Joseph J. Weed
There is probably no religious practice so generally accepted yet so little understood as prayer. Nearly everyone will tell you he has received answers to prayers. Regardless of caste, nationality, color or creed all men have experienced that definite sequence of request and fulfillment described as prayer. A man has prayed for money, and the postman has brought him the desired amount ; a woman has prayed for food, and food has been brought to her door. In connection with charitable undertakings especially, there is ample evidence of speedy and liberal response to prayer when in need. On the other hand though, there is also a great deal of evidence of prayers being left unanswered ; of hungry people starving to death, of the child which dies in spite of its parents most passionate appeals to God.
Any study of prayer will reveal many facts which are strange and puzzling. A more or less trivial prayer meets with an answer, while one on an important matter fails ; a simple ailment is relieved, while a prayer poured out to save a beloved life meets with no response. The average devout person will say, "it is the will of God" and question no further, but the esoteric student is not content with this. As Rosicrucian students, we realize that in prayer certain laws are at work, laws which we should be able to discover, identify and understand. So let us now examine what we know of prayer and see what we can learn.
The first thing to do is analyze prayer itself, for this word is used to cover various activities of the consciousness, and prayers cannot be dealt with as if they were all the same. The first level or type of prayer is that which asks for physical aid or material assistance. The most general definition of this type of prayer is one which describes it as a petition placed before a person or being who is presumed to be in a position to grant it. With this goes the assumption that the person or being can grant the petition without sacrifice or effort, and with but little inconvenience to himself. Note that prayer is a petition to a person or being in a position to grant it. We do not say "prayer is a petition to God" although it may well be. Since most such prayers are for some physical or material aid or assistance, very few of them are actually directed to God or First Cause. People are usually a little self-conscious in asking for material benefits and are reluctant to place such a mundane petition before the Highest One. Also over the past two or three thousand years much of the religious teaching has tended to make man fear God and to feel separated from God. Thus God to the vast majority of mankind has become cold and remote, like the president of a large corporation or the head of a large banking institution. Many therefore feel that their prayers will not or cannot reach God and so they direct them to some being or person who seems more accessible and at the same time may be more understanding and tolerant of the human weakness behind the petition.
Thus as far back as we can remember, sailors have prayed to the sea or some entity they conceived of as the God of the Sea. They have prayed for a safe and speedy passage, or for a full catch of fish, or for rescue in a storm. They have also prayed to the winds and to Aeolus the wind god. As recently as last June (1959) in a race of sailing vessels from California to Hawaii, the crew of one boat at a certain time in the voyage deemed most propitious, sacrificed three chickens to the gods of the sea. These were not superstitious south sea natives but wealthy American businessmen and sportsmen. The fact that their boat eventually won has no bearing on the point made here, which is that this was done in all seriousness and represents a form of prayer.
In most religions we find prayers being offered more often to certain holy ones or certain saints than to God Himself. Years ago an unscrupulous priesthood encouraged this human tendency because by it their own incomes were increased. History tells how the priests of Egypt called for a return to the "Old Gods after Amenhotep had proclaimed there was but one Supreme Being. This was not only a political device to regain temporal power but it was also a direct effort to obtain more money. For by multiplying the gods, the gifts multiplied as well. Today in India and China the devout pray to Buddha, in Russia Saint Sergius, in Italy Saint Anthony and in this country Saint Theresa, the Little Flower, as well as to members of the Holy Family, Saint Joseph, the Blessed Mother Mary, and Jesus. Actually there are hundreds of beings in all religions to whom petitions and prayers are daily addressed in the hope that they will recognize the justice and fairness of the request, understand and sympathize with the motives of the petitioner, and use their own power or influence to help provide the material advantages asked for.
Thus we see that in the first kind of prayer, which is prayer for physical or material benefit, the petitions are sometimes directed to God, but far more often to some other entity or person whom the petitioner believes is in a position to grant his request and may be persuaded to do so. If we probe the mind and ask, "Why did you pray to Saint Anthony and not directly to God ?" We find that he feels "Saint Anthony was poor once and can understand how much I need this money." And if we ask another, "Why have you prayed to the Mother Mary instead of to God," the answer comes, "Mother Mary is a woman and she will understand what a man cannot."
