In the exercises for week 4 of the Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron) one of the tasks is to write your own Artist’s Prayer.
AN ARTIST’S PRAYER
O Great Creator, We are gathered together in your name That we may be of greater service to you And to our fellows. We offer ourselves to you as instruments. We open ourselves to your creativity in our lives. We surrender to you our old ideas. We welcome your new and more expansive ideas. We trust that you will lead us. We trust that it is safe to follow you. We know you created us and that creativity Is your nature and our own. We ask you to unfold our lives According to your plan, not our low self-worth. Help us to believe that it is not too late And that we are not too small or too flawed To be healed— By you and through each other—and made whole. Help us to love one another, To nurture each other’s unfolding, To encourage each other’s growth, And understand each other’s fears. Help us to know that we are not alone, That we are loved and lovable. Help us to create as an act of worship to you.
Of course, we’re now in Week 8, and I haven’t done it yet.
So, perhaps it’s time to really look at how I wish to co-create with the Creator.
Great Creator and Spirit within, I rest easy knowing that my purpose is to share my learnings and that when I lean into you, I know enough. I acknowledge and accept that all my creative urges and yearnings are Divine, So today, I offer myself into the flow of your creative energy. I open myself to co-create with Divine Love, welcoming new ideas and new ways of connecting and working with old ideas. I am willing to let go of the need to know it all now before I get started. I trust that it is safe to explore my creative yearnings, trying new methods and ways. I dare to ask that you supply all my needs: emotional, mental, creative, health, and even financial. I am learning to trust and surrender. I am perfectly made and created; I am healthy and whole. Allow me to be a vessel for your Divine and Creative love to flow to others, accepting Divine Love to fill me and overflow. Let my creativity be my act of worship. And so it is.
I realised that while a beggar might say “can you spare some change“, a lover would not hesitate to request their heart’s desires. A lover would never request leftovers or spare change but instead asks to be wined and dined. Your beloved seeks to be loved, wholly and completely.
Much like the faith of a child.
Before Christmas, I went to the pharmacy to pick up something, and little miss 6 begged me to take her upstairs to see toys. She insisted that she wouldn’t ask me to buy her anything, but rather, just wanted to look and to tell me what she wanted for Christmas. As we walked around the toys, I took my phone and photographed each one that she pointed out she wanted. I later sent all the photos to her dad, her aunts & older cousins – making sure that everyone had an idea of “these are the types of toys she’s interested in this year”.
She never bothered me again about Christmas presents, although throughout December she kept telling me what she was getting. She had absolute certainty that the things that we’d looked at that day would be under the tree! Because that’s what she had asked for.
On December 23rd, when I went to the supermarket, she hand-picked 8 carrots for the reindeer, and then stopped to pick up chocolate chip cookies for Santa. For her, there was no doubt that Santa would come – so it was apparent we needed to have ready the snacks.
At six years old, she sees magic in life that I have lost touch with – become cynical about. She stops to smell the flowers and notice the details. It’s possible to embrace the possibility of the impossible. She simply believes it to be so – and we make it happen!
The power of prayer
How do I describe the importance of the words that we use without ascribing formality and strength to the words that they don’t have? The power lies in my faith of the all-present Divine to fulfil. There is no magic in eloquence or wordiness.
And yet words are essential: we speak reality into existence, first as thoughts, ideas, and then we put it into words and actions.
We are told to have the faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains.
Nonetheless, in various passages, we are chided to ask according to Divine purpose and will, rather than according to our own desires. And when we pray with this certainty of Divine purpose, we know that we already have it! Even in the Lord’s Prayer, we find “Thy will be done”.
When we know our purpose, and that what we are thinking, speaking and doing is aligned with our mission and Divine Plan, the certainty that our prayer has power comes more easily. The power of our prayers is then released by the choices and actions that we take.
Do you believe that Santa is coming tonight – enough to buy carrots for the reindeer?
What actions are you taking after you pray? Do you pray for rain and then carry an umbrella or a raincoat?
Are your prayers ordering from a menu?
I cannot count the times my prayers were like a patron ordering from a menu: “I’ll have the daily bread, some patience, and could you please take away these trials that I seem to be having at the moment?”.
Thy will be done be damned! I’m not interested. Please just remove this plate and this trial from me, because I have other plans for my life. Can we skip the vegetables and go straight to dessert?
Can our prayers be simply a request for ourselves – from a place of desire – because we want it? Or do our appeals need to align with our purpose and passion?
How do I exercise the faith of a mustard seed – of a child? Can I command the Divine power that we have been given? To influence events and situations, we have to connect with Divine Love, and rest in knowing that we can command “this or better”. If the Bible is at all valid, then we have the power to calm a storm, ordering it to be still.
When we tell our dog to sit, we simply expect it to sit. So why do we not expect the same from other elements of life? Do we educate the dog – or are we training ourselves to believe that the dog will sit when told to do so?
Perhaps we need more training in faith and prayer.
I don’t believe prayer is begging and pleading
God, can you spare some change?
I hope that Divine Love is so much more than just spare change by random passersby.
My daughter would never ask me just for leftovers. No. She would dare to ask me for the food off my plate, for my dessert. While she loves sharing, she also has no fear in asking.
Of course, sometimes we are like spoiled children. We ask, and we are told no. Or our parents say “later”. Then we start with the begging and pleading. We try to negotiate a different response because we didn’t like the answer we received.
