Never Be Too Proud to Pray
   [A work in progress - select quotes].


Introduction

   "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of...For what are men better than sheep or goat, that nourish a blind life within the brain, if knowing God, they lift not their hands in prayer, both for themselves and those they call friends." - Tennyson

   "The mystic has to pass through the earlier stage of regarding the Overself as an "other" before he can arrive at the later stage of regarding it as his own, essential self. Hence the need of prayer for the first stage," - Paul Brunton

   "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him...If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him." - Christ

   "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." - St. Francis of Assisi


Ramana Maharshi

   "All such worship is also necessary. It may not be necessary for you. But that does not mean it is necessary for nobody and is no good at all. What is necessary for the infant class pupil is not necessary for the graduate. But even the graduate has to make use of the very alphabet he learnt in the infant class. He knows the full use and significance of the alphabet now."


Paul Brunton - from The Notebooks

   "He should not fall into the error of believing that the transition to philosophical study has exempted him from the duty of mystical practice or that the transition to the latter has exempted him from the need of religious devotion. We do not drop what belongs to a lower stage but keep and preserve it in the higher one. Aspiration is a vital need. He should become as a child at the feet of his divine Soul, humbly begging for its grace, guidance, and enlightenment. If his ego is strong, prayer will weaken it. Let him do this every day, not mechanically but sincerely and feelingly until the tears come to his eyes. The quest is an integral one and includes prayer alongside of all the other elements."

   "The positive gains from each stage of the Quest are never lost. Those of religion are preserved in the mystical stage, and must not be rejected; those of mysticism are retained in the third and higher degree of philosophy. Naturally, the individual advances to higher conceptions of prayer, but that is not to say he advances beyond its practice altogether. Such an atheistic attitude could never be sanctioned. Sincere prayer is a necessity and a delight to the earnest student."

   "Too many individuals - and some of them are followers of this Quest - fail to remember the importance of simple prayer. There is not enough humbling of intellectual pride at the feet of the Higher Power and there is an obvious neglect of reverent worship in their attitudes and daily lives."

   "It is one sign of progress when we stop informing the higher power of our need, which It must already know. It is another sign of progress when we stop expecting from It some boon which we ought to set about getting for ourselves."

   "What shall he pray for? Let him aspire more intensely than ever to the Overself and ask to become united in consciousness with it, surrendered in will to it, and purified in ego."

   "Beware what you pray for. Do not ask for the truth unless you know what it means and all that it implies and nevertheless are still willing to accept it. For if it is granted to you, it will not only purge the evil out of you but later purify the egotism from your mind. Will you be able to endure this loss, which is unlikely to be a painless one?"

   "Whoever invokes the Overself's Grace ought to be informed that he is also invoking a long period of self-improving toil and self-purifying affliction necessary to fit him to receive that grace."

   "The eternal laws of karma will not cease operating merely for the asking and cannot violate their own integrity. They are impersonal and cannot be cajoled into granting special privileges or arbitrary favors to anyone. There is no cheap and easy escape from them. If a man wants to avoid hurtful consequences of his own sins, he must use those very laws to help him do so, and not attempt to insult them. He must set going a series of new causes which shall produce new and pleasanter consequences that may act as an antidote to the older ones."

   "If the world's business were to be at the mercy of every uttered petition that rises from the lips of men, then it would tumble into chaos, and life would become a bewildering maze. No! - before we talk glibly about prayer being answered, we should first distinguish between pseudo-prayers and genuine prayer."

   "What is the use of praying to the Source for those things which man himself, by using his natural capacities, can supply? He should turn to prayer only when his own efforts are in vain, an indication that it is time to turn the problem over to the Source, the Overself. How many of his illnesses, for example, come from wrong ways of living, eating, drinking, or thinking? The body has its own laws of hygiene, and the learning of them is as much part of his development during his lives on earth as the learning of spiritual laws."

