid and guidance to the individual, whose lesson must also be to depend as much as possible on him or herself.


Of this the illustration in its cruder form is here among us. In many things the parent knows best what is good for the child. In proportion to its weakness or helplessness does it restrain the child with authority. But as infancy merges into youth, and youth into maturity, does the wiser parent gradually relax care, knowing that the child must in time do for itself, and that it is doing it an injustice not to give it opportunity to learn to take care of itself.


The wisest parent is but a child. And perhaps in the awful and unending immensity of universe, there is no order of mind but must feel from time to time an inferiority, dependence and need of guidance from some order of mind above it.


The more finely organized we are, the more sensitive, the more impressional to all about us of the seen or the unseen. The more will we need this constant uplifting of the thoughts toward the purer, the unselfish, the beautiful and the sublime. By so doing we create such a thought world about us. All people live in their worlds of thought. The man whose life is devoted only to buying and selling lives either when alone or in company in a world of buying and selling thought. The gambler lives alone or in company in the excitements of his pursuit, and if not playing with the material cards often does so with the imaginary ones.


This thought atmosphere will serve us as an armor as the greatest protection against Unseen Evil.


There is not, I think, sufficient estimate, or knowledge among us concerning the evil, which may be done us by minds out of the physical form. Paul alludes to this in saying: “We war with Powers of Darkness.” Minds unseen by us, people, men, women, spirits, strongly moved as ever by appetite and passion, full as ever of hate, envy, jealousy, revenge, or full of pure love of mischief, possibly for some cause our worst enemies are here all about us, seeking in many ways to do us harm. These are most subtle ways, and the more dangerous from their subtlety. These can vibrate the finest chords of emotion; can play upon our weakness, our vanity, our tendency to envy, to jealousy, to suspicion, to fear; can operate also on our besetting sin as regards any appetite.

Give this element opportunity to work on the mind, and it can soon weaken and injure the body. Play yourself daily upon a man or woman’s suspicion, envy, jealousy, pride, and mark the result on the physical. Just as a company of children love to tease, annoy, torture one of their own age who has some marked defect, physical or mental—just as in the lower grade of human nature do we see the love of causing fear or fright to one easily frightened, just as in the spirit in which silly and cruel practical jokes are played, just so will the evil unseen about us delight in annoying us, misleading us.

If we are very impressional, if we are easy of approach to spirit thought and influence, we are easy of approach remember to evil as well as good and evil seen and unseen, predominates on the earth region of spirit as well as what we term physical life. We hold that our only safety from these dangers (and we hold these as great dangers), lies in prayer—not regular set form of prayer, though that is not to be despised when one feels it to be a help), but the cultivation of the silent prayer, which desires only charitable, tender, merciful sentiment, which asks for ability to shut out all noise and degraded thought, all morbid fancies, all persistent dwelling on that which excites antagonism, dislike, hatred. We hold that such prayer, desire (or call it the cultivation of such frame of mind), will if persevered in at last free us of those agencies for evil who may here beset us, torture us, and covertly instill into our mind all manner of fear, doubt, suspicion and apprehension; who delight in making us miserable and who may if over much listened to bring about the very disasters we fear, through the weakening of our intellect and the clouding of our minds.

When such evil agencies at last see they can no longer affect the mind they have tortured, when through prayer that mind has permanently lifted itself into a world they care nothing for, and also into a strength and confidence that resists all their effort, they will cease longer to fasten on and harass that mind. Their entertainment is over. When prayer to the highest and to an ever ascending highest, prayer for the most enduring good—and good ever becoming greater—when such prayer becomes habitual, involuntary “second nature,” it is then a life may become a never ending prayer, a joyous prayer, a poem without end of gratitude for joys and goods received.

Aspiration, demand, desire, prayer, all are concentrated in the wisest and purest effort, and this effort (not a forced and laborious one), will lift the body above physical ills and the soul above worldly troubles, and still be the very means of making both mind and body fully competent to take hold of all life’s business with marked ability.

And what then do we pray to? “Our Father which art in Heaven.” Not our father, a stern, cruel, avenging, personal Deity, but “Our Father,” the “Great Spirit,” the “Infinite Spirit,” pervading all the Eternity of space, and whether represented by intelligence organized into individual mind—ministering spirits or intelligence unorganized in the elements, of which we are a part. “God working in us and through us, God in whom we live and move and have our being”—still “Our Father,” full of joys and blessings, to be given us when we are prepared to receive them, when we are wise enough to use them rightly. A Power so vast, so infinite in resources, so varied in expression, teeming with elements and laws governing elements, sweeping planet around its sun, and farther on sweeping systems of planets around their unknown centers; so minute in exactness, form and beauty in fashioning the atomic feather of the butterfly’s wing, so prodigal of beauty, that every snowflake is fashioned a symmetrical crystal, so awful, so incomprehensible, without beginning, without ending, so that feeble mind staggers at the attempt to carry such weight of comprehension. Can we then vaguely, realizing all this, take such name on our lips without reverence? Should it not be hallowed? It is to that Power that all life, all element in unending space, consciously or unconsciously prays.

“Prayer” has been misused, miscomprehended and perverted. The word brings with it a cluster of association born of ignorance. It is redolent to some of cant, to others of bigotry or superstition. We hold that prayer is a quality born in us, a belonging of our natures and beings, just as much as to mineral belongs the power of re‑arranging itself in certain crystalized forms, just as much as to the plant belongs the desire to grow toward the light and away from darkness.


We will remember that prayer which has for its sole aim the attainment or possession of any object with no other regard for self or others save that object, may not bring the highest result or the happiest result. Our best prayer will always be qualified with the sentiment “Thy Will be Done!” The more the spirit of prayer, the spirit of desire, of demand for the higher and purer is cultivated, the nearer it brings us to the higher and happier unseen world. The more it is cultivated the better do we know what to pray for. The more the mind is led into the habit of so dwelling in the highest and purest thought, the less mechanical in a sense does the effort for prayer become. It merges at last into a delight and a never ending poem whose sentiment is the reflection of all that is best, brightest, purest in creation.


“Thy Kingdom Come.” The kingdom of new and newer and ever increasing joys and glories, the kingdom of justice, the kingdom of higher joyous life ever being kindled and stimulated into more joyous life, the kingdom of ever coming new revelations, new bibles, new laws.

Q's note:

What is your "prayer" for your Life, Dear?!


Image Credit:


En-Yucatan (n.d.). [Image]. Retrieved July 2, 2021, from


Mulford, P. (1886-1887). Prayer in All Ages. Your forces and how to use them (pp.769-778). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09

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