W. John Murray
The Astor Lectures
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1917, 8th ed.
 Divine Mind is the first Cause; it is the only Reality. Thought is the substance of Mind, the actuality of the universe. It is the act of thinking that evolves the images, which, by a process of unfoldment, crystallize into the shapes or manifestations of the things conceived in Mind. It has been said that ideas are begotten from the union of pure intellect with feeling. In the same proportion that an image in the mind of the sculptor is the cause which produces the statue as an effect, so the idea of conception begotten from the union of intellect and feeling is the invisible cause of which the visible effect is the result. It is thus that ideas become visible to the senses while the original images from which they have expanded are forever preserved in the Divine Mind. The very hairs of our head arenumbered because of this Mental retention of original designs!
The ancients taught that unseen spiritual essences are the only realities in the universe and that all which is seen exists only as the developed state of the unseen. Plato emphasizes this teaching by the assertion that nothing exists but ideas which are the only living, enduring realities, and that all else is but sensuous seeming.
 The real world is the universe of ideas, while the world we inhabit is an imperfect imitation of these divine images on a lower plane of consciousness, a shadow of which the idea is the only substance. As the universe is begotten of the thought of God, so the world is conceived in the thought of man. Divine images are immortal realities, begotten of the Mind which is God. The expressions of these images are merely reflections, not actualities; as such they have no value in themselves other than that the appearance of shadow proves the actual presence of substance. Ideas are essential to manifestation, and no matter how imperfect the reflection, the fact remains that the mental images in the Divine Mind are eternally perfect. The imperfection in the manifestation of an idea is due to one of two things: either there is a flaw in the mold in which the design is cast, or a defect in the reflector, neither of which affects or detracts from the immaculate perfection of the original idea, intact in the Divine Mind.
There is one sentiment that is possessed alike of man and beast, one sensibility that is common to all created beings, one feeling that makes all things kin; it is called Desire. This sensibility is the chief factor in the evolution of an idea; it is the impulse that draws the mental image (derived from the Divine Idea) into the mold, which is to give to it visible shape. In other words desire gives to an idea its first impetus towards visible manifestation. In the world of effect all  appearance of life, growth, development as the outcome of desire, all things of which the world can boast in art or science, received their first impulse towards visible manifestation from desire, a sentiment which may be likened to the birth process of mental conception. The universe is begotten of the desire of God.
Prayer is concentrated desire, or the essence of petition, and therefore prayer is the most potent force in the world of ideas. Prayer determines the shape that an image shall assume; the mechanical nature of prayer is such that it has the power to correct the flaw in the mold and to recast the model! It is the mechanics of prayer that allays the fever of sin by reforming the sinner. It is thus by prayer that imperfection is corrected. The only force in the world that can change the shape of illness to the form of health is prayer. The electric chair may remove the victim of sin’s ravages to another plane of consciousness; fear may hide her pallid face behind the mantle of virtue, sickness may wear the mask of death, but prayer alone can alter these shapes so that the victim of sin will put on the white robes of righteousness, the fearful will be redeemed from their fears, and the sick be made whole. Two things prayer cannot do; it cannot change the unchangeable, nor can it acquaint the Divine with aught of evil. God’s work is done, and not even the prayer of praise can undo it. The Divine knows all that is. If He does not know sin, sickness,  and death, it is sufficient proof that these illusions do not exist other than as phenomena or sense illusions. If evil were known to God, it would be as real and as eternal as is Deity, and to pray to God to unmake that which He made would be a vain petition. Our redemption from sin and sickness lies in the fact that they are external to God’s creation. They are the seeming absence of the harmony which is ever present, and therefore by prayer it is possible to see through those illusions into the realm of spirit, and by so doing to correct the errors of sense and thus elevate the body above the plane of sensual seeming. Prayer is a mental burning-glass which, by the art of concentration upon the real, consumes whatever appears to be opposed to the manifestation of that reality. All that is, is the product of thought. Change the thought, and the product is changed. Since to think is to exist, thought and existence are one; therefore to change a mode of thinking modifies the whole of existence.
There are different ways of praying. The prayer that would act on God is vain. The prayer that acts upon the one who prays and enables him to realize within himself the power to effect the change he would demand of God, is the effectual prayer. It is an eternal truth that nothing lives but by the power of God; the powers that be are ordained by Him. Through prayer we ascend above the sensuous seeming to the realm of intelligence where we  apprehend the things of Spirit, and thus separating between the real and the apparent, we lose consciousness of illusion, and see afresh with the eyes of Spirit the things of God. Prayer conforms the nature of man to the character of God.