   "It is a grave fallacy to believe that it is necessary to pray in order to be taken care of by God. The truth is that there is no moment when God is not taking care of us or, indeed, of everyone else. God is in every atom of the Universe and consequently in full operation of the Universe. This activity does not stop because we stop praying."

   "Immeasurably better than begging God for things is to beg him for himself."

   "It is good and necessary to practise confession in one's prayer at all times but especially so in distressful times. If one is praying for deliverance, it is not enough merely to ask for it - indeed, that would be egocentric, childish, and useless. One should also ask in what way one is responsible for, or has contributed toward, the making of the trouble from which escape is sought. Nothing should be hidden that can help to bare this guilt. The natural inclination to blame others or protect one's self-esteem should be resisted. Nor should one confess only moral sins; it may be that the cause lies in intellectual incapacity, poor discrimination, or lack of balance."

   "It is common to pray for help to overcome our shortcomings, and this is right; it is even more common to pray to escape the painful results or our shortcomings, but this is not right. Their results are needed for our development and if God took them away from us we would be robbed of a chance to make this development."

   "Too many believe in their own weakness, and in prayer implore or request a high being to bestow upon them a personal power, virtue, or capacity felt to be lacking in themselves. Yet they, too, have latent inner resources, untapped and awaiting exploration."

   "He should not hesitate to pray humbly kneeling in the secrecy of his private room, to the Overself. First his prayer should acknowledge the sins of his more distant past having led to sufferings in the later past or his immediate present, and he should accept this as just punishment without any rebellious feeling. Then he may throw himself on the Grace as being the only deliverance left outside of his own proper and requisite efforts to amend the causes. Finally let him remember the living master to whom he has given allegiance and draw strength from the memory."

   "It is not to be, as it is with so many unenlightened religionists, nothing more than a request to be given something for nothing, a petition for unearned and undeserved personal benefit. It is to be first, a confession of the ego's difficulty or even failure to find its own way correctly through the dark forest of life; second, a confession of the ego's weakness or even helplessness in coping with the moral and mental obstacles in its path; third, an asking for help in the ego's own strivings after self-betterment; fourth, a resolve to struggle to the end to forsake the lower desires and overcome the lower emotions which raise dust-storms between the aspirant and his higher self; and fifth, a deliberate self-humbling of the ego in the admission that its need of a higher power is imperative."

   "Prayers really begin when their words end. They are most active not when the lips are active but when they are still."

   "Prayer not only must be used as a suitable preface to meditation, but may also be effectively used as a help to meditation. When an aspirant is unable to calm his restless thoughts, in addition to the constant daily regular effort to do so - for perseverance is part of the secret of success - he may pray to the higher self to take possession of his mind. Such prayer must be deeply heartfelt, constantly repeated, and animated by a longing to get away from the peaceless ego."

   "It seems to be a law of the inner life that we have to ask for the inner help that is needed long long before it begins to manifest."

   "His prayers and longing, his aspirations and yearnings are not in vain. They are all heard, let him be assured of that. But their fulfillment must necessarily come in the Overself's time, not his own. A seed cannot shoot up all at once into a tree. The processes of growth in nature satisfy the criterions of soundness, although they dismay the criterions of sentimentality."

   "The answer to prayer may come in a wholly unexpected way that we neither desire nor like. It may come as an apparent misfortune, for that may be the real "good" for us just then."

   "If the response to prayer could set aside universal laws for the sake of those who pray, then the universe would become a chaos."

   "Where the response to prayer is so direct definite and unmistakable, it is mostly because the devotee has touched this infinite power through and in his Overself. This does not mean that the Deity has intervened to set laws, decrees, or circumstance aside for this one man's personal benefit. It means rather that he has himself drawn on his own latent godlike capacity. This can happen only when the attitude of prayer becomes so intense and so concentrated that it is really a form of meditation."

   "If the sincere desire of his heart is echoed by a prayer that expresses humility and requests guidance, it will be heard. Although he may receive no answer for quite a time, sooner or later it will come."

