James 5:16. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
The Bible tells us that we are gods. Psalm 82:6 says, “I say, “You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.” This was such an important idea that Jesus reiterates it in John 10:34. “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I have said you are gods?’”
The idea that we are a divine creature permeates other religions. There is an old Hindu legend that tells of a time when all people were gods. But they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief god, took it away to hide it where they could not find it.
Council of gods gathered to discuss where best to hide their divinity. One suggested in the earth, but Brahma said, “No, that will not do, for man will dig deep into the earth and find it.” Another suggested that they could sink their divinity into the deepest ocean. Again, Brahma said, “No, not there, for people will learn to dive into the deepest waters, will search the ocean floor and find it. A third suggestion offered was to take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there. Brahma again replied, “No, for they will eventually climb every mountain on earth and will certainly find it.” The lesser gods gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it. It seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea these humans will not eventually reach.”
Then Brahma said, “Here is what we will do with humankind’s divinity. We will hide it deep down within them, for they will never think to look there.” Ever since then, the legend tells us that we humans have been going up and down the earth, climbing, digging, diving, exploring, and searching for something that has been within us all along. Two thousand years ago a man named Jesus looked within, found that divinity, and shared its secret with us. He taught that the way to reveal our divinity is through turning within ourselves, to prayer.
I want to speak a little on prayer this week. It is a huge and important topic, and I cannot possibly cover it all in today’s talk. First of all, God is not a genie; we don’t rub together our folded hands and wish for things. Although Jesus says in Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” we must see those words in context, and to realize this is not a blanket guarantee.
He also says in James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” This passage says that sometimes we can pray and have faith and ask for what “we” want, yet we do not receive it. The reality is that the condition of the heart and our selfishness determine the results of prayer. Are we asking in a manner to glorify and honor God, or do we want only to fulfill our desires that glorify and honor our egos?
The purpose of prayer is to reclaim our divinity hiding within us. When we pray, we open the door to our hearts for God to houseclean. Spirit is intent on opening a clear channel for communicating at our highest level, with our divine nature. But there is often clutter that impedes this communication. It is through prayer that we make way for Christ to move through us.
God hears us when we pray. We don’t have to beg or grovel. If we do, think, or say something wrong – something our guilt indicates as off track – we don’t have to babble. A simple, “God, what I said was hurtful, and I admit it. I ask that you forgive me. Thank You, God, Amen.”
Prayer is simply conversation with God. It is asking Him to meet our needs or someone else’s. It is praising Him and thanking Him. Prayer is about committing things to Him and consecrating things to Him. Spirit implores us to pray about everything and anything. St. Teresa of Avila said, “Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
Often, we do not know what is best for us or anyone else. So, when we ask for something worldly, it may not be in our best interest. We may need to learn patience or other such lessons. We do not know God’s will for us or the ones we love. We may pray for the healing of a loved one when God is welcoming them to pure spirit.
Instead, why not ask, “God, please heal all within me that needs to be healed. Heal within those I love what you know needs to be healed.” Through these words we allow God’s will to be done. Perhaps through our disease or challenge we are learning to release, to trust, and to have faith. “God, I ask for the courage and the strength to get through these times.” Prayer is faith and trust.
Some people do not pray much because they don’t understand how powerful prayer really is. They think, “Well, I asked God for something, and I didn’t get it, so what’s the point? Isn’t that the purpose of prayer?” This is the ego acting out of pain and disappointment. If our prayers are solely about our basest needs, and our wants, then our prayer results are limited.
There are no restrictions on prayer; it is just that some things help. God does not object when we pray from our ego, or if we beg, but we will find that our efforts are limited by that consciousness. We should pray to God intimately, as His child, which we are. God does not want us to give up our own will power, which is our divine birthright as His child.
It is most effective to approach God only with legitimate desires, and to pray for their fulfillment, not as a beggar, but as a child: “I am Your child. You are my Father. You and I are One.” When we pray deeply and consistently, we feel love and joy welling up in our hearts. It is through this Love and Joy that we know we have God’s attention. Then we pray, “Lord, this is my need. I am willing to work for it; please guide me and help me to have the right thoughts and to perform the best actions to bring about success. I will use my reason, and work with determination, but guide my reason, will, and activity to the right thing that I should do.”
Let us remember that prayer is not all about asking. Prayer is not a negotiation or leveraging tool. The truth is that prayer is one of the greatest privileges we have as Christians, as children of God. With prayer we align with God; we partner with Christ.
Jesus said this in Matthew 6:5-8 - “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask!”
Jesus emphasized an honest, heartfelt prayer based on a loving relationship with God the Father. Submission to God’s will was a defining characteristic of Jesus Christ’s prayer life, as he demonstrated in Luke 22:42 - “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
God answers prayer that aligns with His will, as1 John 5:14–15 states: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” It is through prayer that we uncover the courage, strength, tolerance, forgiveness, and divinity that has been there all along. We just need to let Spirit unclutter our hearts and reveal the Light within us that has been hidden by the stresses of the world. One of the benefits of prayer is that it reveals who we are, not just what we think we are.
Jesus taught us one simple pattern for prayer. God’s name, or essence, should be honored and His will be fulfilled. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus taught that through prayer we can go to God for all our needs, great or small. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
As Christ demonstrated, prayer involves us searching our hearts and doing our own housecleaning when it comes to forgiveness and walking the path. “Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Whether we say trespasses, which is stepping over a line and hurting someone, or debtors, which is owing someone something that we have taken from them - respect or value - we ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness for the same offense.
Jesus also taught that prayer is an opportunity to receive strength and resilience to resist the temptations of the world and insulate us from our ego. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I often say, “And leave us not in temptation,” because God will not directly lead us into temptation. But we often find ourselves there anyway, so this phrase can come in handy. Some translations say, “Don’t let us yield to temptation.” Regardless of the translation, the point is that prayer keeps us attuned to the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance to resist temptation and overcome harmful unproductive actions and reactions.
Prayer is powerful. Long prayers, short prayers, no matter. Pray from an attitude of love, peace, joy, openness, and expectancy. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without heart.” Mother Theresa wrote, “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of Himself.”
Although Christ gave us a template for prayer, there are as many ways to pray as there are children of God. John Cassian, Christian Monk, living around 360 AD to 435 AD, wrote, “There are as many forms of prayer as there are states of soul. A person prays in a certain manner when cheerful and in another when weighed down by sadness or a sense of hopelessness. When one is flourishing spiritually, prayer is different from when one is oppressed by the extent of one's struggles."
So, it is my prayer, that we consistently move into prayer regardless of our state of mind, not to just ask for things, but to seek healing and invoke the love, joy, and peace of Christ that reveals all that God has made us to be. Seek the quiet of prayer, be still, and listen for that still small voice of God. I pray that we bathe daily in the love of God that we find in prayer, and allow God to cleanse our thoughts, hearts, and souls to reveal our divinity and light and gratitude as a child of God. I pray that we realize that prayer is accessible and simple. As Meister Eckhart taught us, “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'thank you' that would suffice.”