Efficacious prayer is the prayer which knows that God is the only power, which knowledge effaces the supposition that there is a power opposed to God. By prayer we ascend to the mount of the Revelation of Harmony as the real and eternal, and discover evanescent, everchanging in harmony as temporal and fleeting. It has been said that every man having the ordinary use of his limbs is qualified to swim, but put a man who cannot swim into deep water and he will go down. The mere stroke–the movement of the limbs, is no mystery; but unless the swimmer has a full belief that such movements will produce the required results, he will sink. To be sure, swimming is a mechanical energy and praying is a subtler force, but the same principle governs alike in all that is force, and it is as true of praying as it is of swimming, that without a full belief the prayer will be vain.
Answered prayer is a petition that ascends from the soul of one who knows that he has already received from his Heavenly Parent the power to accomplish the thing desired, to be that which he desires to be. God cannot perform our tasks, nor should prayer be a means to that end; instead it should be an earnest desire for such an increase  of spiritual understanding as will enable the one who prays to declarethe works of God and not confound Infinite creation with finite perception. God is all. He cannot be more. He has done all; He can do no more. It is for us to realize this Divine omnipresence by refusing to believe in its opposite, impotence. God has given you dominion and power, and you must use that which you have before you ask for more.
In no way other than in our actions towards others can we attest our gratitude to God. One praiseworthy act has more value in making us God-like than a million professions. Man is the image of God, but only by concentrated desire and untiring effort will his life attest the dignity of his birthright. Sincere prayer is the most potent means by which man may accomplish his destiny which is to transcend humanity and manifest Divinity. For centuries unceasing prayer has poured from the throats of all nations. It has not been for lack of praying that the world is bathed in blood; the lack has been in the quality of the prayers. Asking God to make us Christlike when we refuse to express the Goodness with which God has endowed us is equally futile.
The first requirement of availing petition is honesty of endeavor. To ask God to do anything for us that we are unwilling to do for ourselves does not betray honesty. Instead it manifests laziness or ignorance, either of which qualities  render fruitless the petitions into which they enter.
What right have we to expect God to perform the tasks for which he has fitted us? Yet consciously or unconsciously we all do this. Is it just that God should correct our mistakes? Emphatically no, because God has given us a degree of understanding that makes error unnecessary. What we need is to employ that wisdom in order to rise above the habit of making mistakes.
The second condition of prayer is sincerity. Are we sincere when we ask for the measure we mete? Why not increase our measure first and pray afterwards? Prayer lacking in honesty and adequate sincerity is still-born. The quality of wisdom most to be admired in Solomon was that his only petition was for an increase of understanding. Solomon prayed knowing that he had received, for his prayer was the practical application of his God-given possibilities. Jesus did not ask God to raise his dead friend. Instead he himself raised Lazarus. Jesus prayed the prayer of action, which is the only prayer that is worthy and acceptable, the only appeal that ascends to the throne of God.
Repentance is easier than reformation, but amendment is the only test of true contrition. Real repentance is manifested in the renunciation of sin. Sin can never be obliterated by any rite of state or church. To believe otherwise is to mistake the law of God. To be forgiven, sin must be abolished. It is not within the jurisdiction  of man to pardon sin. The only forgiveness for sin is the obliteration of the sense that would testify to the reality of an illusion, therefore “the soul”–sense–“that sinneth, it shall die.” If it were not so, there would be no end to sin. To escape the delusion of sin, follow after that which is good. When temptation assails you, agree with her quickly that she is a temptress, and turn your back upon her. She has no power other than the power you give her by believing in her. There is no enticement possible to man that God has not given him the power to overcome. If it were true that man could cancel sin, the sinner would have only to ask forgiveness in order to be free to repeat the crime. This would place a premium on sin. The ability to do right is the only reward of righteousness. To be “present with the Lord” is to be absent from sin. Every consistent effort to rise above the sense places us higher up on the ladder of Spirit, but to reach the throne of God, we must be willing to forsake all for the Christ Truth.