   "If he could penetrate into the so-called unconscious levels of his mind he might find, to his utter amazement, that his enemies, critics, or domestic thorns-in-the-flesh ares the very answer to his prayer for Grace. They fully become so, however, only when he recognizes them as such, when he perceives what duty or what self-discipline they give him the chance to practise."

   "Many who ask for Grace would be shocked to hear that the troubles which may have followed their request were actually the very form in which the higher power granted the Grace to them."

   "The poignant feeling of hopeless aridity and helpless dependence on Grace brings one's ego very low."

   "The Grace works from his centre outward, transforming him from within, and therefore its earliest operation is unknown to his everyday mind."

   "The psychological laws governing the inner development of spiritual seekers often seem to operate in most mysterious ways. The very power whose presence he may think has been denied him - Grace - is taking care of him even when he is not conscious of this fact. The more the anguish, at such a time, the more the Higher Self is squeezing the ego. The more he seems to be alone and forsaken, the closer the Higher Self may be drawing him to Itself."

   "When, therefore, the really earnest disciple who has asked for a quickened advance on the Quest finds that all kinds of experiences begin to follow each other for a period, he should recognize that this is part of the answer to his call. He will be made to feel loss as well as gain, bliss as well as pain, success as well as failure, temptation as well as tribulation at different times and in different degrees. He needs both kinds of experience if his development is to be a balanced one. But because he is still human, he will learn more from his sufferings than from his pleasures. And because their memory will last longer, he will not pass through this period of quickened experiences and extreme vicissitudes without much complaint."

   "The Overself's grace will be secretly active within and without him long before it shows itself openly to him."

   "The grace may be barely felt, may come on slowly for many months, so that when he does become aware of its activity, the final stage is all he sees and knows."

   "It is not within the power of man to finish either the purificatory work or its illumination-sequel: his Overself, by its action within his psyche, must bring that about. This activating power is Grace."

   "Although personal effort and the will toward self-mastery do much to advance him on this quest, it is grace, and Grace alone, which can advance him to the goal in the last stages or assist him out of an impasse in the earlier ones."

   "The ego, the personal limited self, cannot lift itself into the Higher Self, and if the student has felt dismally powerless to make progress by self-effort, he will have learned the priceless lesson of the need of Grace."

   "Since the very "I" which seeks the truth and practices the meditation is itself so illusory, it cannot attain what it seeks or even practise with success, unless it also receives help from a higher source. Only two sources are possible. The first and best is the Overself's direct grace. This must be asked for, begged for, and wept for. The next best is the grace of master who has himself entered into truth-consciousness."

   "He cannot bring this enlightenment into being - much less into permanent being - by his own willpower. It can only come to him. But although striving for it may probably end in failure, the masses' indifference to it is worse. For whereas he will at least be open to recognize and accept it when it does happen to come, their doors of perception will be shut to it, or, bewildered and frightened, they will run away from it."

   "He who told us to note the lilies of the field also told us the parable of the talents. Whatever the divine Grace brings us, it brings it through our personal efforts."

   "In the end, and after we have tried sufficiently long and hard, we find that the knot of self cannot be untied. It is then that we have to call on grace and let it work on us, doing nothing more than to give our consent and to accept its methods."

   “Are we to wander with all our burdens from a hapless birth to a hopeless death? Or shall we surrender them?”

   “He will come to the point where he will give up the burden of always trying to do something for his spiritual development, the burden of believing that it rests entirely upon his own shoulders.”

   “Having worked to the utmost upon himself, but finding that a stable spiritual consciousness still eludes him, he has no recourse except to submit his further development to a higher power than his own will and then wait and let it work upon him.”

   “Do not let the ego try to manage your worldly life. Do not let it even manage your search for truth! It is faulty and fallible. Better to cast the burden on the higher self and walk by faith, not knowing where you are going, not seeing what the future is.”

   “It may be helpful to try a new angle on his spiritual problems. This is to stop striving and to wait with surrendered will for the higher power. The power is there within him and without him and knows his need. Let him stop being tense, stop working and striving. Let him even stop studying for the realization of this presence, but let him just ask prayerfully for it to take hold of him.”

