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Evening Star, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915
This is the question that hundreds must have asked during the Is Prayer Of last week. Last Sunday Any Use? practically all the Christian churches throughout the Empire gave themselves to intercession i/i connection with the ivar, The great mass of Christian people, if their faith is really vital, believe that prayer is a power of more or less magnitude. Some believe it is the mightiest force in the world. lUany have doubts about, what psychologists would call its objective, efficacy. They would confine its effects to the individual who prays. They would say they are purely subjective. A great number (possibly the greatest number) believe, in a vague way, that there may bo something in prayer, but they leave the practice of it to others, A boy said to his mother at the breakfast table one morning : '' Mother, I am cure God thinks I am dead." " What in the world makes you fay that?'' queried his mother, '• Because 1 have not said my prayers for three weeks." Wo fancy if that is the test of vital relationship to God there is a mighty number of "dead-heads'' in His world. Some three months ago President Wilson called on America to observo a certain day in October as a day of prayer in connection with the war, that guidance might be given and peace soon ensue. Some may be inclined to think that the answer, if there has been one, has not greatly advanced the prestige of President Wilson and his country. The .Hon. Andrew fittier was ask-e-d to proclaim, a. similar dav in Australia, but, while personally sympathising with the request, ho declined it on public grounds. On the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, practically all the religious denominations throughout the Empire observed last Sunday as a day of intercession for our Country and our Cause. Thus prayer has been put into the sphere cf practical politics. The issues it raises aro of worldwide significance. We have already re- ■ ferred to tonw aspects of it, but much more may bo said without exhausting the subject. Is prayer of any use? The -Athiest and Materialist will, of course, at once answer '"No." They eay that it is only a pestilent delusion. If, indeed, there, be no I'nirercal Father—intelligent, loving, almighty—prayer is nonsense. I'eopks do net pray to a revolving wheel "r a blind, unconscious force. But even when a personal, loving God is helievecl in many hesitate about prayer. They do this because of the scientific revelation of the uniformity of Nature and the unchangeableness of her laws. I* it supposed that the Creator will interfere with these for a puny being like me? But why- not? Are the sticks and stones, the gases and chemical elements, that make up the <\irth and the suns and tho planets of more concern to tho Creator than the men and women whom He har> endowed with a part of His own life? That would be much the same as to say that your house is of greater concern to you than yourself or the children for whom you built it. But what if prayer itself be a law of Nature? It surely is. It certainly is as real and far-flung a Jaw as any other. All life, all business is
organised on this principle of prayer—the principle of asking and receiving. Every day we rise there are hundreds of things in the keeping of others for which wo must ask. In the homo, in tho school, in the city, throughout the whole world, this Jaw of prayer operates. Wherever it is disobeyed progress stops. But, again, what are the laws of Nature?
What is Nature? What is Law? They both depend on life. Increase, intensify iifo. and you can do anything with Nature and her laws. Before wo came here the Maori was sure that to speak in Dunedin and be heard in Tnvcrcargill or Auckland was an impossibility, yet any of us can do that now at any hour of the day. Endless illustrations leap up to show how man himself can manipulate these laws without interfering with Nature's uniformity. A great bridge may bo taken to represent the triumph of physical energy, but, asks Sir Oliver Lodge, " shall we seek " that energy in the tin cans in which the '• navvies bring their breakfasts, or in the "mind of tho engineer?" Again, the air currents flowing through the pipes of an organ are a purely natural force, but not all the air currents that ever blew would produce, say, the 'Hallelujah Chorus.' But add mind to these, and you have tho
wonders of a Mozart or a Mendelssohn
The laws of Nature are merely statements of certain ascertained facts; but a new fact may be discovered to-morrow that will put them out of date. Indeed, science is making such discoveries almost every day.
Another difliculty that has discounted prayer is the scientific conception of the vastness of space and of tho universe. Tho naked eye can sec some 6,000 stars, but the telescope and the spectrum reveal countless constellations. Lord Kelvin estimates that there are over 1.000,000,000 stars and suns. The light from some of these, though on its way to this earth for thousands of years, is only now coming into our ken; and when we remember that the ether which conducts light travels
at the rate of 11 million miles in a minute we can form some estimate of the vast distance of space. Tho old conception of God enthroned Him somewhere in a heaven above, us not very far away. But with this new scientific, revelation the heaven of our childhood disappears, and our petitions to a Deity enthroned somewhere in infinite space seems absurd, But science has brought us back to the primitive religious view. This view conceives of God in His Universe as the spirit is in the body. Where is it in our body? Itis all-pervasive; it looks through the eyes; it speaks in the voice; it quivers in the nerve; it throbs in the pulse; it is omnipresent. So is the Creator in His Universe. Tn Him we literally live and move and have our being.
