THE Lord’s Prayer was wisely constructed by Jesus with certain very clear messages in mind. That is why, of all his teachings, it is by far the best known, and the most often quoted. It is, indeed, the one common denominator of all the Christian churches. Every one of them, without exception, uses the Lord’s Prayer;
Understand the deeper meaning of the messages of the Lord’s Prayer.
The Prayer is a carefully constructed organic whole. Many people rattle through it like parrots, forgetful of the warning that Jesus gave us against vain repetitions, and, of course, no one really benefits from that sort of thing.
The Great Prayer is a compact formula for the development of the soul. It is designed with the utmost care for that specific purpose; so that those who use it regularly, with understanding, will experience a real change of soul. The progress of this change, is referred in the Christian Canonical Bible as being “born again”. It is the change of soul that matters. The mere acquisition of fresh knowledge received intellectually makes no change in the soul. The Lord’s Prayer is especially designed to bring this change.
I put this challenged to you .. The more you analyze the Lord’s Prayer, the more you may discover it to be a wonderful revelation which meets your current need. It not only provides a rapid spiritual development when you are ready for it, but in its superficial meaning it supplies you with what you need at the moment, if you internalize the Prayer sincerely.
This greatest of all prayers was designed with still another purpose in view, that is just as important. I think, Jesus foresaw that, as the centuries went by, his simple, primitive teaching would gradually become overlain by all sorts of external things which really have nothing whatever to do with it. He foresaw that people who had never known him, relying, quite sincerely, on their own limited intellects, would build up theologies and doctrinal systems, obscuring the direct simplicity of the spiritual message, and actually erecting a wall between God and man. He designed his Prayer in such a way that it would pass safely through those ages without being tampered with. He arranged it with great skill, so that it could not be twisted or distorted, or adapted to any man-made system; so that, in fact, it would carry the whole Christ Message within it, and yet not have anything on the surface to attract the attention of the restless, managing type of person. So it has turned out that, through all the changes and chances of Christian history, this Prayer has come through to us virtually uncorrupted and unspoiled.
The first thing that you will notice is that the Prayer naturally falls into seven clauses. This is very characteristic of the tradition of that era. Seven symbolizes individual completeness, the perfection of the individual soul, just as the number twelve in the same convention stands for corporate completeness. In practical use, we often find an eighth clause added—”Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory“— but this, though in itself an excellent affirmation, is not really a part of the Prayer.
The seven clauses contain everything that is necessary for the nourishment of the soul. Start with the first clause:
This simple statement in itself constitutes a definite and complete system of theology. It fixes clearly and distinctly the nature and character of God. It sums up the Truth of His Being. It tells you what you need to know about God, and about yourself, and about your neighbor. Anything that is added to this can only be by way of commentary, which may likely complicate and obscure the true meaning of the text. Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “My religion is summed up in the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer”
Notice the simple, clear-cut, definite statement— “Our Father.” In this clause Jesus lays down once and for all that the relationship between God and man is that of father and child. This cuts out any possibility that the Deity could be the relentless and cruel tyrant that is often pictured by religious theology. Jesus says definitely that the relationship is that of parent and child; not a distant authority dealing with poor slaves, but parent and child. Now we all know perfectly well that men and women, however short they may fall in other respects, nearly always do the best they can for their children. Unfortunately, cruel and wicked parents do exist, but they are so unusual as to make headlines in the news. The vast majority of men and women give their best effort in dealing with their children. Speaking of the same truth elsewhere, Jesus said: “If you, who are so full of evil, nevertheless do your best for your children, how much more will God, who is altogether good, do for you“; and so he begins his Prayer by establishing the character of God as that of the perfect Father dealing with His children.
Note that this clause which fixes the nature of God, at the same time fixes the nature of man, because if man is the offspring of God, he must inherit the nature of God, since the nature of the offspring is invariably similar to that of the parent. It is a cosmic law that like begets like. It is not possible that a rosebush should produce lilies, or that a cow should give birth to a pig. The offspring is and must be of the same nature as the parent; so the unmistakable conclusion is … since God is Divine Spirit, man must essentially have the seed of the Divine Spirit, even if it is not obvious at first.
Pause here for a moment and try to realize what a tremendous step forward you are taking in appreciating the teaching of Jesus on this point. Can you see that at a single blow it swept away the vast majority of all the old theology, with its avenging God, its chosen and favored individuals, its eternal hell fire, and all the other horrible paraphernalia of man’s diseased and terrified imagination. God exists— and the Eternal, All-Powerful, All-Present God is the loving Father of mankind.
