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A Theological Overview of The Urantia Book

Part 6: Prayer and Worship

Contents

  • A. The Distinction between Prayer and Worship and their Relational Aspects
    • 1. Prayer has an element of self or creature interest and concern. Worship is the contemplation of God; it is an end in itself.
      • "Worship is for its own sake; prayer embodies a self or creature interest element; that is the great difference between worship and prayer." [5:3.3]
      • "Prayer is self-reminding -- sublime thinking; worship is self-forgetting -- superthinking." [143:7.7]
    • 2. Prayer may lead to worship and be an aid to worship.
      • "As prayer may be likened to recharging the spiritual batteries of the soul, so worship may be compared to the act of tuning in the soul to catch the universe broadcasts of the infinite spirit of the eternal Father." [144:4.8]
  • B. The Nature and Effect of Prayer
    • 1. The nature of prayer.
      • a. Prayer is communication with God designed to expand insight. [143:7], [168:4.3]
      • b. Prayer is both a sound psychological practise which augments self-realization and an effective spiritual technique to expand the soul. [91:3.4,5], [91:6.3,4], [144:4.8]
      • c. Prayer is not a technique to escape life's difficulties, but a way in which we can learn to face conflict and suffering meaningfully and courageously. Prayer does not change God's mind, but it may change the person praying. [91:8], [144:2], [144:4]
    • 2. The distortion of prayer.
      • a. Primitive and immature prayer attempts to plead or bargain with God for health, wealth, power, or preference.
        • "Early prayer was hardly worship; it was a bargaining petition for health, wealth, and life. And in many respects prayers have not much changed with the passing of the ages." [89:8.8]
        • "Prayer, unless in liaison with the will and actions of the personal spiritual forces and material supervisors of a realm, can have no direct effect upon one's physical environment. While there is a very definite limit to the province of the petitions of prayer, such limits do not equally apply to the faith of those who pray." [91:6.1]
        • "Prayer is not a technique for curing real or organic disease, but it has contributed enormously to the enjoyment of abundant health and to the cure of numerous mental, emotional, and nervous ailments. And even in actual bacterial disease, prayer has many times added to the efficacy of other remedial procedures. Prayer has turned many an irritable and complaining invalid into a paragon of patience and made him an inspiration to all other human sufferers." [91:6.2]
      • b. Prayer cannot be used to circumvent universe laws and the limitations of time and space.
        • "That prayer which is inconsistent with the known and established laws of God is an abomination to the Paradise Deities." [146:2.3]
        • "Prayer may not be employed to avoid the delays of time or to transcend the handicaps of space." [146:2.9]
    • 3. Conditions of effective prayer
      • a. Words are not important to prayer; God responds only to the true and sincere attitudes of the mind and soul.
        • "Words are irrelevant to prayer; they are merely the intellectual channel in which the river of spiritual supplication may chance to flow. The word value of a prayer is purely sutosuggestive in private devotions and sociosuggestive in group devotions. God answers the soul's attitude, not the words." [91:8.12]
      • b. We should pray for divine guidance to solve our human problems, not for some cosmic, miraculous solution. [91:9]
      • c. To pray effectively you must face reality honestly and intelligently, attempt to solve problems by the resources which you have, be dedicated to doing the will of God, and have living faith.
        • "If you would engage ineffective praying, you should bear in mind the laws of prevailing petitions:
          • 1. You must qualify as a potent prayer by sincerely and courageously facing the problems of universe reality. You must possess cosmic stamina.
          • 2. You must have honestly exhausted the human capacity for human adjustment. You must have been industrious.
          • 3. You must surrender every wish of mind and every craving of soul to the transforming embrace of spiritual growth. You must have experienced an enhancement of meanings and an elevation of values.
          • 4. You must make a wholehearted choice of the divine will. You must obliterate the dead center of indecision.
          • 5. You not only recognize the Father's will and choose to do it, but you have effected an unqualified consecration, and a dynamic dedication, to the actual doing of the Father's will.
          • 6. Your prayer will be directed exclusively for divine wisdiom to solve the specific human problems encountered in the Paradise ascension--the attainment of divine perfection.
          • 7. And you must have faith--living faith." [91:9]
        • "Jesus taught that effective prayer must be:
          • Unselfish--not alone for oneself
          • Believing--according to faith
          • Sincere--honest of heart
          • Intelligent--according to light.
          • Trustful--in submissin to the Father's all-wise will." [144:3.8]
      • d. We can learn much by observing the prayer life of Jesus. Prayer encompassed the total expression of his balanced and creative life on our world.
