Paper 91 The Evolution of Prayer Page 998
In all your praying be fair; do not expect God to show partiality, to love you more than his other children, your friends, neighbors, even enemies. But the prayer of the natural or evolved religions is not at first ethical, as it is in the later revealed religions. All praying, whether individual or communal, may be either egoistic or altruistic. That is, the prayer may be centered upon the self or upon others. When the prayer seeks nothing for the one who prays nor anything for his fellows, then such attitudes of the soul tend to the levels of true worship. Egoistic prayers involve confessions and petitions and often consist in requests for material favors. Prayer is somewhat more ethical when it deals with forgiveness and seeks wisdom for enhanced self-control.
While the nonselfish type of prayer is strengthening and comforting, materialistic praying is destined to bring disappointment and disillusionment as advancing scientific discoveries demonstrate that man lives in a physical universe of law and order. The childhood of an individual or a race is characterized by primitive, selfish, and materialistic praying. And, to a certain extent, all such petitions are efficacious in that they unvaryingly lead to those efforts and exertions which are contributory to achieving the answers to such prayers. The real prayer of faith always contributes to the augmentation of the technique of living, even if such petitions are not worthy of spiritual recognition. But the spiritually advanced person should exercise great caution in attempting to discourage the primitive or immature mind regarding such prayers.
Remember, even if prayer does not change God, it very often effects great and lasting changes in the one who prays in faith and confident expectation. Prayer has been the ancestor of much peace of mind, cheerfulness, calmness, courage, self-mastery, and fair-mindedness in the men and women of the evolving races.
5. SOCIAL REPERCUSSIONS OF PRAYER
In ancestor worship, prayer leads to the cultivation of ancestral ideals. But prayer, as a feature of Deity worship, transcends all other such practices since it leads to the cultivation of divine ideals. As the concept of the alter ego of prayer becomes supreme and divine, so are man's ideals accordingly elevated from mere human toward supernal and divine levels, and the result of all such praying is the enhancement of human character and the profound unification of human personality.
But prayer need not always be individual. Group or congregational praying is very effective in that it is highly socializing in its repercussions. When a group engages in community prayer for moral enhancement and spiritual uplift, such devotions are reactive upon the individuals composing the group; they are all made better because of participation. Even a whole city or an entire nation can be helped by such prayer devotions. Confession, repentance, and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations, and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of valorous achievement.
If you truly desire to overcome the habit of criticizing some friend, the quickest and surest way of achieving such a change of attitude is to establish the habit of praying for that person every day of your life. But the social repercussions of such prayers are dependent largely on two conditions:
1. The person who is prayed for should know that he is being prayed for.