Mathew: Ch. 6
My lecture this morning will be on prayer. There is a lot of controversy over prayer from purely philosophical and scientific perspectives; in the church there is also controversy on how to pray. Religious people argue over the form and the way – should we pray standing or on our knees. Scientists examine whether there is a need for prayer, i.e. whether prayer is something normal in people’s life, or something abnormal. I have to explain this matter to you from a religious standpoint: prayer is an act of the soul; this is a state (I express myself this way for a lack of a better word) of the soul, an aspiration, which determines human speech. Because in order to articulate a prayer, one needs a certain form*; hence speech has been created so that people pray.
Now, I will take the word prayer in the broad sense in order for us to understand what it is. There are four types of prayer: firstly, prayer can be purely physical; secondly, prayer can come from the heart; thirdly, prayer can be simply a form of the mind; fourthly, prayer can be an aspiration of the soul, an act of Spirit. Consequently, it depends with what you pray. For example, when the need is yours, the prayer comes from the aspiration of your body, i.e. your body is praying regarding your body; such relationship exists when the body is sick – there is a certain awakening and an aspiration for communication.
From the standpoint of embryology, when a baby is conceived in the womb of the mother, the baby’s organs begin forming. The baby does not move in the beginning. The limbs develop first – the arms followed by the legs; then the intestines develop; then the brain, and lastly, the lungs. After that the child begins moving and shows that it needs a higher act. The human soul also goes through such an experience – it also awakens, it is also born. A person can be very educated, very strong, but when the time comes for them “to be born”, they feel weakness and need – they feel a need for God. Consequently, prayer is an indication that the soul needs to enter the Spiritual World, it needs to be embraced by Divinity – this is prayer. So, prayer springs from self-consciousness, and together with the Spirit holds a person’s consciousness. The human soul has to pray for a long time in order to reach this Divine spring; therefore, a person has to pray in order to purify the soul. You would ask why. Just like people need the respiratory system to breathe and produce the needed energy, so does our Soul body need prayer to feed itself. Hence, prayer has power in so far as people pray consciously.
Many miscomprehensions exist on the subject of prayer. They stem from our own misunderstandings, which is why we often bother God with petty things. We do to God as little children do to their mother when they kick and scream if they want something. God does not consider our sins when the soul is born and while it lives on Earth, but once it joins Spirit, a person has to pray – the soul can not want just anything. When the blessings come, a person just has to have a pure heart and a strong mind. Therefore, it should not be a question of whether God shall grant us food and knowledge – if we know how to pray, God is ready to grant us anything we want, He shall not deny us any good.
Now, those, who begin to pray, often torture themselves with the question whether God will hear their prayer. In order to be heard, you have to be a nine-month-old child; if you are a big child, God will not pay attention to you. Hence, prayer is not for everyone; there are people who wake up prematurely and become damaged. Some say, “Let us wake up this person;” that is good, but the person will be damaged. Why? Because the person becomes exposed to certain elements, for which the person does not have a tolerance. Scientists know this from experience and never give children tasks that are beyond the children’s limits. A desire to become a being with wings should not grow within you; you should rather have a relationship with God. You have to have a relationship with your mother for her to give you food; then you will gradually leave your mother’s embrace, and when you grow up some more, she will lead you into the world. All, who become Christian, ask whether they are not late; you are late, if your mother has given birth to you, but if you are not born yet, wait, should it be you who catches up with the others – everybody when their time comes.
There are many examples of prayer in the Bible. There are various prayers in the Psalms: a prayer for sins, a prayer for help, a prayer for grace. There is one such example in Psalm 51, another in the sixth chapter of Daniel, when he prays and confesses his sins; there is an example by Abraham, and by all prophets, who have prayed.