If you meditate on this fact, until you had some degree of understanding of what it really means, you will experience a profound change in you mindset and many sources of confusion and anxiety will disappear. The underlying cause of all trouble is fear. If only you could realize to some extent that Omnipotent Wisdom of your living, loving Father, most of your fears would go. If you could realize it completely, every negative thing in your life would vanish away, and you would demonstrate perfection in every phase. Now you see the object that Jesus had in mind when he placed this clause first.
Next, notice that the Prayer says, not “My Father,” but “Our Father,” and this indicates, without a doubt, the truth of the brotherhood of man. It forces you to realize at the very beginning that all mankind, all people are indeed brothers and sisters, the children of one Father; and that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither chosen nor unchosen,” because all people are brothers and sisters.
Here Jesus, in making his second point, ends all the nonsense about a “chosen race,” about the spiritual superiority of any one group of human beings over any other group. He cuts away the illusion that the members of any nation, or race, or territory, or group, or class, or colour, are, in the sight of God, superior to any other group. A belief in the superiority of one’s own particular group, or “herd,” as the psychologists call it, is an illusion. In the teaching of Jesus it has no place. He teaches that the thing that places any person is the spiritual condition of his/her own individual soul, and that as long as she is on the spiritual path it makes no difference at all to what group he/she belongs or does not belong.
The final point is the implied command that we are to pray not only for ourselves but for all mankind. Every student of Truth should hold the thought of the Truth of Being for the whole human race for at least a moment each day, since none of us lives to himself nor dies to himself; for indeed we are all truly—and in a much more literal sense than people are aware— part of one Body.
Now we begin to see how very much more than appears on the surface is contained in those simple words “Our Father.” Simple—you could almost say innocent—, Jesus has concealed within these words a spiritual explosive that will ultimately destroy every man-made system that holds the human race in bondage.
Which Art in Heaven
Having clearly established the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, Jesus next goes on to elaborate on the nature of God, and to describe the fundamental facts of existence. Having shown that God and man are parent and child, he goes on to outline the role of each in the grand scheme of things. He explains that it is the nature of God to be in heaven, and of man to be on earth, because God is Spirit , original Cause of all that exists, and man is physical manifestation. Cause cannot be result, and result cannot be cause, Be careful not to confuse the two things. Here heaven stands for God or Cause, because in religious language heaven is the term for the Presence of God. The word “earth” means result, (or manifestation), and man’s function is to manifest or express God, or Cause. In other words, God is the Infinite and Perfect Cause of all things; but Cause has to be expressed, and God expresses Himself through His Creation. Man’s ultimate purpose is to express God in all sorts of glorious and wonderful ways. Some of this expression we see as his surroundings; first his physical body, which is really only the most intimate part of his embodiment; then his home;his work; his recreation; in other words, his whole expression. To “express” means to press outwards, or bring into sight that which already exists implicitly. Every feature of your life is really a manifestation or expression of something in your soul.
Some of these points may seem at first to be a little abstract; but since it is misunderstandings about the relationship of God and man that often lead to our difficulties, it is well worth it to correctly understand that relationship. Trying to have manifestation without Cause is atheism and materialism, and we know where they lead. Trying to have Cause without manifestation leads you to think of yourself as your own personal God, and this just ends in New Age illusion and a kind of paralysis of expression… a loss of purpose for expressing yourself.
The important thing to realize is that God is in heaven (the all pervasive omnipresence) and man on earth (the individualized presence), and that each has his own role in the scheme of things. Although they are ultimately One Whole (because of God’s omnipresence), they are not one-and-the-same. Jesus establishes this point carefully when he says, “Our Father which art in heaven.”
Hallowed Be Thy Name
In the Bible, as elsewhere, the “name” of anything means the essential nature or character of that thing, and so, when we are told what the name of God is, we are told what His nature is, and His name or nature, Jesus says, is “hallowed.” Now what does the word “hallowed” mean? Well, if you trace the derivation back into Old English, you will discover a very interesting and significant fact. The word “hallowed” has the same meaning as “holy”, “whole”, “wholesome” and “heal” or “healed”; so we see that the nature of God is no merely worthy of our reverence and respect, but is complete and perfect in its entirety.
This conclusion leads to some very remarkable consequences. Since the effect/result (Man) is essentially a reflection or template of the original Cause or Source — God (referred to in the Christian Canonical Scriptures as ‘God having made Man in His own image’), people must be similar in their nature to the Original Source (God), and so, because the nature of God, is hallowed, everything that follows from that Cause must be hallowed or perfect too. Just as a rosebush cannot produce lilies, so God cannot cause or send anything but perfect good. As the Christian Canonical Scriptures say, “The same fountain cannot send forth both sweet and bitter water.” From this it follows that God cannot, as people sometimes think, send sickness or trouble, or accidents—much less death—for these things are unlike His nature.