   "The man who has seen reality during a temporary glimpse may later be subjected to its hidden operation without or within. In this way the higher power tests him, tries his faith, courage, patience, and, above all, sense of truth and capacity for discrimination. If the test reveals his weakness, then it is for him to provide the remedy: thus in the end he is strengthened. It is not enough to recognize the Real in its own homeland alone; he must be trained to recognize it under all conditions, even when it is hidden under thick illusion, even in the lowest ebb of the soul's dark night. These tests, which come from both within and without, help to give him this training."

   "Whether you feel the Reality in an overwhelming mystic experience or not, what matters is that you should carry the unfaltering faith that it is always there, always present with you and within you."

   "At a certain stage he must learn to "let go" more and allow the Overself to possess him, rather than strain to possess something which he believes to be still eluding him. Every aspirant who has passed it will remember how he leapt ahead when he made this discovery."



St. Augustine

   "Usually prayer is a question of groaning rather than speaking, tears rather than words."


Sant Kirpal Singh

   "A prayer never goes in vain. A cry from the heart is always heard and attended to; but how, and in what manner, depends on the Will of God."


Fenelon

   "St. Teresa observes that many souls give up prayer as soon as they cease to find conscious pleasure in it, whereas this is to give up prayer just when it is on the way to being perfected"

   "True prayer is not a matter of sense or imagination, but of the mind and the will. But one may easily make mistakes in speaking of pleasure and delight. There is a pleasure that is altogether vague and indeliberate, that does not proceed from the will. And there is a deliberate pleasure, which is nothing more than a steadfast will. And this delight that comes of the deliberate will is that of which the psalmist says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
[Psalm 36:4] This delight is inseparable from all real prayer, because it is in itself prayer."

   "This is not always accompanied by that other delight, the involuntary one that we can feel. The "deliberate pleasure" may be the most real, and yet not give any emotional consolation. Sometimes souls that are the most severely tested may retain the delight of the will in an utterly dry prayer without conscious pleasure. Otherwise we would be reduced to saying that souls are perfected in God's ways only to the degree to which they feel their pleasure in virtue increasing, and that all souls deprived of conscious pleasure by a time of trial have lost the love of God and are under delusion."

   "St. Teresa says that a great number of people leave off praying at the very moment when their devotion is beginning to be real. How many there are who, in consequence of too soft an upbringing in Jesus Christ, and too great a fondness for the milk of his word, go back and abandon their interior life as soon as God undertakes to wean them! We need not be astonished at this, for they mistake the portico of the temple for the very sanctuary itself. They desire the death of their unrefined external passion, so that they may lead a delicious life of self-satisfaction within. From this it follows that unfaithfulness and disappointment occur even among those who appear the most fervent and the most devoted. Those who have talked the loudest about death to self and about the darkness of faith are often the most surprised and discouraged when they really experience these things and their consolation is taken away...Interior delights and revelations secure our self-love against loss or harm - despite all our external sacrifices - and lead us to cherish a secret and refined life of the old nature. But to allow ourselves to be stripped inwardly and outwardly at once, outwardly by circumstances and inwardly by this dark night of pure faith - this is a total sacrifice and least likely to be subject to self-deception."

   "Those who seek a constant succession of emotions and certainties are by that very course exposing themselves most surely to deception. On the other hand, those who follow the leadings of the love that strips them and leaves them the faith that walks in darkness, without seeking any other support, avoid all the sources of error and deception."

   "We may be sure that we never need to pray so earnestly as when we cannot lay hold of any pleasure in prayer. That is the season of testing and trial, and consequently the time for the most earnest recourse to God...It is easy to say to ourselves, "I love God with all my heart," when we are conscious of nothing but pleasure in such love. But true love is the one that suffers while loving: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him!"
[Job 13:15]

   "Lord, I do not know what I ought to be asking of you. You are the only One who knows what I need. You love me better than I know how to love myself. Father! - give your child what I do not know how to ask for myself."

