Prayer—A Lay Sermon

Portsmouth (Va.) Ledger

That the majority—large majority—of prayers go unanswered needs not to be asserted. This old world, in which we find sin and its awful consequences still rampant, would have been saved long ago had any large proportion of the prayers been answered. And it would seem that enough of them have been fruitless to leave no doubt that there must be some radical mistake in the popular mind as to the nature and modus of effective prayer. Certainly there is no lack of petitions—but are mere petitions really prayer? Is it possible to change the mind of Deity? Can He unknow what he once knows? Is it the Mind of God or the mind of mankind that needs to be changed in order to have things as they should be? Can it be that Deity doesn't realize what He should do and how He should do it, better than men can suggest or inform Him? Is it not rational to conclude that the universe is operating under divine law—doesn't the rain fall on the just and on the unjust alike? Can it be that a part of the universe operates under law, as we know it does, and that the whole does not? Would it be possible for a part to express more wisdom than the whole—for a part of it to express mathematical exactness and the rest run haphazard? Are we blessed because of prayer or are we blessed by our prayers?—important question this, as there is all the difference imaginable between the two. Is it conceivable that Deity would let a wrong condition go unrighted in His own universe simply because some one didn't request Him to set it right? As already suggested, must it not be that it is the mind of mortals, and not the Mind of the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent ruler of the universe that needs to be changed in order to bring us the blessings we desire and so much need? Are not our limitations, our deficiencies incident rather to our vision than to His? Have we not, by our unbelief,—our unfaith in Him,—by our limiting view of all things, brought about the imperfect conditions from which we would now escape? In other words, hasn't mortal man, by a long process of retrogression, encased himself in an environment wholly unlike the universe as it appears to the immortal vision of its creator and preserver? Is it possible that mortal man has been able to do more by his disloyalty than to mar his own vision of the universe—has he been able to change the universe itself so that God does not now see it in the unmarred perfection in which He made it? Has mortal man proved more powerful than God—has he been able to really mar the handiwork of omnipotence? Or has he simply shut himself off from its perfection, and needs only a renewing of the mind, as St. Paul puts it—a more perfect mental vision—to bring into his experience the normal conditions which have escaped him, and for which he now prays? "Prayer is the heart's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed," but there isn't the slightest warrant in Holy Writ, or out of it, for expecting an answer to prayer unless the desire ripens into "faith." The fact that "faith" is the one condition of effective prayer indicates that we are not blessed because of our asking, but by the desire—by the quality of the desire's expression—by the "renewing of the mind" to the extent of spiritually laying hold of (mentally seeing) the conditions which we would bring into our experience. In a word, by bringing ourselves to a mental vision corresponding to the Mind that sustains and keeps the universe in its original perfection,—which perfection is obscured to mortal man by his carnal, limited view of things. He retakes heaven—normal, harmonious conditions—not because of his requests, but in the ratio that he has that Mind "which was also in Christ Jesus;" that Mind which was in him who said that "all things are possible to him that believeth," and "according to your faith be it unto you." God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (cannot see His own universe marred and deformed—cannot see His own original purpose defeated), and if we would have that for which we pray we must, through faith, see the perfection—the normality—of all things as He sees it.

Editorial in Portsmouth (Va.) Ledger.

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