Chapter 4 – Prayer in Divine Science


W. John Murray
New Thoughts on Old Doctrines
Divine Science Publishing Co.
New York, N.Y., 1918

[65] “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe ye have received them, and ye shall have them.
“Before they call, I will answer.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.
“For let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord.
“If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.
“For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before you ask him.
“The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
“And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
“Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
“The effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.
“Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me, and I know that thou hearest me always.”

[66] BLANK


“Therefore I say unto you that what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” –MARK 11:24.

JAMES, the Apostle, in his wonderful epistle says: “Is any man sick among you, let him call in the elders of the church, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” You will notice that James says “shall save the sick.” He does not say “may”, as we would today, but he makes a positive statement, –“the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”

History records that for something like three hundred years immediately after the beginning of the Christian era, prayer was accredited a therapeutic value that it never had before, and with which it has never been credited since. Through ignorance of the facts many people feel that all spiritual healing by the power of prayer was limited to Jesus and his immediate disciples. So [68] they constantly declare that the age of miracles is past, meaning by this that healing by purely spiritual means, if it ever was successfully practiced, has become a lost art. Or, if they believe the Theologians, declare that God never intended that spiritual healing should go on throughout the ages; that it was one of the outward or visible manifestations of unseen power intended by Jesus to usher in and emphasis the new order of things, the new dispensation. This being accomplished, healing by prayer was no longer necessary. Eminent divines in all churches, and we think Christians in every denomination, through strange and faulty reasoning have arrived at this conclusion:–that spiritual healing was merely an impressive method used to make people understand the new dispensation, and that after this had been accomplished, there would be no longer any need for its continuance.

In fact, it seems to me that we sometimes imagine Christianity to have been ushered in by the use of magic; that in order to [69] gather an audience, Jesus had to indulge in a few spectacular performances. That is the idea that many of us have of the healing ministry of Jesus.

It never seems to us that back of every healing recorded by the Nazarene, there is a law. We seem to feel that in some strange and supernatural way this unusual Son of God was gifted with a power that no other man in human history has ever had, to such an extent, at least.

Divine Science has come to take the very marked human instinct to pray, out of the external and the occasional and to plant it in the soil of beautiful expectancy. We speak of the instinct of prayer and of man as a praying animal. We seem to differentiate ourselves from the beasts by this particular instinct, the instinct of prayer. We say we have it and the animals have it not. We share one instinct in common with all animal and vegetable life, and that is the instinct of self-preservation; and we feel that self-preservation, so far as the human being is concerned, is daily dependent [70] upon prayer and the prayerful attitude of man.

And yet when we look out over the world and hear of the innumerable prayers going up for health, strength, harmony and substance, we are prone to think prayer is too infrequently answered. How often have we seen an entire nation setting apart a day for itself to pray for the life of a beloved ruler or president; and yet he passed on like any other man, notwithstanding the fact that the accumulated prayers of the nation were piled up for his recovery. We in this country see this too often. Then over against this it does seem as though the bad man’s bullet is more powerful than the good man’s prayers. It does seem as if the assassin has more power to rid the earth of a good man than the accumulated prayers of all the Christians have to keep him here. These questions should give us pause, we think.

Was there ever at any time in the history [71] of the human mind, a firm belief in the potency of prayer? Was there ever at any time on the part of men a sure confidence that their prayers would indeed be heard? Why should our prayers be so infrequently answered, and why should the prayers of Jesus and his immediate disciples have been so frequently answered? The question is, Did Jesus pray differently? Were the prayers of Jesus based upon a different premise from our own prayers?

You remember when John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus. After John had been cast into prison, they came to Jesus and followed him and watched his so-called miracles. One day they said to him, “Master, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples to pray.” And then he offered up that brief and wondrous prayer that has ever since been called “The Lord’s Prayer.” A prayer which we unfortunately very poorly translated. Toward the end of the prayer, it reads as if Jesus had asked his Heavenly Father not to lead him [72] into temptation. You remember that it reads “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” These are the words as they appear in the ordinary version. They are not so in the original text: they are, “Leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from the one evil.” There does not seem to be very much difference, but on reflection we see that we are not asking God “not to lead us into temptation.” The temptation is not from God; the temptation is from other sources, other causes, and comes mainly from within ourselves. “Leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from the one evil” became translated into a personal devil, and later into an impersonal evil. What is this one evil? The one evil is man’s belief in evil. The evil of believing in a power opposed to the omnipotence of God, the evil of believing in a personal devil, or an impersonal evil. In short, it is the one evil of believing anything that is not truth. It is the belief in a supposed power pressing [73] ever against the actual power and presence of Almighty God, and hence we can say with Jesus, “Leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from the one evil,”–deliver us from the temptation to believe that there is anything but God. This belief is the seed and the root upon which the tree that bears such wretched fruit flourishes.