“Hallowed be thy name” means “Thy nature is altogether good, and Thou art the author only of perfect good.”
If you think that God has sent any of your problems to you, no matter how good a reason you think God may have had to do that, you are giving power to your troubles, and this makes it very difficult to get rid of them.
Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done in Earth as it is in Heaven
So, since you are a manifestation or expression of God (made in His own image) you have a limitless destiny ahead of you. Your purpose is to express, in concrete, definite form, the abstract ideas originating from God , and in order to do this, you must have creative power. If you did not have creative power, you would be merely a machine through which God worked—a robot. But you are NOT a robot; you are an individualized consciousness. God individualizes Himself in countless numbers of distinct focal points of consciousnesses, each one totally unique; and therefore each individual is a distinct way of knowing the universe, each a distinct experience.
Notice carefully that the word “individual” is rooted in the word undivided. Your consciousness is distinct from God and from all others, yet none of us are completely independent and separated from each other because we need each other to truly live. So in the same manner we are really not independent from God, we are in fact in God and God is in us (John 14:20). How can this be? How can two things be one, and yet not one and the same? The answer is that in matter, which is finite, they cannot; but in Spirit, which is infinite, they can. With our present limited, three-dimensional consciousness, we cannot see this; but intuitively we can understand it through prayer and meditation. If God did not individualize Himself, there would be only one experience; as it is, there are as many experiences as there are individuals to form them through thinking.
“Thy kingdom come” means that it is our duty to be ever occupied in helping to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. That is to say, our work is to bring more and more of God’s ideas into concrete manifestation.
“God has a plan for every person, and he has one for you,” is quite correct. God planned a splendid career, full of interest, life, and joy, for each, and if our lives are dull, or restricted, or squalid, that is not His fault, but ours (At this point your ego may scream “NO WAY! There are things beyond my control that are not my fault” If that is the case then you may still be on the path of discovering that your chief purpose in life is your spiritual growth and that growth may come through overcoming obstacles. Just like a chick must go through the hard work of breaking the egg shell to gain the strength to live outside of the egg). If only you will patiently seek out the thing God intends you to do, and will do it, you will find that doors will open to you; obstacles in your path will begin to fade in sometimes “mysterious” ways; you will find success in the things you do; you will find that your material needs are met and you will be happy. You will then find that material things are not an indicator of your success , but rather a tool to a greater purpose of furthering your spiritual growth. That is why a person may go through a time where they loose material things they valued. Often during those times is when spiritual growth takes place and the heart is purified, if the heart has not hardened. Then, in time the doors will open again for new opportunities.
There is a true place in life for you, and as you discover it, your sense of fulfillment will be unmistakeable. On the other hand, if you have not yet found your true place you may find a sense of restlessness and unhappiness and unease, no matter what good material things or occupations you may have. Your true place is the one place where you can bring the Kingdom of God into manifestation, and truly say, “Thy kingdom has come.”
People often choose to use their free will in a negative way brought about by wrong thinking which brings troubles. Instead of understanding that it is their essential nature to express God, to be ever about their Father’s business, they try to run their own show, as though they are independent. All troubles arise from just this folly. We abuse our free will, trying to work apart from God; and the very natural result is sickness, poverty, sin, trouble, and death that we find on the physical plane. We must never for a moment try to live for ourselves, or make plans or arrangements without reference to God, or suppose that we can be either happy or successful in the true sense of the word, if we are seeking any other end than to do His Will. Whatever your desire may be, whether it be something concerning your daily work, or your home life, or your inter personal relations, or private plans without God, you are ordering trouble, disappointment, and unhappiness, notwithstanding what the evidence to the contrary may seem to be.
Whereas, if we choose what, we know to be His Will, (through prayer and meditation) then we are insuring for ourselves ultimate success, freedom, and joy, however much self-sacrifice and self-discipline it may involve at the moment. My business and your business is to bring our whole nature as fast as we can into conformity with the Will of God, by constant prayer and unceasing, though un- anxious, watching. “Our wills are ours to make them Thine.” “In His Will is our peace,” said Dante, and the Divine Comedy is really a study in fundamental states of consciousness, the Inferno representing the state of the soul that is endeavoring to live without God, the Paradiso representing the state of the soul that has achieved its conscious unity with the Divine Will, and the Purgatorio the condition of the soul that is struggling to pass from the one state to the other. It was this sublime conflict of the soul that caused the great Augustine to cry from his heart “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Because we are the children of a loving Father, we are entitled to expect that God will provide us fully with everything we need. Children naturally and spontaneously look to their human parents to supply all their wants, and in the same way we should look to God to supply ours.