But now, let us get to the understanding of prayer, for the prophets and David have understood very well how to pray. Most of all, prayer demands a complete confidence and trust in God. The mind should not be wandering; God, who foresees our hardships in life, has created suffering for us, so that we concentrate our thoughts on ourselves. When the soul comes into this world, there is a danger that it gets absorbed in certain impressions; hence, suffering comes to us in various ways, so that we return to God. Prayer is a force in Life, and a person cannot grow without prayer. Jesus recommends the secret prayer, “When you pray, you have to be alone.”† Some say, “Let us get together a few of us;” the benefit for two or three people is a different thing, but the prayer that serves the development of the soul has to always be individual – to unite with God – with the image of each Love, Virtue, Purity, and Intelligence. He is the only Being, who knows the needs of your soul, and shall act so delicately, so gently, like no other. And this is why everyone, who wakes up prematurely, becomes damaged. Turn to God, turn to Jesus; Jesus – this is God, His relationship to us is fatherly. When you comprehend Jesus like this within yourself, you will feel Peace, Joy, which will ease your hardship. Because if you enter the Spiritual World, you will encounter such hardships as the hardship a newborn encounters when they are born into this world. When all of your enemies come together to hinder your growth, this is the experience of saints, of good people, of all those who begin to pray. Thus, all who come into the Spiritual World have to start with God. And when they do not take this path, there is tension with God. Hold on to God, believe in yourself, love Him, hold Him dear in your heart – whatever difficulties you encounter, hold on to Him! Just like when the child says, “Mom!”, so does God always respond to us when we turn to Him by the name we know Him – this is a law of every development. Some people could come along telling you that things are so and so, showing you different teachings; those of you, who have a lot of time, could sample all the teachings, but let those, who do not have a lot of time, turn to God. Hold on tightly to God with your soul, believe that He is in front of you; believe that He embraces you with His powers, with His arms.
Now, philosophers have certain views on God, and of course they are right in an intellectual sense. When we talk about God, it depends on how we view the following question: when we look at God with respect to prayer, we mean these words from the Scripture, “Call Him in a day of sorrow”‡; other places ask you to repent for your sins. If you go to God with hidden sins, you are not born; before all else you have to confess in front of God, and if He tells you to confess in front of your brothers as well, only then you will do this in front of those you have insulted. This is a confession to people – this is the path for everyone, who wants to become Christian. Now you are coming with the question on how to find an appropriate confessor: first, you will find the souls who live in Heaven, i.e. when you find God, you will go to the spirits and confess your sins there; and then their Angels will let you confess, if necessary, in front of the physical world as well. Only through this process the development unfolds smoothly and correctly. When we unite with God in this manner and are in agreement with all righteous souls, then there will not be obstacles in our actions; if you have loved a soul, this thought is passed on to the spirits. No one can acquire wealth, true Knowledge and true Virtue if they have not confessed their sins with a prayer. You would say, “Once we become stronger, we will coerce God” – you cannot coerce Him; God will not listen to you. I am speaking to you with the wisdom of all past and all current generations. Prayer is aligned with our lives, and the more developed a person is, the bigger the degree to which they communicate with God. Prayer is a conversation with God, and through that conversation we begin to affect the world. There should be no agitation during prayer, no offence – you have to put all this aside. And when you enter that small secret room, you have to feel that you are in the presence of the Angels. For this reason Jesus says, “God shall smoothen your relationships with people.”§ And once He blesses you, then the material blessing shall come.
When the breathing goes right, the body is healthy; if the respiratory system is not developed correctly, breathing is not right and children are unhealthy. The same law applies to your soul: many souls are sick because their development has not progressed in the right way. Just like we need to improve our breathing through artificial methods in this world, so we need to pray in the Spiritual World – this law is correct. So, according to the same law, feelings have to flow easily in regards to our heart, and if we begin to make an effort in order to love and to think, then this shows that there is a certain abnormality in our soul.
