Five Spiritual Principles: Foundations for Effective Prayer

"Many years ago a friend invited me to a class at her church where I was introduced to five of the most life-changing, spiritual teachings I know. They are congruent with the teachings of Jesus as well as the other spiritual masters of all time, and they form the foundation for focusing and expanding the power of prayer. I found that as I practiced believing and praying from these ideas, my prayers seemed to be more effective. These ideas not only changed the way I prayed, they changed the soul I was praying from. I ask you to open your heart to them and try them on — one prayer at a time.

1. God is Goodness and Creativity itself, seeking expression through us.

"I remember one of my spiritual mentors saying to me one evening, 'If you don't have a God you like, create one and act as if it were true.' I was shocked by the idea at first, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.

"I decided I didn't have much to lose by trying on this totally new idea about God. The God of my childhood faith was a God that I didn't really trust, and I wasn't sure at all that He liked me either. In fact, I had stacked up evidence that He didn't. But maybe I could simply change my picture of God. And that would mean figuring out what kind of God I wanted. What a wonderful assignment!

"I decided I wanted a God who was loving, caring, and present to me . . . a God I could count on no matter what. And so I began to act as if this were true. This 'acting as if' was the beginning of what has become the most wonderful, intimate relationship I have ever known. Believe me, I never imagined I'd be saying that God is my best friend, but it's true!

"By praying from the belief that God is a potential good waiting to happen, I gave great power to my prayers. Instead of praying with a worried, tentative mind, I began praying with great hope, and this in itself was life transforming.

"I've known people who have literally run from the word of God. Just mention it and they're out of here. They wanted nothing to do with the punishing and capricious God of their upbringing.

"I've also heard many names for God, from those of the world's faith traditions, from cosmologists and quantum physicists, from the agnostic and the aspiring, from the devout and the disillusioned. The word we use is not the key here. The important thing is to come to believe in a presence and power that is all-good, that is a personal as well as animpersonal principle.

"What is important is to come to believe in a God you can count on to care for and be present to you, right where you are, right now and in every moment, no matter how bad, difficult, or painful your situation may be. Try it. Imagine the kind of God you want and begin to act as if it's fact. Then watch and see what happens.

2. We are made in the image and likeness of God.

"We actually contain the essence of the Divine. How could it be otherwise? How could we be essentially different from the One who made us? We can misunderstand and misinterpret who we really are, but we can't change the truth. This seed of the Divine inheres in our very being with infinite potential and possibilities for good and abides in us as our gifts and talents, our soul yearnings, and our deepest desires — all of which are discovered and developed through prayer.

"Michelangelo explained the way he created his masterpieces by saying that the figures he sculpted already existed in the marble. He simply chipped away at everything that was not that figure.

"The same is true for you. This divine character lives in you and prayer helps chip away at what is not that character.

"Through working with the next three principles, we succeed in sculpting the magnificent work of art that we are.

3. What we think about we bring about.

"In other words, thought is both creative and causative. What we give our attention to creates our experience. This principle is one of the most elegantly simple and most powerful truths in the universe. It is the law of creation. Everything that exists came out of the void, first as an idea, then as a manifestation of the idea.

"This creative law brought the universe into being. In the first book of the Bible, it is beautifully described by saying, 'In the beginning . . . the earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters and God said, Let there be light and there was light.' As the Creator of the universe brought form out of the deep void, we bring form out of our own depths. The light of an idea breaks through the darkness of the unknown. The same is true for every invention. It is always first an idea in the mind of the inventor.

"This is the law by which we bring our ideas into expression. We create according to the patterns of our thinking. The key is to focus our thinking on what we want to create rather than on what we don't want to create; worrying, for example, can be viewed as praying for what we don't want. The law always works, whether or not we are consciously aware of it or believe it. I've heard it said that we can't break the law; we can only break ourselves against it.