If you do so, in faith and understanding, you will not look in vain. It is the Will of God that we should all lead healthy, happy lives, full of joyous experience; that we should develop freely and steadily, day by day and week by week, as our pathways unfold more and more towards the perfect day. In order to achieve this purpose we require things like food, clothing, shelter, means of travel, books, and so on; above all, we require freedom; and in the Prayer all these things are included under the heading of ‘bread’.
In other words, bread is not only food in general, but everything needed for a healthy, happy, free, and harmonious life. But in order to obtain these things, you have to internalize that this is an acceptable expectation and recognize that God and God alone is the Source and fountainhead of all your good. Lack of any kind is always traceable to the fact that we have been seeking our supply from some secondary source, instead of from God, Himself, the Author and Giver of life. People think of their supply as coming from certain investments, or from a business, or from an employer, perhaps; But these are merely the channels through which it comes, God being the Source. The number of possible channels is infinite, the Source is One. The particular channel through which you are getting your supply is quite likely to change, because change is the Cosmic Law for manifestation. Stagnation is really death; but as long as you realize that the Source of your supply is the one unchangeable Spirit, all is well. The fading out of one channel will be nothing more than the signal for the opening of another channel. If, on the other hand, like most people, you regard the particular channel as being the source, then when that channel fails, as it is very likely to do, you are left mentally stranded, because you believe that the source has dried up and for practical purposes, on the physical plane, things are as we believe them to be.
If you think of your employment as the source of your income, and for some reason you lose it and you believed that your position is the source of your income, the loss of the position naturally means the loss of that income, and so you have to start looking for another job meanwhile being without apparent supply. Now if you believed through regular daily prayer and meditation that God was your supply, and your job only the particular channel through which it came, then if that channel closes, you have a very different mindset. You fundamentally see God as your source of supply and then things happen and circumstances come where a new channel opens up so the supply can keep flowing. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s a very different way of viewing yourself and your ‘circumstances’ and it has a direct effect on how God’s supply quickly finds a new channel, when an old one dries up. It’s kind of like water in a stream. When a passage way in the stream is blocked, the water level may rise for a while but without a doubt the stream will naturally redirect the water so that a new channel is opened and the water can continue to flow, only now through another channel.
When you think in this fashion, the spiritual forces that are set in motion have direct impact on your mind, thoughts and your physical reality.
When your belief is in God as your supply, then since God cannot change or fail, or fade out, your supply will come from somewhere, and will form its own channel in whatever is the best way.
Likewise a business owner may find himself obliged to close down for some cause outside of his control. If he regards the business or the investment as his source of supply, he will believe his source to have collapsed, and will in consequence be left stranded; whereas, if his reliance is upon God, he will be comparatively indifferent to the channel and so that channel will be easily supplanted by a new one. In short, we have to train ourselves to look to God, Cause, for all that we need, and then the channel, which is entirely a secondary matter, will take care of itself.
In its inner and most important meaning, our daily bread signifies the realization of the Presence of God—an actual sense that God exists not merely in a nominal way, but as the great reality; the sense that He is present with us; and the feeling that because He is God, all-good, all- powerful, all-wise, and all-loving, we have nothing to fear; that we can rely upon Him to take good care of us; that He will supply all that we need to have; teach us all that we need to know; and guide our steps so that we grow in wisdom. This is Emanuel, or God with us; and remember that it absolutely means somehow an actual realization, i.e. some experience in consciousness, not just a theoretical recognition of the fact; not simply talking about God, or thinking about Him.
That is the gist of the whole matter. Realization, which is experience, is the thing that counts. It is realization which marks the progress of the soul. It is realization which guarantees the demonstration. It is realization, as distinct from mere theorizing and fine words, which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This is the Bread of Life, the hidden manna, and when you have that, you have all things in deed and in truth. Jesus several times refers to this experience as bread because it is the nourishment of the soul, just as physical food is the nourishment of the physical body. Supplied with this food, the soul grows strong, gradually developing to adult stature. Without it, the soul being deprived of essential nourishment, is naturally stunted and crippled.
The common mistake, is to suppose that a formal recognition of God is enough, or that talking about Divine things, perhaps talking very poetically, is the same as possessing them; but this is no different than thinking that looking at a tray of food, or discussing the chemical composition of it, is the same thing as actually eating a meal. It is this mistake which is responsible for the fact that people sometimes pray for a thing for years without any tangible result.
If prayer is a force at all, it cannot be possible to pray without something happening.
Understand this, however. You cannot just invoke a realization on demand; it has to come spontaneously as the result of regular daily prayer. To seek realization by will power is the surest way to miss it. Pray regularly and quietly—remember that in all mental work, effort or strain defeats itself—then , when you may least expect it, the realization will come.