I will now talk to you about the power of prayer. At some point Jesus hints to that and says that bad spirits do not leave unless there is fast and prayer. You should also notice that when the Jewish people prayed, they always won. This is also true for the Egyptian people: for as long as the Egyptians prayed, their culture thrived and lasted for thousands of years, but once the crude materialism came, all misfortunes hit Egypt at once. This is also true for contemporary peoples; follow their history and you will see that the downfall of a country begins when its people stop praying. Commotions are starting to appear in the family and in society nowadays as well, but I say: the only reason for this is either that we have stopped communicating with God, or that we have stopped living according to God’s will. They say that the English had won the battle for Waterloo because of the rain that got in the way of Napoleon’s artillery; those of you, who want to, can check the history for whether this was what happened or not…
There are many examples for the power of prayer. In 1899, during the big hunger in Russia, described also by Tolstoy, a family that lived far away from the city remained without food for three or four days. One of the children began to pray and said to its parents, “We will have food soon, but once we get it, I will leave.” So it happened that a citizen of Saint Petersburg got lost in the area, looked for shelter, and found the house, where the family had been hungry for four days. He gave them food and money for the future, but a little while after that the child left this world as it predicted…
I will also give you the example of Dr. Tailer, a preacher in China. Thirty or forty years ago, when he decided to go preach in China, he calculated that he needed about twenty or thirty thousand leva**; when his friends heard about this, they decided that he had gone out of his mind, but Dr. Tailer began praying and received twenty thousand leva. He is the only missionary, who financially supported himself through prayer, and by 1870 supported around six hundred thousand preachers. However, his faith was suddenly disturbed, the power of his prayer lessened, and so it happened that his dependents also had to pray to God. What came out of this? Some rich American merchant, who moved to Australia, made a promise to himself that if he won such and such amount of money, he would allocate a portion of it to God’s work. His business went well, he met Dr. Tailer and gave him the money to use as he finds best…
But you have to always be in need for what you pray: if you pray to God for something in excess, He will never give it to you; you can pray and He can listen, but if you want something that comes in excess for you, He will not give it to you. Pray for the Bulgarian people – when all Bulgarians are doing well, your affairs will go well too. In a right sense, we have to pray for everyone, and when God blesses everyone, then He comes. Today we pray, “God give me a buck††!” – no, ask for two hundred thousand bucks and then take one; otherwise pray like the following, “God, give me some!” – then God says, “Go to a person to receive it.” Do you indeed intend to pray for a piece of bread? We have to always ask God for what people cannot give us; thus, do not settle for bucks, rather ask God for great deeds.
Today, many ask themselves why our priests do not pray. You can not force someone to pray; you pray instead, and turn to God for them. We say that they are such and such; do not do that, but pray secretly for them. The salvation is in collective prayer. Why exactly in collective prayer? Imagine that you are the head of an army with one hundred thousand people in it. Let us suppose that the army is exposed to severe cold and your soldiers are threatened by death. I am asking you, what does it matter how many soldiers you have if each of them has frozen to death. By the same law we are all dead individually, but when people pray together, they become a powerful force. Consequently, in order to be accepted by all hearts, the road to salvation is through prayer. So, prayer is necessary in our current living conditions – with the power of prayer you could set your homes and your children right, and you could do great things.
Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in My name, you shall receive, and if two or three of you ask, you shall receive.”‡‡ What do we have to do in this important moment of our lives, of our development? How will we be able to fulfil our duties in the face of all of the confusion that has taken over the world? We all have to start communicating with God and to call Him – this is the only salvation. As the prophets say, “When you look for Me, you shall find Me”§§; our salvation will come when, through prayer, we look for God to manifest in us and for ourselves to manifest in Him. Some say that they have debts – our debts are a group of bad spirits, which corrupt our hearts, our soul. And so, the communication with God has to be personal. If you do not follow this path, you will face many misfortunes; those who follow this path, and develop correctly, but do not really understand this Life, they will have many changes of heart. This is because the development of the individual impacts society and the church, i.e. whatever the aspiration and the direction of this individual, such will be the aspiration of all people.
I will give you an example for a prayer from life in Bulgaria, an example taken from the current war between Greeks and Bulgarians.*** One Bulgarian soldier, a teacher by profession, remained behind in enemy territory after his army withdrew from Thessalonike (Dr. Dukov gave me this example). He was hiding in a cave for a long time. When he got hungry, he began praying, and noticed that a turtle carrying a piece of bread came to him, left the piece of bread and walked away. He took the piece of bread and his hunger was satisfied. When he got home, he told his children, “Children, there is God.” During that war many Bulgarians believed that there is God because of what they experienced.
If you, who are here this morning, know how to ask, God will help you too. Some say, “Pray for me!” I say: turn to God, pray to Him, and do not turn to anyone else. In case God is not listening to you, then you can turn to other people. There lies the big obstacle. When that Bulgarian prayed, God helped him, while you are that turtle. If you only turn to God, He understands the need of your soul from its depth and he will respond to you. And once we reach such life, we have to forget our relationships on Earth and to see ourselves as sons of God. When we accept God’s blessing, we shall then serve Earth – be it among Bulgarians, among Greeks, or among any tribe, i.e. we will join certain people when we serve God. All people have their calling; all people need to accomplish some mission. Before it was Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, English, Germans, Americans, and now it is turn for the Slavs. All people have to serve God and in front of Him they all stand as one individual. And when we acquire that prayer, then the new philosophy will arrive and the new science will clarify the meaning of things – then Nature will understand our language.
