The Words of Young Oon Kim
Some people spend much time in prolonged contemplation or occult practices in order to develop their extrasensory perception. We want to stay away from this kind of method because we know the goal to be achieved, the direction to go, and a definite schedule to fulfill.
Besides, we are busy people living in a busy world and have much responsibility which denies us the leisure enjoyed by ancient or medieval societies.
However, we need prayer as an important factor in the maintenance of personal and corporate spiritual life and in the development of character.
Some people may say, "God has fixed everything in perfect wisdom and in perfect love. Who am I that I should attempt to alter it? God knows everything. He knows our needs before we ask." This attitude ignores one of the most important facts of life -- that God waits for the cooperation of man. Hence Jesus taught us to ask and seek and knock.
You must have a strong desire in order to ask, and a will to act before you can seek and make positive petition.
Let us remember the two parables Jesus gave concerning prayer. One was about a man who, on the arrival of a late and unexpected guest, obtained bread from a neighbor "because of his importunity" (Luke 11:5-13). The other parable was about a widow who obtained justice from a corrupt official by her persistence in begging his help (Luke 18:1-8). The sleeping neighbor and the unjust judge do not stand for God. It is not God who refuses to answer our prayers. There are hindrances to the granting of prayers and most of these reside in ourselves. Our impatience, our anxiety, our resentment, often our pride, always our lack of faith, and the sheer difference between our will and God's are all difficulties that must be overcome.
So Jesus bids us pray persistently, for there may be much resistance like this to overcome in ourselves. We should never be discouraged by the absence of results. We must never allow appearances to deceive us.
God is omnipotent, but so gentle that He is often present and active without anyone knowing. Prayer works in the Unseen, into which if we could see we.should discover that events are moving faster than we perceive. The results are slow to appear, but the time taken is not lost.
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed." Therefore prayer should be as natural as a baby's first cry demanding its mother's attention. The most sincere cry of the heart, whether it is expressed spontaneously or in some formal way, is prayer. Prayer is not the repetition of formulae, nor a demand for things required, nor a frantic gesture towards heaven.
The disciples of Jesus, men who had been nurtured in the devotional wealth of the Hebrew Scriptures, came to him with the request, "Lord, teach us to pray, " because they had learned from the example of their master that prayer of the kind that he practiced was very different from what they knew. Prayer is an exercise of the mind, an act of thought, a discipline of the emotions, an intercourse of the spirit.
It is so simple that anyone can begin it, but so infinite in its possibilities that no one can ever come to an end of it. The spiritual life is something like a garden of wild plants which, when cultivated, watered, weeded and fertilized, will produce beautiful flowers and fruit; but if left unattended will quickly revert to its wild state. Therefore, for your garden to be as you wish, continuous prayer, or care, is necessary.
We begin our prayer life with the rule of a quiet room and a closed door in which you will be undisturbed. In order to have the momentous experience of communication with the almighty God we must give it our total concentration. If we would turn to heaven we must turn away from earth. If we would find the spirit we must ignore the flesh. It is this being with God and with God alone that is the essence of prayer.
This need not be entirely absent in public worship, but the fellowship of corporate prayer takes its quality from the private and preparatory devotions of those who participate in it. True prayer starts with the realization of God's being. When we are more aware of God than ourselves or of any other, then we have begun to pray. The first condition of successful prayer is this shutting out of our excitements and our anxieties.
We begin, then, with the thought of God -- because prayer is the thought-activity by which we admit God into our lives. Therefore we must try to form the best conception of God that we can, and the more we try the better we shall succeed.
Let us begin by thinking of God as a loving Father who has come to us with a longing heart. He has been searching for a long, long time, and has met with rejection and misunderstanding and all kinds of adversities; but all this time He has persistently continued to reach out to us because of His love for us. Sometimes you can even feel His grieving heart. With this recollection of His toil and love, fill your heart with grateful and humble thought. While in public prayer we verbally thank God for His various gifts, in this kind of private prayer simply try to bring your heart to this state of feeling -- of gratitude and humbleness. If you can achieve this feeling in the beginning, your prayer is then on the right track. After this you may specifically mention any number of things for which you feel thankful for people always like to be appreciated, and so does God.
To thank Him, I first remember His creation, His wonderful work. Then I thank Him for today's dispensation -- that of restoration -- and for those who are bringing blessing today to mankind, especially for the Channel through whom the blessing is brought. As a glad duty --as my part -- I offer my prayer for the physical and spiritual well-being of those God is working through, in order that their mission may be completed as quickly as possible. I pray for all those who have toiled so hard to lay the foundations for the new dispensation.
Then I pray specifically for those whose mission is abroad, placing myself in their position, and ask for strength, power, wisdom and compassion for the people they cope with, that thus they may be led to triumph in their daily battle and to fill them with joy and happiness as they carry on their work. Then I pray for those in America, those in responsible positions, and all those in all the Centers, and those to whom they reach out and teach. I pray that leaders and influential people may be inspired to come to our movement. I also pray for financial blessing to hasten the expansion of our movement. I pray for those I am teaching, that they may further understand the Principle. If I know of anyone with a special need, I pray for that.
Finally I come to pray for myself. I thank God for His call and restoration. I give thanks for each day's new opportunity to serve Him. I examine myself and pray for what I need at the time. I would pray for health or some material thing if there were a need, but there is never so much need on that level. The important needs are in the spiritual area. I pray for spiritual understanding, for a loving heart, for wisdom, for strength -- whatever seems most needed each day, that I ask for. I pray that in all these things my heart and will is with God each moment. In offering these prayers, I try to feel what He expects me to do and to be. I feel His eager expectation for me -- that I will be and do those things He wishes. I do not have to force a feeling of faith that I will be given what I ask, for I feel His readiness to pour out all that I need. Therefore I end my prayers with the feeling of confidence and joy, suppose my final feeling is that which the ancient peoples expressed by their phrase, "Praise and thanks unto Thee!" and so on.
This kind of prayer I offer vocally, in a small voice, for to say things in words helps concentration. Prayers which are silent are interrupted by all kinds of thoughts coming into your mind from many sources, but when you are concentrating on forming the thought into audible words there is more power and focus.
Afterwards, I carry on with the day's activities in the same spiritual atmosphere which I gained in my prayers. There is no sharp break between my time of prayer and the mundane activities of the day. When my surroundings cast low vibrations, I draw walls around me inwardly and don't allow them to encroach into my sanctuary. Thus all through the day I feel God near and continue with the same joy and confidence.
This I would call unuttered prayer, which remains all the time as an undercurrent to outer activities. At least, I try to maintain this. If I fail I try again. Whenever I have to speak in public or to an individual, I always pray at least a few minutes if circumstances allow. If not, unuttered prayer. If any occasion arises with a special demand, I pray spontaneously for that moment's need.
This is the way I pray, following the pattern above as my usual morning prayer, and in the evening the same though sometimes shorter. There is no need for anyone to follow this or any other pattern. Pray in the manner that suits you, but try to pray in words because that keeps your mind focused. To pray aloud helps also to be prepared in case you are suddenly asked to pray in a group. The main thing to remember is to ask for those things you need, to study to recognize your needs, whether of character or whatever, and to have a feeling of gratitude and rededication each time you finish your prayers.