Another reason why the food or bread symbol for the experience of the Presence of God is so well suited is the fact nobody can do the eating for you. You must do it for yourself. You can hire somebody to do all sorts of other things for
you; but there is one thing that you absolutely have to do for yourself, and that is eat your own food. In the same way, the realization of the Presence of God is a thing that no one else can do for you. You can and should help others in the overcoming of specific difficulties— “Bear ye one another’s burdens”—but the realization (or making real) of the Presence of God, the “substance” and “evidence,” can, in the nature of things, be had only at firsthand.
In speaking of the “bread of life, Emanuel,” Jesus calls it our daily bread. The reason for this is very fundamental—our contact with God must be a living one. It is our momentary attitude to God which governs our being. “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” The most futile thing in the world is to seek to live upon a past realization. The thing that means spiritual life to you is your realization of God here and now.
Today’s realization, no matter how feeble and poor it may seem, has a million times more power to help you than the most vivid realization of yesterday. Be thankful for yesterday’s experience, knowing that it is with you forever in the change of consciousness which it brought about, but do not lean upon it for a single moment for the need of today. Divine Spirit is constant , and does not change with the ebb and flow of human apprehension. The manna in the desert is the Old Testament symbolic prototype of this. The people wandering in the wilderness were told that they would be supplied with manna from heaven every day, each one always receiving abundant for his needs, but they were on no account to try to save it up for the next day. They were on no account to try to live on yesterday’s food, and when, some of them did try to do so, the result was pestilence or death.
So it is with us. When we seek to live upon yesterday’s realization, we are actually seeking to live in the past, and to live in the past is death.
The art of life is to live in the present moment, and to make that moment as perfect as we can by the realization that we are the instruments and expression of God Himself. The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to make today all that it should be.
Forgive Us Our sins, as We Forgive Them That sin against Us
This clause is the turning point of the Prayer. It is key to freeing the soul. Notice here that Jesus designed this model Prayer so that it covers full scope of souls development in concise clarity. Covers the key essentials for our salvation. Every idea fits into its place with complete harmony. Anything more would be redundant, anything less would make it incomplete. In this section it takes up the critical factor of forgiveness.
Having told us what God is, what man is, how the universe works, how we are to do our own work—the salvation of humanity and of our own souls—he then explains what our true nourishment or supply is, and the way in which we can obtain it; and now he comes to the forgiveness of sins.
The forgiveness of sins is the central problem of life. Sin is a sense of separation from God, and is the major tragedy of human experience. It is, rooted in selfishness. It is essentially an attempt to gain something without consideration that we are part of a greater whole. It is a sense of isolated, self-regarding, personal existence, whereas the Truth of Being is that all is One. Our true selves are at one with God, undivided from Him, expressing His ideas, witnessing to His nature—the dynamic Thoughts of the great I AM Mind. Because we are all one with the great Whole of which we are spiritually a part, it follows that we are one with all men. Just because in Him we live and move and have our being, we are, in the absolute sense, all essentially one.
Evil, sin, the fall of man, in fact, is essentially the attempt to negate this Truth in our thoughts. We try to live apart from God. We try to do without Him. We act as though we had life of our own; as separate minds; as though we could have plans and purposes and interests separate from His. All this, if it were true, would mean that existence is not one and harmonious, but a chaos of competition and strife. It would mean that we are quite separate from our fellow man and could injure
him, rob him, or hurt him, or even destroy him, without any damage to ourselves, and, in fact, that the more we took from other people the more we should have for ourselves. It would mean that the more we considered our own interests, and the more indifferent we were to the welfare of others, the better off we should be. Of course it would then follow naturally that it would benefit others to treat us in the same way, and that accordingly we might expect many of them to do so. Now if this were true, it would mean that the whole universe is only a jungle, and
that sooner or later it must destroy itself by its own inherent weakness and anarchy. But, of course, it is not true, and therein lies the realization of a great Truth and the great joy of life.
Undoubtedly, many people do act as though they believed it to be true, and a great many more, who would be dreadfully shocked if brought face-to-face with that proposition, have, nevertheless, a vague feeling that this must be very much the way things are, even though they, themselves, are personally behaving according to this false notion, but usually unaware of the fact. Now this is the real basis of sin, of re- sentiment, of condemnation, of jealousy, of remorse and related negative consequences of these misguided actions.
This belief in independent and separate existence is the arch sin, and now, in order to make progress to wipe out this misconception, we have to take the knife to this evil thing and cut it out once and for all.
Jesus knew this, and with this definite end in view he inserted at this critical point a precision statement that would be assured to accomplish this desired outcome, without the shadow of a possibility of missing it. He inserted what is nothing less than a pivotal decision clause.
He drafted a declaration which would force us, without any conceivable possibility of escape, evasion, mental reservation, to execute the great sacrament of forgiveness in all its fullness and far-reaching power.