Initially, before the fall of man, when one passed by a tree with fruits, the tree itself bent towards the person; now not only don't the trees bend towards people, but they raise their branches higher. When we reach that state, we will realize that those animals, which we now think do not understand anything, are intelligent. Make an experiment with your dog: for example, sometimes you come home in a good mood and your dog comes to you, but sometimes you come home furious and your dog walks away with a tucked tail because your dog understand your state. For this reason Jesus says, “Always look for your God and His truth”††† – then we will have that Knowledge. I know that many of you have hardships; the faces of many of you show that you are disturbed, that you are in need of something, that you all have a burden – individuals, families, society, all have a burden and we wonder what to do with these burdens. We have to turn to God – He will relieve us of our burden; we have to return to our Father, who can love us, care for us. And then our faces will glow, our minds will awaken, our hearts will become joyous. So, turn to God. When you pray, make an attempt to feel that God is present within your soul. And when God is present, He will give you outside proof as well, because when He comes to us, He shall bring us a blessing.
Ivan Kronshtadski‡‡‡ was not as smart initially, but he prayed so sincerely at one time that his life changed and he became John Kronshtadski. When did Tolstoy become Tolstoy? When he planed to kill himself and made his confession. He prayed then, “God, please deliver me from this evil.” This is happening with you too.
Turn to God, unite with Him, devote yourself to Him and He will teach you. You shall know that all people, who bring good, secretly pray. Gladston§§§ too was a man of prayer. All the great people of antiquity secretly prayed, but we, contemporary people, stand in a dry place and complain that we are poor. Get back to your God, for He is calling you. He wants to bless you. He is now telling everyone, “Let all my children come back.” This is why there is all this noise in the world now – the children began to reunite, our souls began to reunite, and we will understand one another. Then the language of the Father will be spoken; and when He begins to speak, we shall see that the Nature outside will also start speaking. When we meet someone on the street now, we think what it is that they are thinking about us and we have fear. Let us turn to God.
Now, I will tell you one thing: the Truth is not told through a lot of talking. If I could tell you everything in ten words, this would have been really good for me, while now I had to use thousands of unnecessary words. The unnecessary words are like a warming massage – like the warming massages people get when they are sick.
Jesus says, “When you pray, come into the secret room, and God shall give you out in the open”**** – how perfect these words are! Thus, those in communion with God are a blessing for their people; in this sense, I would like the Bulgarian people to pray in this manner – this is the only way these people could arise. The time will come when people will understand. Now, you have to turn to God, as that Bulgarian in the cave did, and ask for live bread from above. Back in the day when Elijah prayed, God sent him a crow; to that Bulgarian He sent a turtle – this shows that God is taking care of us. Have faith in this, and pray for all conflict and all misunderstandings to stop. Pray that God enlightens us, that we become servants of our people†††† for their good, so that all individuals can benefit from this.
This is my lecture this morning, and I think that you will not misunderstand me because I am talking about a law: always pray. Pray by yourself and God shall bless you.
July 4, 1915, Sofia
* Speech as a form of articulating prayer
† A translated quote from the Bible, not a direct quote from an English-language version of the Bible
‡ A translated quote
§ A translated quote
** Leva – multiple for lev – the Bulgarian currency
†† From Bulgarian “grosh”
‡‡ A translated quote
§§ A translated quote
*** This sentence comes with a footnote (“belejka” number 14) in the original text. The footnote reads: “The war of year 1913 between Bulgaria and its former allies from the Balkan War – Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Romania.”
††† A translated quote
‡‡‡ This sentence comes with a footnote (“belejka” number 15) in the original text. The footnote reads: “Ivan Kronshtadski – or John Kronshtadski (1829-1908) – Russian Orthodox priest with the civil name Ivan Ilich Sergiev.”
§§§ This sentence comes with a footnote (“belejka” number 16) in the original text. The footnote reads: “William Gladston (1809-1898) – English statesman from the Labour Party, who energetically protested against the massacre of Bulgarians from the Turks during the year 1876.”
**** A translated quote
†††† Meaning “our nation”