As we look in to the hearts of these people we begin to realize how childish most prayers are and we begin to understand why it is that some are granted and some are not. Here among the average people of the world, there is no real understanding of prayer. They are like children asking their parents for what they want, sometimes they get it and sometimes not, but they never know why, and they never seem to know enough and have confidence enough to set out to obtain these things for themselves.
One of the primary objectives of the Rosicrucian Order is to teach its students how to lift themselves out of this childish dependence upon others and train them to use the natural laws and principles for themselves. We are thus given exercises in concentration, we are taught how to focus our attention upon an object and hold it there, our memories are trained, and a serious attempt is made to help us rid ourselves of outworn inhibitions and erroneous ideas. We are taught that our appeals for needed material things should be made to the Cosmic, to the Great Storehouse of Supply, and we are shown techniques which when properly employed are designed to tap this Universal Storehouse. Thus our monographs teach us a practical method of prayer for material needs, an adult approach which can be made to work most of the time, once it is properly understood. It is not a hit and miss method. If the requests are unselfish, or at least not too self centered, and their granting will not hurt anyone else, then they will probably manifest on the material plane. The complete detailed instructions are in our monographs but most of us have never trained ourselves to follow them properly. This takes time, energy and effort and very few of us are willing to make these initial sacrifices no matter how rich the later rewards will be.
The next level of prayer is the petition of the seeking one for light, for instruction to aid him in his desire to come closer to God. This comes under the general heading of Aspiration and is almost always directed to God, or the Supreme Being. Many, many people pray in this way. A substantial segment of all humanity feels the yearning of Aspiration at one time or another but at different levels of understanding. One asks for help in moral or spiritual difficulties, another for spiritual growth, a third pleads for help in overcoming temptations, a fourth for strength and insight, and so on. This is going on all the time all over the planet and its chorus is referred to as the "invocative cry of humanity." It is this aspiration, this prayer for spiritual help which brings response from on High in the form of Hierarchical teaching and guidance. It is because this "invocative cry" is today so loud and strong that we have such a vast flow of revelation from Hierarchy all over the world. Our own Rosicrucian Order is one of the major channels of this flow and the thousands of students in the Order are there because they consciously or unconsciously raised their hearts to the Cosmic in aspiration and petitioned for guidance and help.
On this point let me remind you that membership in the Rosicrucian Order is a great privilege, a hard-won privilege that only comes to those who have earned it. You have worked for many lives for the privilege of obtaining the clearly stated teachings and training you are now receiving. Do not hold it lightly ! Study each lesson carefully and practice each exercise. Do not put them aside with the thought that maybe next week you will get to them. This is a privilege to be cherished. You have worked and aspired to it. Do not lose it now.
The third form of prayer is called Meditation. In it the student commands help and assistance from the Cosmic much as in the first form of prayer, but with this essential difference--he acts with sureness and a confidence which is the result of training and previous success. In Meditation the student consciously and deliberately employs the instructions given him in the monographs and directs his efforts for the benefit of struggling humanity. In his silent communion with the Cosmic, an awareness of need comes to him, stirring him to activity. Then by using his powers of imagination, visualization and will in the manner taught, he directs the energies of the Universal Storehouse to the areas and individuals most in need. Thus he begins to contribute to the Realm of Light. He begins to give instead of taking. Gradually, as his contributions become more significant and he begins to attract the attention of Hierarchy, one of the Masters may decide to use him. When this happens, he is put on probation and when found ready accepted to the Master's Ashram as a disciple. Thus through prayer, aspiration, meditation and unselfish effort one may come to be accepted as a co-worker. That you may all achieve this dignity is my most earnest prayer for you today.
Joseph J. Weed
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A Rosicrucian Speaks
Joseph J. Weed
Copyright, The Chatsworth Press
Last Modified: January 19, 2014