As we repeat the Great Prayer intelligently, considering and meaning what we say, we are suddenly, so to speak, caught up off our feet and grasped as though in a vise, so that we must face this problem—and there is no escape. We must positively and definitely extend forgiveness to everyone to whom it is possible that we can owe forgiveness, namely, to anyone who we think can have injured us in any way. Jesus leaves no room for any possible glossing over of this foundational requirement. He has constructed his Prayer with more skill than any lawyer displayed in the casting of a deed. He has so contrived it that once our attention has been drawn to this matter, we are inevitably obliged either to forgive our enemies in sincerity and truth, or never again to repeat that prayer. It is safe to say that no one who reads this with understanding will ever again be able to use the Lord’s Prayer unless and until he has forgiven. Should you now attempt to repeat it without forgiving, it can safely be predicted that you will not be able to finish it in honesty. This great central clause will stick in your throat.
Notice that Jesus does not say, “Forgive me my trespasses and I will try to forgive others,” or “I will see if it can be done,” or “I will forgive generally, with certain exceptions.” He obliges us to declare that we have actually forgiven, and forgiven all, and he makes our claim to our own forgiveness to depend upon that. Who is there who has grace enough to say his prayers at all, who does not long for the forgiveness or cancellation of his own mistakes and faults. Who would be so insane as to want seek the Kingdom of God without desiring to be relieved
of his own sense of guilt. Nobody. And so we see that we are trapped in the inescapable position that we cannot demand our own release before we have released our brother.
The forgiveness of others is the foyer of Heaven, and Jesus knew it, and has led us to the door. You must forgive everyone who has ever hurt you if you want to be forgiven yourself; that is the long and the short of it. You have to get rid of all resentment and condemnation of others, and, not least, of self-condemnation and remorse. You have to forgive others, and having discontinued your own mistakes, you have to accept the forgiveness of God for them too, or you cannot make any progress.
You have to forgive yourself, but you cannot forgive yourself sincerely until you have forgiven others first. Having forgiven others, you must be prepared to forgive yourself too, for to refuse to forgive yourself is only spiritual pride. “And by that sin fell the angels.” This point cannot be made too clear; The act of forgiving is an unconditional requirement.
There are few people in the world who have not at some time or other been hurt, really hurt, by someone else; or been disappointed, or injured, or deceived, or misled. Such things sink into the memory where they usually cause inflamed and festering wounds, and there is only one remedy—they have to be plucked out and thrown away. And the one and only way to do that is by forgiveness.
Of course, nothing in all the world is easier than to forgive people who have not hurt you very much. Nothing is easier than to rise above a little insignificant offence. Anybody would be willing to do this, but what sowing and reaping requires of us is that we forgive not only these little offences, but the very things that are so hard to forgive that at first it seems impossible to do it at all. The despairing heart cries, “It is too much to ask. That thing meant too much to me. It is impossible. I just can’t forgive it.” But the Lord’s Prayer makes our own forgiveness from God, which means our escape from guilt and limitation, dependent upon just this exact thing. There is no escape from this, and so forgiveness there must be, no matter how deeply you may have been injured, or how terribly may have suffered. It must be done.
If your prayers are not being answered, search your consciousness and see if there is not someone whom you have yet to forgive. Find out if there is not some old thing about which you are very resentful. Search and see if you are not really holding a grudge (it may be camouflaged in some self-righteous way) against some individual, or some body of people, a nation, a race, a social class, some religious movement of which you disapprove perhaps, a political party, or …. ____ you fill in the blank. If you are doing that, then you have an act of forgiveness to perform, and when you have done it, you will probably open yourself for new insight and new levels of understanding of yourself and of God. If you cannot forgive at this point, you will have to wait for more spiritual growth until you can, and you will have to postpone finishing your sincere recital of the Lord’s Prayer too, or you may by default leave the impression on yourself that you don’t desire the forgiveness of God.
Setting others free means setting yourself free, because resentment is really a form of attachment. It is a Cosmic Truth that it takes two to make a prisoner; the prisoner—and a prosecutor. There is no such thing as being a prisoner on one’s own account. Every prisoner must have a prosecutor, and the prosecutor is as much a prisoner as the one being imprisoned. When you hold resentment against anyone, you are bound to that person by a cosmic link, a real, though mental chain. You are tied by a cosmic tie to the thing that you hate.
The one person perhaps in the whole world whom you most dislike is the very one to whom you are attaching yourself by a hook that is stronger than steel. Is this what you wish? Is this the condition in which you desire to go on living? Remember, you belong to the thing with which you are linked in thought, and at some time or other, if that tie endures, the object of your resentment will be
drawn again into your life, perhaps to work further havoc. Do you think that you can afford this? Of course, no one can; so it is clear what needs to be done. You must cut all such ties, by a clear and spiritual act of forgiveness. You must loose it and let it go. By forgiveness you set yourself free; you save your soul.
