"Maturing in Prayer"
by DR. Susan Nettleton
Prayer is a powerful, dynamic force that can impact our lives and all of our concerns in a practical and real way. Yet for many people prayer is discounted—thought about only as a last resort, when life pushes us to an instinctual level of helplessness, and even then we're not sure whether or not it does any good. Much of the confusion about prayer clears up though when we look at it as we do other faculties of the human being, seen in the context of our evolving understanding, maturity, and culture.
We begin with a childlike view that we must pray to gain favor with a human-like God, outside ourselves, who will bless us if we flatter, curse and punish us if we displease. As we mature, our idea of God becomes less human-like. Prayer can become a ritualized path of invoking the Great Principle of Life, drawing on its power, trying to tap and use supernatural forces. Then comes the understanding that we can never be separate from the essential Goodness of Life; that The Absolute is always pouring Itself out to us as unlimited, unceasing Good. Prayer becomes a tool that changes us, not God, so that we are open to the Reality of Good, of Life, of Health and Supply, freely given.
Finally, prayer can culminate in the silent, mystical revelation that God is all. Then we can say with the mystic (Ruysbroeck), "God in the depths of us receives God who comes to us: it is God contemplating God." We simply are never apart from the Source of Life; but we can, consciously or unconsciously, believe ourselves to be ... we can become confused by the vast range of experiences in the world and all its ideas— that we are unworthy, that God is far away and unresponsive, or perhaps even powerless to act in the material world. Such beliefs can keep us from experiencing answered prayer. We can though choose to establish a conscious, positive, confident connection to the outpouring of Good. Changing our lives through prayer involves changing thoughts, emotional responses and behavior, so that we open to both the spiritual resources within us and the transcendent creative power of God.