        • "Jesus never prayed as a religious duty. To him prayer was a sincere expression of spiritual attitude, a declaration of soul loyalty, a recital of personal devotion, an expression of thanksgiving, an avoidance of emotional tension, a prevention of conflict, an exaltation of intellection, an ennoblement of desire, a vindication of moral decision, an enrichment of thought, an invigoration of higher inclinations, a consecration of impulse, a clarification of viewpoint, a declaration of faith, a transcendental surrender of will, a sublime assertion of confidence, a revelation of courage, the proclamation of discovery, a confession of supreme devotion, the validation of consecration, a technique for the adjustment of difficulties, and the mighty mobilization of the combined soul powers to withstand all human tendencies toward selfishness, evil, and sin. He lived just such a life of prayerful consecration to the doing of his Father's will and ended his life triumphantly with just such a prayer. The secret of his unparalleled religious life was this consciousness of the presence of God; and he attained it by intelligent prayer and sincere worship--unbroken communion with God--and not by leadings, voices, visions, or extraordinary religious practices." [196:0.10]
    • 4. The answer to prayer
      • a. Only prayers which are rooted in spiritual reality and sustained by faith are answered in the frames of reference of the petitioner. Prayers are answered in terms of true spiritual needs. [146:2]
      • b. We should not attempt to use prayer as a substitute for human ingenuity and action. It cannot be used to escape reality. [91:4]
      • c. Some prayers because of the visionary aspirations and all-encompassing nature can only be fully answered in eternity. [168:4.9]
    • 5. The effect of prayer
      • a. Prayer is a vital and indispensable factor in spiritual growth. Even immature and futile prayers expand the soul's potential. [144:4.2]
        • "But real praying does attain reality. Even when the air currents are ascending, no bird can soar except by outstretched wings. Prayer elevates man because it is a technique of progressing by the utilization of the ascending spiritual currents of the universe. Genuine prayer adds to spiritual growth, modifies attitudes, and yields that satisfaction which comes from communion with divinity. It is a spontaneous outburst of God-consciousness." [91:9]
      • b. Prayer is a major resource for the achievement of human self-realization, effectiveness, and inner peace.
        • "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." [90:2.6]
      • c. Prayer has great social repercussions, and is an antidote to personality isolation. [91:3.7], [91:6.2]
  • C. The Nature and Effect of Worship
    • 1. Primitive forms of worship
      • a. In man's long history he has worshipped almost everything. He has even deified and sainted himself. To the primitive mind fear and worship were virtually synonymous. [See Paper 91]
        • "You must remember that feeling, not thinking, was the guiding and controlling influence in all evolutionary development. To the primitive mind there is little difference between fearing, shunning, honoring, and worshiping." [85:7.2]
      • b. Worship should not be confused with psychic or mystical experience.
        • "The direct communion with one's Thought Adjuster, such as occurred in the later years of Jesus' life in the flesh, should not be confused with these so-called mystical experiences. The factors which contribute to the initiation of mystic communion are indicative of the danger of such psychic states. The mystic status is favored by such things as: physical fatigue, fasting, psychic dissociation, profound aesthetic experiences, vivid sex impulses, fear, anxiety, rage, and wild dancing. Much of the material arising as a result of such preliminary preparation has its origin in the subconscious mind." [100:5.10]
    • 2. Communion with God
      • a. Worship is spiritual communion with God; it is the part identifying with the Whole.
        • "True religoius worship is not a futile monologue of self-deception. Worship is a personal communion with that which is divinely real, with that which is the very source of reality. Man aspires by worship to be better and thereby eventually attains the best." [196:3.19]
      • b. God-consciousness is man's greatest opportunity and challenge.
        • "The great challenge to modern man is to achieve better communication with the divine Monitor that dwells within the human mind. Man's greatest adventure in the flesh consists in the well-balanced and sane effort to advance the borders of self-consciousness out through the dim realms of embryonic soul-consciousness in a wholehearted effort to reach the borderland of spirit-consciousness--contact with the divine presence." [196:3.31]
    • 3. Accompaniments of worship.
      • a. The atmosphere of simple beauty or nature and the structure of appealing ritual can be conducive to worship. [97:10.7], [167:6.6]
      • b. Worship should alternate with service. [143:7]
    • 4. The effect of worship.
      • a. Worship is the most creative activity of man. It renews the mind, stimulates soul growth, eliminates insecurity and personality isolation, and greatly increases the total resources of the individual. [16:7], [100:2], [143:7], [160:1.10,11,12], [160:3.1]
      • b. Worship is ancestor to the highest joys of man.
        • "Worship is the highest privilege and the first duty of all created intelligences. Worship is the conscious and joyous act of recognizing and acknowledging the truth and fact of the intimate and personal relationships of the Creators with their creatures. The quality of worship is determined by the depth of creature perception; and as the knowledge of the infinite character of the Gods progresses, the act of worship becomes increasingly all-encompassing until it eventually attains the glory of the highest experiential delight and the most exquisite pleasure known to created beings." [27:7.7]
  • D. Summary
    • 1. The Urantia Book clarifies the many facets of spiritual ministry which, heretofore, have been only vaguely sensed. The Urantia Book makes the spiritual world conceptually tangible and real, not just a vague, relatively formless mythology.
    • 2. It takes the magic out of prayer and separates psychic and mystical states from worship. At the same time it makes prayer, worship, and service central in religious living. These teachings reinforce what is generally recognized as the best views and practices of prayer and worship in all the major religions of the world.