And because the law of love works alike for one and all, you help to save that person’s soul too, making it just so much easier for that person to become what he/she ought to be.
But how in the world, is the magic act of forgiveness to be accomplished, when hurt goes so deep, especially if it is at a subconscious level, You may have long wished with all your heart that you could forgive, you have nevertheless found it impossible; You may have tried and tried to forgive, but have found the task beyond you.
In actuality, the technique of forgiveness is simple enough, and not very difficult to manage when you understand how. The only thing that is essential is willingness to forgive. Provided you desire to forgive the offender, the greater part of the work is already done. People have been under the erroneous impression that to forgive a person means that you have to compel yourself to like him. Fortunately this is not the case—we are not called to like anyone whom we don’t find ourselves liking spontaneously, and, in fact it is virtually impossible to like people on command. You can no more like on command than you can hold the winds in your fist, and if you endeavor to coerce yourself into doing that, you will end up disliking or hating the offender more than ever.
People used to think that when someone had hurt them very much, it was their duty, as good Christians, to pump up, as it were, a feeling of liking for that person; and since that is basically impossible, they will have suffered a great deal of distress, and ended in failure, and a resulting sense of sinfulness. We are not obliged to like anyone; but we are under a binding obligation to love everyone, love, or charity as the Bible calls it, meaning a vivid sense of impersonal good will. This has nothing directly to do with the feelings, though it is always followed, sooner or later, by a genuine feeling of peace and happiness.
The method of forgiving is this:
Get by yourself and become quiet. Use any meditative prayer mode that are familiar with, or read a passage of Scripture that has special meaning for you. Then quietly say, “I fully and freely forgive X (mentioning the name of the offender); I loose him/her and let him/her go. I completely forgive everything related to this matter. As far as I am concerned, it is finished forever. I cast the burden of resentment on the Christ within me. The target of my resentment is free now, and I am free too. I send well wishes. That incident is finished. The Christ Truth has set us both free. I thank God.”
Then get up and go about your day. On no account do you need to repeat this act of forgiveness, because you have done it once and for all, and to do it a second time would be make your first act of no effect. Afterwards, whenever the memory of the offender or the offence happens to come into your mind, bless the delinquent briefly and dismiss the thought. Do this, however many times the thought may come back. After some time it will return less and less often, until you forget it altogether. At some point in the future, the old thoughts may come back to memory again, but you will find that now bitterness and resentment have disappeared, and you are both free with the perfect freedom of the children of God. Your forgiveness is complete. You will experience a wonderful joy in the realization of this.
Everybody should practice general forgiveness every day as a matter of course. When you say your daily prayers, issue a general amnesty, forgiving everyone who may have injured you in any way, and on no account particularize. Simply say: “I freely forgive everyone.” Then in the course of” the day, should the thought of grievance or resentment come up, bless the offender briefly and dismiss the thought. Likewise, ask God to forgive you of any offences you may have caused and consider it a fact that you are forgiven immediately, then if there is anything that you know you need to do to make restitution as may be revealed to you by the Spirit, take action on it so the matter can be closed.
The result of this will be that very soon you will find yourself cleared of all resentment and condemnation, and the effect upon your happiness, your bodily health, and your general life will be nothing less than revolutionary.
Lead Us Not into Temptation But Deliver Us from Evil
This clause has probably caused more difficulty than any other part of the Prayer. For many earnest people it has been a real stumbling block. They feel, and rightly, that God could not lead anyone into temptation or into evil in any circumstances, and so these words do not ring true.
For this reason, a number of attempts have been made to recast the wording. People have felt that Jesus could not have said what he is represented to have said, and so they look about for some phrasing which they think would be more in characteristic with the general tone of his teaching. All this, however, is unnecessary. The Prayer in the form it is gives a correct sense of the true inner meaning. Remember that the Lord’s Prayer covers the whole of the spiritual life. Although it is condensed , it is never the less a complete manual for the development of the soul, and Jesus knew only too well the subtle perils and difficulties that can and do beset the soul when once the preliminary stages of spiritual development have passed. Because those who are yet at a comparatively early stage of development do not necessarily experience this, they may jump to the conclusion that this clause is not needed.