   (Sawan Singh's Prayer: "My Lord! I am ignorant, I do not know what to ask of you. Give me that which you deem fit to give me and about how and where you keep me....")


Madame Guyon - from Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

   "But the fact that you will have spiritual dry spells is not the issue. The important question is what you will do in a time of spiritual dryness...You must await the return of your Beloved with patient love...By waiting upon the Lord in this way, you will demonstrate to Him that it is He alone whom you are seeking. You see, you will be demonstrating that it is not the selfish enjoyment which you receive from being in His presence that causes you to love Him. You will be showing that it is not the pleasure which you experience, but your love that motivates you."

   "Let me ask you a question. What if the Lord called upon you to spend your whole lifetime waiting for His return to you? How would you conduct yourself if this were the lot the Lord should mete out to you for all the rest of your life? What would you do? Do this. Wait upon Him in a spirit of humility, in a spirit of abandonment, with contentment and resignation...As you do these things, accompany them all with pleas of sorrowful, plaintive love and expressions of yearnings for your lover's return. I wish to assure you that if you will conduct yourself this way, it will please the heart of God greatly. Such an attitude will compel Him to return to you much more quickly than any other.”

   “An habitual consent from your heart, a humble “fiat,” a complete abandonment, and perfect confidence, that is all. From morning to night you have nothing else to do. It will appear to you that you are doing nothing, but all will be done.”

   "In the beginning you were led into His presence by prayer, but now, as prayer continues, the prayer actually becomes His presence. In fact, we can no longer say that it is prayer that continues. It is actually His presence that continues with you. This is beyond prayer. Now a heavenly blessedness is yours. You begin to discover that God is more intimately present to you than you are to yourself, and a great awareness of the Lord begins to come to you."



Father Maximos

   "When we get ready to pray we must have in mind that God is literally present and that we must speak to Him in utter earnestness of heart and with precision. We must remember that God is listening and registering our every word, our every thought, and our every feeling. I am always awed by the seriousness with which the saints addressed God during their prayer. They were totally focussed and very precise, something that we must learn to do as a matter of course...It is absolutely impossible to pray to an impersonal intelligence...God is personal, not some kind of abstract idea."


Adyashanti

   "Meditation is not a technique to master; it is the highest form of prayer, a naked act of love and effortless surrender into the silent abyss beyond all knowing."

   "When you speak a true prayer, you'd better watch out, because you're going to get what you pray for. And what I mean by a "true prayer" is one which is spoken, or made, when you open yourself to the entire universe, from a place of not knowing and not expecting anything in particular. The first time I ever said a true prayer was when I was sitting in a vast desert at a bus stop in California, in a long desert between two mountain ranges. I was contemplating my spiritual life, and I suddenly had the impulse to pray. At the time, prayer wasn't something that I did very often, but somehow, I felt this impulse. I said to the universe, "Give me whatever is necessary for me to awaken. I don't care what it takes. I don't care if the rest of my life is one of ease, and I don't care if the rest of my life is hellish. Whatever's necessary, that's what I want. I'm inviting it. Give me whatever I need to awaken from this separation." When I said this prayer, it was like I was giving the keys of control back to the universe. When I uttered this prayer, it was very frightening. I remember thinking, "What did I just do? What force might I have unleashed?"

   "It became clear that I had unleashed a great force. At that moment, I gave my illusion of control back to a higher intelligence, and sure enough, I did get everything I needed, in relatively short measure, to really open my consciousness. Some of it was beautiful, filled with ease and love and openness , and some of it was rather horrific - very difficult and trying. But in retrospect, I had to admit that I got everything for which I asked. I got exactly what I needed for my own consciousness to awaken from separation. So never underestimate the power of prayer and its ability to open us to grace."


   [In an early essay on his awakening, Adya wrote that after years of effort he "prayed to a God he didn't even believe in," and when he asked his teacher if that was all right, the teacher replied, "yes, yes, that is the prayer of a Buddha"]