There is no room in the heart that contains Christ for an illusion. Says the Master of prayer: “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking,” and, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” To pray aright is to live rightly, which is the only proof we can give of the sincerity of our prayer. Holiness is the first and last requirement of acceptable prayer, and contentment  is essential to holiness. “Be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” The overcoming of illusions is a painful performance, but remember that “Though he was the son of God, he learned obedience through the things that he suffered.” “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement (instruction) whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and life? For they verily for a few days instructed us after their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening (instruction) seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” “For our God is a consuming fire,” to the illusions of sense. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him and the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up. Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you, and the only devil there is, is spiritual ignorance.”
 “But, thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet” which is the chamber of imagery, the secret place of the Most High, the developing room of mind. Go into the innermost recess of your own being, which is the tabernacle of God. Shut the door on sensuous seeming. Lift up your heart to God. Proclaim the omnipresence of Infinity, and there will be no need to deny the finite. True prayer is affirmation not negation. Pray, remember that God knows no race, no creed; that He is your Father, even as He is the Father of all created Beings, and that He maketh His reign to fall on the just and the unjust, and therefore we must not ask for universal blessings for personal gratification. To do such a thing is to profane prayer, and to misunderstand God. Prayer is the soul’s incense, and the fragrance which arises from the prayers of the righteous ascend to God, and behold, He giveth increase! To realize for a second the all inclusiveness of Mind, is to rise above the illusion of sense, and to “put on the new man,” created in righteousness and true wholeness.
We will be honest in serving God, if we are honest in our profession of Him, for it is in deed, not in words, that we attest our sincerity, even as it is in the understanding of our unity with God, not in a belief in the existence of God, that our infirmities are healed. “A man cannot serve two masters.” To believe in the omnipotence of God is to realize the non-existence of  that which is opposed to Goodness, and every spiritual gain is preceded by a loss of material dependence. The efficient prayer is the prayer of understanding. And “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him; after the manner of spirit pray ye.”
Principle of Being, Mind, which is the abode of ideas, sanctified is Thy image, and Thy reign is acknowledged. May Thy decree be understood as it is, perfect. Give us today understanding of our unity with Thee. Separate us from our illusions as we disassociate men from their unintentional errors, and bring us forth from the depth; make to flow from us malice, for Thine is the only reign and the only power to be accounted trustworthy. This is the Lord’s prayer.
The science of prayer requires that the giving end must be equal to the receiving, otherwise stagnation will arise. When the fever of avarice sets in, the temple of God will become a market place, where honor is exchanged for gold, and righteousness is bartered for self-aggrandizement, and the chamber of imagery, “the house of prayer” will be made a “den of thieves.”
The answer to prayer depends wholly upon the quality of the petitioner’s faith in the possibility of obtaining that for which he prays. Faith is the motor of prayer. It is “the prayer of faith” which heals the sick and reforms the sinner, and it is the action of prayer, coupling the absolute faith that you already have with that which you desire to have  that gives the increase. The success of your demand is determined by the proportion of your faith. To desire goodness is the first step in the direction of righteousness, but to obtain holiness demands the concentrated effort of a lifetime, for we must make ready our chamber of imagery by casting out the illusions of sense, before the Christ will come and make Its abode there.
Blind belief in the potency of prayer has not the authority of the prayer of understanding. Belief is expelled from the prayer of understanding when knowledge takes its place. Belief is a word taken from the German and signifies merely a mental assent or a pleasure of mind. Therefore, belief is purely speculative and incapable of nothing more potent than to substitute one illusion for another. Belief acts like medicine, whose potency depends upon the patient’s faith in its curative qualities, for drugs have no power other than that which is thrust upon them by the power of belief.
Understanding enriches prayer, and “by knowledge shall the chambers (of imagery) be filled with all precious and pleasant riches” which are the infinite wealths of Mind. David said: “Through Thy precepts I get understanding– Give me understanding and I shall live– for understanding is Life.” Belief would darken understanding, for it has no reality of existence. The prayer of knowledge is the healing prayer, and the channel through which God supplies all  human need. Righteousness is consistent prayer, and unselfishness is a worthy test of acceptable prayer.
To pray aright is to do the will of God from the heart. Simulation is fatal to effectual prayer. Therefore, He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity. He that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness, “Be kindly affectioned one to another, patient in tribulation, Bless them that curse you. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Recompense to no man evil for evil,” and if it be possible, as much as it lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. “Avenge not yourselves.” This is the acceptable attitude of Prayer, and God Himself will answer the prayer of understanding.
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The Astor Lectures
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