We see a difference between the prayers of Jesus and those of John the Baptist. John the Baptist petitions, supplicates. Jesus affirms. And it is in this way that we wish to speak of prayer,–that is, positive affirmation.

When Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus, and the bereaved sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, were weeping and bemoaning the fact that Jesus had not come earlier, feeling confident that had he come earlier their brother would have lived,–they said, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” And he turned unto them and said, “Said I not unto thee, he that believeth in me, though he be dead, yet shall he live?” And Martha said, “Yea, I know [74] that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.” It seems to be a peculiar tendency of the human mind to postpone everything to the resurrection day, the last day, the judgment day. And Jesus turned to Martha and said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” And then he said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me, and I know that thou hearest me always; but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” I say, “Lazarus, come forth.” And history records that Lazarus came forth bound hand and foot, and with the grave clothes about his eyes.

Jesus adopted a method the very reverse of that which we adopt. He thanked God in advance for his blessings. We would have waited to see Lazarus out of the tomb and the bandages removed from his ankles and his eyes, in order to be convinced that truth had manifested itself. Jesus says, “Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, [75] believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” For this text I never found any satisfactory explanation in Old Thought. When I pray, I am to believe that I receive what I desire. Why pray then? Why pray if I believe that I have already received what I desire? In the Old Testament we read, “Before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” These are mystical statements. Jesus spoke in parables, and here are the parables of Jesus with no convenient Jesus to interpret them. But Divine Science is penetrating beneath the surface of these marvelous words of the Master and discovering in some degree at least their hidden content. In Old Thought we pray for blessings to a far-away God, which blessings are to be imported to us from a place outside of ourselves, a far-away heaven. We beseech God to be merciful, tender and compassionate, when it is not the nature of God to be otherwise. We want God to shower blessings on us, to give us health and strength and wealth, always believing that [76] these are to come from outside of ourselves, never believing that we have already received them as the soil receives the seed of the oak that is to be; never really understanding that it is within our power to work out our own salvation. And when I say work out, I mean that our salvation is within; otherwise we could not work it out. Most of us have tried to work it in, as we work in an oil by embrocation. What we have to do is to work it out, to feel conscious that within us is the power to overcome sin, sickness, poverty, disease and even death itself. And so it is that we have gone on and on for centuries praying to an absentee God to work out our salvation for us.

In Divine Science we no longer petition, we no longer supplicate, but this does not mean that we no longer pray. A young minister once said of us that we are “a prayerless people;” because we no longer repeat litanies and rosaries, or make genuflections or go through the rites and ceremonies the older churches teach. We are not a prayerless people, though we are a people who no [77] longer indulge in formulae. If he knew us better he would not say that we are a prayerless people, but rather that we pray without ceasing, that we are constant in prayer, that we are constantly affirming the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God, for it is the affirmation of man’s unity with his maker. And I take it that this was the prayer of Jesus–the deep and persistent affirmation of man’s unity with God.

Quite unlike the minister of today or the rabbi of his day, Jesus rarely knelt in prayer. We are somewhat amazed when we read the little narrative of the calling forth of Lazarus, to discover that there is no reference made to any petition whatsoever. It is not said of Jesus that he knelt at the tomb of Lazarus and cried out in piteous appeal to God that he might be restored to his sisters, to whom he was so necessary. It is not said of Jesus that he asked those around him to unite with him in prayer for the restoration of life to Lazarus. We do not find him crying unto God to be merciful and compassionate and tender [78] and to restore this youth to life and vigour. Telling Mary, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again,” Jesus prays, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,”–remember that Lazarus was still in the tomb,–”Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that thou hearest me always, but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they might believe.” Then he said, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus came forth. Soul answereth to soul, spirit answereth to spirit, and audible prayer was as far removed from the idea of prayer in the mind of Jesus, as the North is from the West or from the South. We find little reference made to audible prayer on the part of Jesus. His prayers were those silent contemplations of truth, those moments and hours of silent realization of the presence of the inworking of the Holy Spirit. The prayers of Jesus were too big for words. They could never be put into formulae. I think that he would never have given out [79] what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” were it not for the fact that his disciples asked for a formula, as we today ask for a formula.