The lark flew up in the morning light, And sang and balanced on stinnv wings ; And this was its song : " I see the light, I look on a world of beautiful things; But flying and singing everywhere. In vain have I searched to li'nd the air.
That is how many mistake the direction in which to search for God. Ho is uttering Himself in all the universe, and most especially He is seeking to flow in and find an outlet through the human sod. Prayer is the response to tin's supremo life that flows around it like ocean round a diving bi]\. It. is the sinking down into it; it jfi the opening of all the doors of our being to let it come in. Thus, in its essence, prayer is not primarily petition. The most efficient prayers may probably not utter themselves in words at ail. It
is tho union of the individual soul with the great World Soul. When this can b? achieved, then tho life becomes a sort of live, wire, pulsating through every faculty with a divine insight and enorgv. Wo may put the point? wo have been trying to make by tho following illustration. Pome, years ago a scientific, gontlenan was on <i. holiday in tho north-west of .Scotland. He there made tho acquaintance of a, certain doctor, scientific, wellread, much-travelled, and a good conversationalist. Tliey discussed various subjects. Suddenly one, day tho doctor asked b.13 scientific friend if he believed in prayer. Tht latter confessed that he did. The doctor expressed .surprised that he, a. scientific man. should have, faith in prayer. "Yet." replied the doctor, "I "am never quite, comfortable, about it my"self." Tho. other asked him what his difficulty was. "My difficulty is this," he replied: "T believe in a God—the great
" First, Cause. But the God I know is not "arbitrary He does, not govern tho world "by incessant petty miracles. Ho governs "it, by means of fixed, unalterable laws. "There, are rome 1,500 million* on '•'earth, speaking perhaps 50.000 different "'languages and dialects, their wants as "varied as their numbers, many of them "absolutely comrartietory tho one to the "other; yet every one, making his petition "to his. own particular Oko Jumbo. Apart
"from anything else, it is inconceivable ''that, any being can differentiate in such a "Babel, let a-one grant individual re- " epiests." Pricing round, the doctor asked his ecienfific Iriend what he, would cay to that. The. latter renlicd in substance, like this:
He pointed, out that if a, few years ago anyone had said that there "were rays at tho extreme end of the spectrum which no human eye could sec, because it, is not so constructed that the ravs could possibly be visible to it—but the rays, nevertheless, are there—so real and so potent that by their aid the contents of a box can be photographed, though iho walls of the box may be a foot in thickness! But now everybody admits this, feir the Rontgen rays'are a imiveri-ally .acknowledged fact. " Their existence has he-en scientifically demonstrated. Tsut tnoy were there n-1] the time, though wo only made the discovery quite recently. Now, it is not possible to think that we aro at the. end of such discoveries, because there, is no finality to them. Well, then, if we cle-fin-e prayer as the placing of our soul—the moral and intelligent part of our being—in a definite, beseeching attitude with regard to the jgreat All Soul of tho universe, is it not possible, and probable that amid the multitude of unknown and unsuspected laws by which tho Creator governs His universe there, may be one or more that can be put into active operation by the assumption on man's part of that attitude towards God which we have defined as prayer?
The doctor was silent. They had reached bis door, and ho merely said " Mood-night." Next, day he was e.t the train to eee his scientific friend away on his return journey. He thanked him warmly for the conversation of yesterday. "I see,'' ho said, ''that there are. possibilities of which "I had never dreamed. I said my prayers "last night for tho first time for thirty " years !"
" Possibilities of which I had never dreamed !" That is true of tt/s all. Every day we are discovering them. Since timebegan, unguessed forces in tho natural world have been lying- waiting for our crdl—e.g., electiicity, radium, Rontgea rays, and multitudes more. When man approached Nature in the right attitude she responded with these gifts, to the world. And in the supernatural world it is surely tho esmo. Tho attitude to ap preach it is prayer, which is the law* hy which man puts into action subtler powers than the physical world ever knew. If waves of force can be made to pass through rock ajid earth, through body and bones,
why may not wares of'a still finer force be transmitted from man to man, and l.e made to act upon lives hundreds and even thousands nf miles apart, in ways unknown to u s as yet? If there is any fact, sure in history, there is none surer than that such things have been and are still of daily occurrence. How thk may lie wc cannot perhafp tell, though telepathy and wireless telegraphy give us hints of it. Our difficulty is not with the fact—that is indubitable—but uitli the law of the fact. An affirmative answer must bo given to the old Hebrew poet's question : "He that "made the ear shall He. not hear'' He "that, made the eye shall He not see?" Or as a modern poet—George Macdonald—puts it: Lord Jesus Christ, I know not how With this bine air, blue sea. This yellow sane!, this grassy brow, All isolating me. My words to Thy heart should draw near, My thoughts hi heard bv Thee ; But He who made the earth must hear, Who made the eye must see.
Evening Star, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915
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