"Thoughts or words of resentment, greed, intolerance, self-deprecation, jealousy — these draw more experiences of their kind, more reasons to feel that way. They produce what we don't want — feelings of inadequacy, alienation, and lack. Likewise, thoughts of gratitude, appreciation, love, and acceptance draw these kinds of experiences into our lives. In Scripture, Paul suggests that we focus our thinking on whatever is noble, pure, praiseworthy, and good. He adds that the reward for such effort is the peace of God, which passes all understanding.

"When we let this truth guide our thinking, choosing our thoughts with care and intention, we create much more satisfying experiences and build the life we deeply desire and yearn for.

4. Affirmation is our creative energy; denial is our spiritual eraser.

"Drawing on the law of creation, this fourth principle focuses our thinking on what we want to create and dissolves those beliefs and perceptions that we recognize as self-defeating. The twin spiritual tools of affirmation and denial are our yes- and nay-saying powers.

"Denial is our spiritual eraser, releasing us from any thoughts that do not enhance our life and sense of well-being. Affirmation is the creator, the builder of the life we dream of. It puts our faith to its right work of constructing a meaningful and happy life.

"Denial and affirmation play a central role in all effective prayer. When you pray, all your erroneous beliefs and perceptions will come bubbling up. For example, when praying for the right and perfect employment, work that makes your heart sing, all of the reasons why you won't be able to find it will come up: the market is flooded, the economy is off, you don't have the right skills. Fill in the blanks. Denial is the prayer activity of releasing these unhelpful thoughts. With affirmations you build the belief that perfect, meaningful work is there for you. As you come to believe, you open yourself to the infinite possibilities available to you. You open yourself to the always-present and available guidance of Spirit. As you release debilitating thoughts and anchor positive, encouraging thoughts, you are strengthened to overcome obstacles and move through difficulties. You are building spiritual muscle.

"You actually become magnetic to opportunity, sending out currents of energy that draw you to it and it to you.

"Using affirmation and denial takes vigilance; you have to be willing to manage your moment-to-moment thoughts and choose what to feed and what to release. At first it may seem tedious, but with time it becomes almost effortless. Remember learning to ride a bike or swim or play a musical instrument? At first you felt awkward and unsure, but with practice you could do it with ease, as if you had been doing it all your life. That's the way it is with paying attention to your thoughts and deciding which to feed and which to starve: in time it becomes almost second nature.

5. Prayer and meditation access all of the resources of Spirit.

"In prayer, we focus our thoughts on God, seek God's presence as an experience. Prayer is our reaching out to touch and be touched by God. It is tuning in the frequency of our mind to God. We make ourselves open and receptive.

"In meditation, we endeavor to still our thoughts and enter a space where there is a sacred silence. In the practice of prayer we make the connection to the invisible, yet immediately present, realm of spirit — the activity of God. In prayer, we actually connect at some level with God's yearning in us. When we then enter the silence of meditation, whether it be for brief moments, many minutes, or even hours, we make ourselves available to hearing, feeling, and tasting God's response in us. God is always there, but we aren't. In the internal silence the peace of God flourishes.

"Meditation isn't complicated but it does take discipline. Quieting our thoughts is not an easy task. Our creative minds are like two-year-olds that just don't know how to stop. Like little children, they don't want to take a nap. God ministers to us, replenishes us in times of meditation. As we rest our mind in God, we are not only guided, we are renewed.

"The effects of prayer and meditation are cumulative. The more we practice, the more spiritual power we accumulate and this power ministers to us in our need. It improves us in every way, from refining our perceptions to expanding our capacity to love and be loved.

"These five principles are our partners, in creating an intimate relationship with God, one that is truly, powerfully cocreative. The principles are life changing only as they are applied in every area of life. It's great to know how to play tennis or dance the samba, but the knowledge is meaningless unless we apply it. It's great to know how to balance our checkbook, but the information is useless unless we actually do keep it balanced. The miracles come when we apply these five principles in our daily lives."