People come to us every day and ask us to give them some thought, some verbal statement. Why? Because it seems to be the only way by which they can hold on to an internal truth; to have an external affirmation for it, an audible repetition of the words seems to be the one thing by which they can anchor to the thing they most desire to bring out. So Jesus gave them this simple prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven,” and we must remember that Jesus had told his disciples where heaven is. He had told them that the kingdom of heaven is within. Now you know that the natural tendency of the twentieth century denominational Christian when making that prayer is to think of something far away, “Our Father which art in heaven:” rarely if ever does he associate in his own mind with this remarkable statement the idea of omnipresence. “Our Father which art in heaven”– [80] Our Father which art away off, “hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come,” and he asks that this kingdom come as if it were some strange importation from another planet. “Thy kingdom come”–thy kingdom which is ever resident in the secret sanctuary, hidden in every longing soul, to be manifested in the external, in our daily life. Thy will be done in the objective kingdom even as it is in the subjective kingdom.

“Give us this day our daily bread”–give us strength and wisdom and understanding for the day. This has no reference whatsoever to food. “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” So underneath all we are to be forgiven as we forgive others. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive.” We are to be forgiven as wholly and just in proportion as we forgive other men. That is the law. We forgive ourselves in reality in the degree that we become forgiving.

“And lead us not into temptation,”–leave us not in temptation, but deliver us [81] from the one evil,–from the belief that there is anything opposed to the law of God. This is not a very profound interpretation of the Lord’s prayer, but it is better to my mind than the other. The other was a prayer of postponement. The other was a prayer that led me to feel in some strange, inconceivable way, God was really leading me into temptation in order that my spiritual muscles might be strengthened. Over against this we have those remarkable words of James the Apostle. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” “Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” “God tempteth no man.” Then why ask God not to lead us into temptation? What would you think of your own child if he begged you every day, Please don’t lead me into temptation, Father or Mother? You, who are desirous only for his spiritual, [82] mental, moral and physical welfare? What would you think if your child made continually, morning, noon and night, requests that you would not lead him into temptation? You would wonder if he were not a little bit touched! You have no desire to do anything but lead him into joy and happiness and strength and vigour and manliness. Is it not amazing that for all these centuries we have been asking God not to lead us into temptation? Is it not amazing that we have accepted the blind dictums of theological leaders without question? The blind surely have led the blind. Our teachers have been blind to the truth.

Prayer with us in Divine Science is not petition. It is not asking God to be God. It is not asking Infinite Life to be anything other than what It is. It is not asking God to do that which he cannot do, namely: change his mind. And is this not prayer as it was taught in Old Thought–an almost continuous performance of asking God to change his mind? I was taught that many things came into my life as a direct result [83] of the will of God, and then I was taught to ask God to remove these things or to change them, and I always ended my prayer with “if it be thy will, O God.” This was because I did not understand what Jesus taught concerning the will of God. It was because I did not understand concerning prayer. I was taught to believe that through continuous and continual prayer, I could change the unchangeable will of the Almighty. That if he deemed it wise and best for me to be diseased and sickly and sorrowful and suffering, I could by sufficient prayer, and sometimes by asking the prayers of the church, bring about a change in this supreme immutable will, and that which God originally intended to do, he would not do. Is it not ridiculous that we should be taught in theology that God is immutable, and that we should, at the same time, think or believe, and even communicate to others the idea that the immutable can be changed by persistent petition, when the very Bible says, “God changeth not.” God is law; immutable, fixed, irrevocable [84] law. Not all the petitions ever uttered can change the will of God; but we must know what is the will of God. Some of us have been told, I, for instance, that it was the will of God that my child should be taken from me, and I accepted and believed it. I was a firm believer in ecclesiastical authority. I believed almost everything. Why? Because I had been taught when a child not to argue concerning the mysteries of the church. That if certain things happened too deep for my shallow mind to understand, I must accept them and the riddle would be solved some time, perhaps after death. I was told that my child was taken away from me to teach me a lesson; it was the will of God. I am not the only one who has been told this story. And then one day I found in the New Testament these words of Jesus, and I could not reconcile them with my previous teaching; –“It is not the will of God that one of those little ones should perish, but that they should have everlasting life.” I have no doubt that the theologians of that day believed that it was [85] the will of God that Bartimeus should have been born and remained blind. Consider for a moment that Jesus came here expressly to do the will of the Father; this is what he said, “I came to do the will of my Father which is in heaven,” and when Bartimeus there by the roadside cried out to him, “Jesus of Nazareth, save me,” the disciples said, “You are making too much noise, he has other important work to do, don’t bother him.” And he cried out the more, “Jesus of Nazareth, save me.” And Jesus stopped short and said to his disciples, “What does he want?” They answered, “He is crying out to thee, he is blind.” So Jesus turned back and asked the man, “What would you have me to do?” Bartimeus replied, “That I receive my sight.” Jesus said, “Go thy way, realize that God is the sight of your eyes, and you have it. It is yourself.” He did not pray God to restore sight. He simply showed the man inwardly, by spiritual contact, that he was then manifesting that sight, that inner sight, which is the sight of God, and he saw. Now if Bartimeus was [86] blind according to the will of God, and Jesus came to do the will of his Father, is it not strange that Jesus should revoke that which is so popularly believed to be the will of God? And again, if it be the will of God that you and I should be sick, what right have we to pray about it at all? Why petition God for recovery or restoration to health and strength when perhaps it is his will that we should be weak and debilitated? I never saw the absurdity of these things, I never saw the ridiculous incongruity of them until I began to study along these lines and saw that the will of God is not a mutable weather cock moved about by the petitions of people everywhere, but that God is fixed, immutable law, and that law is Love. So I kept praying and I never got an answer so far as any visible evidences were concerned. And this history is not peculiar to myself, I am sure. Is it not common experience? How are we going to solve this difficulty? Is it possible that we, like the disciples of old, are going to turn to him and say, “Lord, teach us to pray?” [87] We, who have prayed from our infancy up, are going to ask to be taught to pray in such a manner as to receive the blessings that were promised to him that prayed righteously. We must become as little children, and learn all over again. As a little child I was taught to pray at night, so were you,-