The facts are these—the more you pray, the more time you spend in meditation and personal spiritual development, the more sensitive you become. And if you spend a great deal of time working on your soul in the right way, you will become very sensitive. This is excellent; but like everything in the universe, it works both ways. The more sensitive and spiritual you become, the more powerful and effective are your prayers, you do better healing, and you advance rapidly. But, for the same reason, you also become susceptible to forms of temptation that simply do not affect those at an earlier stage. You will also find that for ordinary faults, even things that many would consider inconsequential, you will be sharply affected by consequences, and this is well, because it keeps you up to the mark. The seemingly minor transgressions, the “little foxes that spoil the vines,” would fritter away our spiritual power if not promptly dealt with.
No one at this level will be tempted to pick a pocket, or rob a house; but this does not by any means imply that you will not have difficulties.
As we advance, new and powerful temptations await us on the path, temptations to work for self-glory, and self-aggrandizement instead of for God; for personal honors and distinctions, even for disproportionate material gain; temptations to allow personal preferences to dictate when it is a sacred duty to deal with all men in perfect impartiality. Above and beyond all other sins the deadly sin of spiritual pride, truly “the last infirmity of noble mind,” lurks on this road. Many fine souls who have triumphantly surmounted all other testings have fallen into a condition of superiority and self-righteousness that has fallen like a curtain of steel between them and God.
Great knowledge brings great responsibility. Great responsibility betrayed brings serious consequences. Your knowledge of the Truth, however little it may be, is a sacred trust for humanity that must not be violated. While we should never make the mistake of casting our pearls before swine, nor promote the Truth in places where it is not welcome, yet we must do all that we wisely can to spread the true knowledge of God among mankind, that not one of “these little ones” may go hungry through our selfishness or our neglect.
“Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” The ancient writers were so vividly sensible of these dangers that, with their instinct for dramatization, they spoke of the soul as being challenged by various tests as it traversed the upward road. It was as though the traveler were halted at various gates or turnpike bars, and
tested by some ordeal to determine whether he were ready to advance any further. If he succeeded in passing the test, they said, he was allowed to continue upon his way with the blessing of the challenger. If, however, he failed to survive the ordeal, he was forbidden to proceed.
Now, some less experienced souls, eager for rapid advancement, have rashly desired to be subjected immediately to all kinds of tests, and have even looked about, seeking for difficulties to overcome; as though your own personality did not already present quite enough material for anyone to deal with. Forgetting the lesson of our Lord’s own ordeal in the wilderness, forgetting the injunction “Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God,” they have virtually done this very thing, with sad results. And so Jesus has inserted this clause, in which we pray that we may not have to meet anything that is too much for us at the present level of our understanding. And, if we are wise, and work daily, as we should, for wisdom, understanding, purity, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will not end up in a situtation where we do not have the understanding necessary to clear ourselves.
Nothing shall by any means hurt you. Behold I am with you always.
Thine Is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory For Ever and Ever.
This is a wonderful gnomic saying summing up the essential truth of the Omnipresence and the Allness of God. It means that God is indeed All
in All, the doer, the doing, and the deed, and one can say also the spectator. The Kingdom in this sense means all creation, on every plane, for that is the Presence of God—God as manifestation or expression.
The Power, of course, is the Power of God. We know that God is the only power, and so, when we work, as when we pray, it is really God doing it by means of us. Just as the pianist produces his music by means of, or through his fingers, so may mankind be thought of as the fingers of God. His is the Power. If, when you are praying, you hold the thought that it is really God who is working through you, your prayers will gain immeasurably in efficiency. Say, “God is inspiring me.” If, when you have any ordinary thing to do, you hold the thought, “Divine Intelligence is working through me now, ” your awareness will expand and your conditions on every level will improve. Mentally, emotionally, physiologically and even ultimately your physical circumstances are affected.
The wondrous change that comes over you as you gradually realize more and more what the Omnipresence of God really means, transfigures every phase of your life, turning sorrow into joy, age into youth, and dullness into light and life. This is the glory—and the glory which comes is, of course, God’s too. And the bliss you will know in that experience is still God Himself, who experiences that bliss through you.
* * * * * *
Lord’s Prayer has also been written in the affirmative form. In this style, for instance, the clause “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” becomes “Thy kingdom is come, thy will is being done.” These paraphrases are interesting and suggestive, but their importance is not vital. The affirmative form of prayer is often used for healing work, but it is only one form of prayer. Jesus used the invocatory form very often, though not always, and the frequent use of this form is essential to the growth of the soul. It is not to be confused with supplicatory prayer, in which a person begs and whines to God as a slave pleading with his master. That is always wrong.
The highest of all forms of prayer is true contemplation, in which the thought and the thinker become one. This is the unity of the mystic, but it is rarely experienced in the earlier stages. Pray in whatever way you find easiest. This will ensure you progress with little resistance to greater levels of spiritual awareness without being caught up in the mechanics of expressing yourself.
* * * * * *
Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
* * * * * *
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
* * * * * *
Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
* * * * * *