ACIM Reading for November 26
Supplement: The Song of Prayer
1.- IV. Praying With Others
1. Until the second level at least begins, one cannot share in prayer. For until that point, each one must ask for different things. But once the need to hold the other as an enemy has been questioned, and the reason for doing so has been recognized if only for an instant, it becomes possible to join in prayer. Enemies do not share a goal. It is in this their enmity is kept. Their separate wishes are their arsenals; their fortresses in hate. The key to rising further still in prayer lies in this simple thought; this change of mind:
We go together, you and I.
2. Now it is possible to help in prayer, and so reach up yourself. This step begins the quicker ascent, but there are still many lessons to learn. The way is open, and hope is justified. Yet it is likely at first that what is asked for even by those who join in prayer is not the goal that prayer should truly seek. Even together you may ask for things, and thus set up but an illusion of a goal you share. You may ask together for specifics, and not realize that you are asking for effects without the cause. And this you cannot have. For no one can receive effects alone, asking a cause from which they do not come to offer them to him.
3. Even the joining, then, is not enough, if those who pray together do not ask, before all else, what is the Will of God. From this Cause only can the answer come in which are all specifics satisfied; all separate wishes unified in one. Prayer for specifics always asks to have the past repeated in some way. What was enjoyed before, or seemed to be; what was another’s and he seemed to love,–all these are but illusions from the past. The aim of prayer is to release the present from its chains of past illusions; to let it be a freely chosen remedy from every choice that stood for a mistake. What prayer can offer now so far exceeds all that you asked before that it is pitiful to be content with less.
4. You have chosen a newborn chance each time you pray. And would you stifle and imprison it in ancient prisons, when the chance has come to free yourself from all of them at once? Do not restrict your asking. Prayer can bring the peace of God. What time-bound thing can give you more than this, in just the little space that lasts until it crumbles into dust?
ACIM Workbook Lesson for November 26
I will not hurt myself again today.
Let us this day accept forgiveness as our only function. Why should we attack our minds, and give them images of pain? Why should we teach them they are powerless, when God holds out His power and His Love, and bids them take what is already theirs? The mind that is made willing to accept God’s gifts has been restored to spirit, and extends its freedom and its joy, as is the Will of God united with its own. The Self which God created cannot sin, and therefore cannot suffer. Let us choose today that He be our Identity, and thus escape forever from all things the dream of fear appears to offer us.
Father, Your Son can not be hurt. And if we think we suffer, we but fail to know our one Identity we share with You. We would return to It today, to be made free forever from all our mistakes, and to be saved from what we thought we were.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #215: The Song of Prayer, p. 6, says that praying for material things is not what prayer is. This is only a call for hiding our guilt and a call for enemy (our own). Then is the correct way of praying a prayer of gratitude only? How do we deal with our internal desires? If our only goal is knowing God, how do I pray? Should I be in silence? Praying with others is then both looking to God? How do I deal with wishful thinking?
A: This beautiful scribed piece, The Song of Prayer, came in response to the way in which students of A Course in Miracles were using the Course. Many students thought that the Course was telling them to ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to heal their bodies, fix things, solve problems in the world, and get them what they wanted. So Jesus teaches us in The Song of Prayer what true prayer is. He tells us, first, that it is not wrong to ask for material things; and in fact, as long as we think we are individuals living in the world, we cannot avoid praying that way (1.I.2:3). Prayer, he says, is like a ladder that we are climbing, and as we make our way up, our prayer will take a different form, because our needs will change. We will have less and less guilt as we practice forgiveness, and “without guilt there is no scarcity. The sinless have no needs” (1.I.3:5,6). Thus, at the top of the ladder — when we are advanced teachers of God — we will not experience lack of any kind, we will not perceive separation, and therefore our prayer will be just a song of gratitude. But that is at the top of the ladder.
On the lower rungs of the ladder, we experience all kinds of needs and desires. That is normal. We need to be gentle about that and not deny them. If we are honest, and we acknowledge that they are coming from a faulty perception of ourselves, we will not be held back by them. Asking for specifics is not wrong; and feeling guilty about the fact that we have needs and desires is never helpful, nor is fighting against them. We need only say “That is where I am right now; and when I am less fearful, I will allow more love to come in, and I will not experience lack or scarcity.” It is so important to remember that this is not a course in sacrifice or asceticism. This is a slow process, a gentle one, and we do not jump from the bottom of the ladder right up to the top. There are many steps in between, and if we are doing the best we can wherever we are, nothing more is ever asked of us. As we practice forgiveness, the form of our prayer will change of itself.
Our prayer on the lower rungs is always to ourselves, that we would ask the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit to look gently and without judgment at our ego thoughts, and to see our interests as shared with everyone else’s. When we have “enemies,” we have already seen our interests as separate from, and in conflict with, others. That is when we need to ask for help to have our own minds be healed through forgiveness. When our need to have an enemy is recognized and then healed, we will have advanced closer to our true state of oneness, and then praying with someone will simply be a joyous acknowledgment of our Oneness as Christ, and the Oneness of Christ and God. Asking-out-of-need will no longer have any meaning.
Q #388: I have been thinking and meditating a lot on the concept of prayer. It seems to me that the only thing we can do in prayer is to give thanks. Because God does not and cannot enter the human form, we cannot ask for anything, but it seems that many people say that they prayed and God did this or that for them and thus their “miracles.” What happens here in these instances? Tell me more about prayer. I understand it seems silly to ask God to do what is already being done. What would Jesus say?
A: “The Song of Prayer” pamphlet may answer many of your questions regarding prayer. It describes different levels or steps, and uses the image of a ladder reaching up to God. The prayer you describe, whereby people ask for certain “things” (material, psychological, or emotional) for themselves or others, is at the bottom of the ladder. It is a form of magic, in that it seems that someone or something outside (in this case, God), granted a wish. What actually takes place is a process in the mind. A person wants something and uses the power of the mind to obtain it. But, because the person is unaware or afraid of the power of their mind, it appears that a petition is made and then granted by God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. This is then called a “miracle.” As you may know, the miracle A Course in Miracles teaches (which is a change in perception), has nothing to do with anything external. Since the Course is teaching us that we do in fact have a mind and that it has the power to choose, it certainly would not want us to think that God grants prayers in the way described above. It tells us that true prayer is the prayer of the heart, and it is always answered because in the dream we have and experience anything we truly desire. A very important principle of the thought system of A Course in Miracles explains this: “There is no world apart from what you wish, and herein lies your ultimate release. Change but your mind on what you want to see, and all the world must change accordingly. Ideas leave not their source”(W.pI.132.5:1,2,3).
The simple prayer of the Course then would be our willingness to change our minds. All of our efforts in practicing and applying the teachings of the Course — forgiveness, letting go of grievances, paying attention to our thoughts and beliefs, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance to have them transformed, remembering our goal as often as we can — is the form our prayer takes. It is the expression of our willingness to accept the healing of our minds, the desire of our hearts, as we look honestly at all the forms our resistance and opposition take in our interactions and pursuits throughout the day. This prayer will eventually lead to the awareness of what we truly want, the top of the ladder of prayer when: “You have understood that you forgive and pray but for yourself. And in this understanding you are healed. In prayer you have united with your Source, and understood that you have never left. This level cannot be attained until there is no hatred in your heart, and no desire to attack the Son of God” (S.3.IV.4:3,4,5,).