Why Pray and Forgive?
By Bharata Wingham
For many the question of “Why bother to pray?” is a valid one. For too many the process of prayer is a cloudy and mysterious one. There is a question of whether it is of any use. If God has not heard all the prayers offered up over the millennia to end disease, poverty, war, starvation and so on, why would my prayer or yours, added to all these, make any real difference?
Surely, if there is a God, and our prayers are being heard by Him, why have not all these evils been eliminated? The only answer I can arrive at is that perhaps “we ask, or pray amiss.”
“Prayer is the medium of miracles.” (ACIM)
I believe in order to make significant progress on the spiritual path we must learn the art of true prayer.
And it is an art requiring as much practice and dedication as any disciplined skill. One of the ideas that A Course in Miracles (ACIM) puts forth is that we are here to heal and offer healing in our world. And in order to do so mastering the art of true spiritual prayer is essential.
In order to understand the relationship between prayer, miracles and forgiveness we can ask ourselves–“who is it I need to forgive?” In simplest terms, it is always ourselves that we need to forgive first. If we can’t forgive ourselves then we have none to give others.
Everything Comes to You
We order our lives according to what we perceive we “need.” The constant question we must ask is, “Through whose eyes am I perceiving this need?” Our perceived needs are what contribute to or take away from our experiencing peace in our lives.
The Course states that as we offer our forgiveness “…miracles are given back in just the form I need to help me with the problems I perceive,” so that, “Even here [the ego’s illusory world], it [the miracle of forgiveness] takes a form which can be recognized and seen to work” ACIM.
We do not need to pray for specific things. We need only be vigilant and alert to whatever person or circumstance that enters our awareness at each moment, so that we may offer miracles and forgiveness to them. By so doing, the gift of grace that is contained in each miracle is released to take the form of good necessary to bless our lives. “Open the curtain in your practicing by merely letting go all things you think you want. Your trifling treasures put away, and leave a clean and open space within your mind where Christ can come, and offer you the treasure of salvation.” (ACIM)
We do not need to ask for specifics in prayer because true prayer has no aspect within it trying to get God to do something or persuade, or bargain with Him to give us something that He is not already giving. We already have everything.
There is an inmost center in us all
Where Truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in;
This perfect, clear perception, which is Truth,
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Blinds it, and makes all error; and to know,
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.
In truth, while we pray, we leave all our problems and affairs at the door of the altar before we enter. “It is not necessary to tell Him what to do.” (ACIM) We need not attempt to influence God but rather allow God to influence us. Interior silence is the sign of true prayer. A silence that is beyond all words, thoughts and concepts. Beyond all affairs and distractions of this world. In prayer, we reach only for God, only for His Peace. The things, people and affairs of this world are left behind as we “enter our closet to pray.” We go to work to clear and purify ourselves of all blocks and hindrances to the free flow of love between God and ourselves. This is the beginning of true prayer.
As we progress and are successful in dissolving the hindrances of grievances and all forms of unforgiveness in our consciousness, we contact God’s Grace and It takes the form of the Answer to all problems we encounter. Acting much like precipitation or fallout resulting from our prayers; this is the true “rain dance.” When contact with spirit is made, the form of the answer to our difficulty is provided, and not the reverse. As we approach God empty and receptive, we establish a connection and our lives are showered upon by His Mercy. All lack and limitation, sin and disease—all forms of error are dissolved. We are set free of our fears and are reestablished in Grace as Sons of God. The more we practice and experience this release in prayer, the more we realize the nothingness of all error in our perception. We discover the truth that, “There is no order of difficulty in miracles” (ACIM).
No matter what form the error or problem may take, we know that a big illusion is no harder to dispel, in the light of truth, than a small one. As we rise in our understanding of prayer, the less we fear, dread or worry about. We know that the only lack we ever need to correct is the sense of being separate and apart from God. We then discover that the source of all misperceptions is fear, and we immediately know the solution is to reestablish contact with Him through prayer, “the medium of miracles.”
The only prayer, in this sense of asking for anything, is to ask for our forgiveness to be realized. Then we are able to offer a miracle of peace to all our brothers. This is the mystical meaning of Jesus’ words in the New Testament, “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and all things will be added unto you.”