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”

That gave me a picture of a God that was going to snatch me perhaps during the night, and sometimes I did not sleep for fear of it. That was the Old Thought. The New Thought is this:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I know that God his child doth keep.
I know that God, my life, is nigh;
I live in Him and cannot die.
God is my health, I can’t be sick.
God is all love, unfailing, quick.
[88] God is my all. I know no fear,
Since life and truth and love are here.”

My dear friends, this is a brief way of defining the difference between the Old and New Thought prayer. One is the supplicating, petitioning kind, which asks God not to do something to us which he has no idea of doing; the other is the same, strong affirmation of the great triumphant fact that God is our life and we cannot die, that God is our health and we cannot be sick. It is the assertion of the real over against the apparent. It is the affirmation of our indissoluable connection with all that is good and pure and permanent and changeless. It is a different order of prayer, and it is more gratifying.

Now the question arises naturally, and often occurs to people who come to us for help,–“If this is effectual prayer, why cannot I pray for myself and get well?” How often we hear this! I have no doubt the people of Jesus’ time asked the same questions. “If the only method by which Jesus [89] restored the sick is the method of prayer, why cannot we pray just as well as he?” He never objected to it. I have no doubt he said, “You can. You can if you pray intelligently.” The only difference between our prayers of today and our prayers of yesterday is the difference between intelligence and ignorance.

All down the ages we have lived and moved and breathed in an ocean of infinite Life and Love and Truth, and have not been able to convert it into concrete manifestation. Jesus took the invisible, utilized it and brought about visible results. We admit that God is everywhere, and then pray to him as if he were really afar off, and not here at all. We are twisted.

James, the Apostle, says: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” What does he mean by “double minded?” Perhaps you have read it a thousand times–most of you more than that, and what is the meaning that these words convey to you? “A double minded [90] man is unstable in all his ways. Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” No; so long as he is double minded, he will get no results. We are double minded if on one hand we believe in the omnipotence of God, and on the other hand we believe in the potency of evil. We are not single minded. We do not realize in our silent prayer that there is no potent influence in the universe other than the Holy Spirit of Infinite Life. We pray to be protected from the hate of one, the envy of another, the jealousy of men. We admit with our minds a thousand things that have no place and no power in the Infinite. We are not only double minded, but multiple minded. It is only the single minded man who is promised that his prayers shall be heard. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” says the Bible. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man.” A righteous man is a man who thinks right, and a man who thinks right is a man who admits there is but one supreme power in the universe, but one real [91] actual presence in the universe, and holds to that in spite of all appearances; and he affirms constantly, “There is nothing here but God, Good.”

I know appearances are dead against us. But so it is in the world of astronomy. We say that the earth revolves upon its axis and that this disproves the assumption of a rising and a setting sun, a moving sun. I am stating an astronomical fact, but my senses will not corroborate it. The profoundest astronomers in the world see the sun coming up and see it going down with their eyes, but their reason corrects the notion that it moves. “To the eye of vulgar logic” there is a rising and a setting sun. In the realm of “pure reason” there is no such thing. We are called upon to cling hard to the fact. “When your reason and your senses conflict, cling unto your reason,” says the wise man. You do so in every other department of investigation, why not in the Science of Spiritual investigation?

If Jesus had admitted the reality, the unchangeability of the withered arm, do you [92] suppose he could have cured it? Jesus saw with the inner eye what the senses of man can never reveal. He saw the perfectness of the man as an idea in the Divine Mind, and this equipped him with power from on high to bring about so-called miracles. But they were not miracles at all. He was not setting aside any law; he was co-operating with and demonstrating the law. If by miracle we mean the setting aside of law, there is no such thing. If by miracle we mean the evolving from within ourselves of a divine Principle, of an ever-present force or energy or law, then there is a miracle. Jesus merely utilized what other men had lived and moved and breathed in; he utilized God. That is what Edison is doing today. He is utilizing that which we have lived and moved and breathed and been carried about in–God. The senses bear no more testimony to electrical energy than they give to the presence of God. Is this any reason for denying the presence of electrical energy in the universe? Not at all. Then are we justified in denying the presence and [93] power of God simply because we cannot see his presence with the physical eye? No. Does Edison petition electrical energy to manifest itself as light and heat and motive power? Not at all; he is too wise for that. He finds out the laws of electricity. He finds out the means by which this unseen and invisible force can be converted into seen and visible results. These are the prayers of Edison. Wonderful prayers. He has blessed the world with them.

We do not petition the Principle of Being; we simply learn its laws and co-operate with them and manifest our God-given dominion over our sense of limitation. Our privations are transmuted into privileges, and our difficulties become opportunities. We affirm “I am one with thee, O God!” with all it implies. “I am one with thee, O God, the Principle of life and happiness, truth and power. I am one with thee, O Principle of Life! I am one with eternal Life!” You, too, can say with Jesus, “I and the Father are one.” The effect and its causes are inseparable. “Nerve me, O [94] God,” says Emerson, “with ceaseless affirmation of my divinity.” These are our constant prayers. We are “Instant in prayer.” Whenever temptation arises to suggest that we are mere mortals, subject to mortal law, so-called, subject to finite limitation, then we are nerved to ceaseless affirmation, to our oneness with God. We do not raise our hats or kneel in the streets or in the churches, but is this any reason for asserting that we are a prayerless people? Oh, Jesus was wise! He said to men, to the people, “Ye pray that ye may be heard of men,”–then, turning to his disciples, he said, “Don’t you pray that way. When you pray, enter into your closet, into the secret sanctuary of your own souls, and when you have shut the door–closed your senses by becoming conscious of the omnipresence of God, pray to that inner Principle of Being that reposes at the very center of yourself, and your Father which seeth in secret shall reward you openly.” That which took place in secret will presently be seen in the visible. If you want [95] health, believe that health is the constant, persistent state of your being, and presently you shall manifest it in your body, but you will never manifest it in your body so long as you believe in an importation from without. So long as you believe that you have not got it, and call upon God to give it to you by some strange external method, just so long will you never get it. But at once realize that it is within you, bubbling up like a well of life, once realize that it is your natural normal state, given you by God and sustained by the law of God, and then you will begin to say, “I am well, I am strong with the strength of the Holy Spirit;” and you will become stronger through your affirmation of God’s truth. These are your prayers–affirmations of truth.

Take two boys out in the world; one with nothing but will power, and the other with nothing but prayer and no will power, which will succeed? Think you all the prayer in the world can make a musician? or an electrician, or a mechanical engineer? It takes prayer plus performance, and performance [96] is always based upon affirmation–“I am, I can.” These are the prayers in Divine Science. They are the moral affirmations of our divine possibilities.

Let us affirm our divinity. Let us pray without ceasing. Let us daily affirm our spirituality, our strength, our life, our power to succeed. Let us not exist in the sense of limitation, but rise above it, rise above it by the all-conquering consciousness of our unity with God.

Chapter 5

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New Thoughts on Old Doctrines
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