How often do you tell a child “no” for their own good? We protect our children in all kinds of ways, not always giving them what they ask us for.
Are you listening for the answers to your prayers? Can you sit in silence and hear the still, small voice that says “I have something better for you.“? Unfortunately, there have been many times in my life that I have been the child, throwing a tantrum. I fail to see the look of love in the eyes of the Divine. The noise that I am making is too loud for me to hear the stilling and calm voice that says “wait”.
Faith does not beg and plead.
I might beg and plead. But faith doesn’t. My begging and pleading typically come from a place of fear and lack.
Like a child, I might be attempting manipulation – I’m going to make you do what I want. Do I really think that I might be able to shame the Divine into doing what I please?
Don’t get me wrong – prayer changes everything. Typically, in these moments, I find that prayer changes me. If I stay there long enough, begging and pleading – I start to see Truth. I begin to recognise where I am coming from and the state that I am in.
The divine purpose has not been changed – but my relationship with it has been.
“You’re going to be happy” – said Love – “but first I’m going to make you strong.”
Certainty, belief and faith
The only certainty I have is that everything is for my good and aligned with my Divine purpose. That doesn’t always mean that I am confident of the next right step forward or of the outcome.
The only certainty I have is that when I know the next right step forward, it becomes my responsibility to take it. The onus falls upon me to move my feet.
I’ve wasted time over the past decades waiting to see the whole path before me, before daring to take the step that has been revealed. Unfortunately, we often never get to see it all with that kind of clarity!
Life is a mix of prayer, answers & insight, faith and action.
“Just as courage is persisting in the face of fear, so faith is persisting in the presence of doubt.” (Julia Baird)
It’s not that we doubt that this is the right path – it’s that we doubt our ability to carry it out! Faith is not about convincing myself to believe – it’s having that deep inner conviction that this is my purpose and path, in spite of doubting my own fortitude and abilities. It’s trusting that the Divine within me is sufficient to make up for my own weaknesses.
Therein lies the magic that my daughter sees.
If God is all-powerful, why would my doubts and uncertainty be able to undermine the outcome? All that is asked of me is to step forward in my purpose, trusting that the parts beyond my control will work out by Divine plan. I am only responsible for all the elements within my control.
What is within your control?
A few weeks ago, I was coaching a friend about her life journey, as she finished her Licensed Unity Teacher training, and was taking up a role in her local church. Before we started our coaching session, she shared with me a precious moment of her Sunday morning service.
Sunday, sitting in the centre chair – as the speaker that day, and realising that she had fulfilled a life dream.
As a child, she had wanted to be a priest – obviously not an option for a little girl. That was abandoned, and she went on with life. Now, almost at retirement, she began studying for a new career – that of a licensed teacher. And because her pastor had a family emergency, she was asked to stand in for him.
The building their church is in was taken over by the City, about forty or more years ago, when it was abandoned by the Catholic church which could no longer run it as a school. Her church eventually acquired it. And so, here she sat, in the seat that once might have been occupied by the priest. About to give the Sunday sermon. She could never have foreseen the events that would lead up to this moment.
But, when the still small voice called her to study, she studied. And when her pastor asked her to stand in for him, she said “yes”.
Do you have faith that you are aligned with your Divine purpose?
Prayer is simply a conversation with God. It’s a moment in which to regain clarity and focus, remembering what is truly important. Do you use your time in prayer to align your purpose and priorities for the day?
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. (Soren Kierkegaard)
Prayer is that place where you find the strength, courage and wisdom to understand “Thy will be done” is the biggest blessing that can happen in your life. It’s connecting with something much more significant than just your ego self and daring to ask for the best for your life journey.
To pray is to require of your Lover – that you be blessed and be a complete blessing to others. That your cup overflows so much that everyone around you is touched by the grace. It is daring to ask the Divine to be the Divine in you – to request for God from God. Could you ask to be loved so thoroughly that you never doubt it for a moment?
Could you have the faith of a child? Can you believe you are loved and cared for by the Divine – in you, for you, and through you?
Whatever you are thinking about, mulling over, pondering, ruminating on… will produce results. If you are harbouring in your mind and thoughts a problem, your face and emotions (energy in motion) will probably reflect those very thoughts.Read More »
We all know what it’s like when the lights go off inside our home, and we are left in the pitch black. Can we imagine what it was like before electricity, when a home was lit solely with candles? There was no staying up watching TV. There was no working late on the computer. Imagine, you were handwriting a manuscript, and you make a mistake – rewrite the entire page, there is no delete button on the computer to go back 3 spaces.Read More »
So, this morning I was watching a YouTube video by Lulu Minns, in which she was discussing “asking“: asking the Universe (God) for what you actually need and desire. Sit down and clearly identify (specific numbers) your needs and your desires for the month to come (in my case, April 2018). And then, ask for it! Crunch the numbers, be specific, and ask for exactly what you need! Then get to work (obviously).
This description of asking for what I need hit a spiritual nerve with me: How am I doing with my “give us this day our daily bread“? Very vague. I say “give me this day my daily bread”. I pray it. But am I specific about what that actually is? Am I truly asking for what I need and want, being super clear and specific? No. Not at all. I’ll just leave that up to God, because God already knows what I need… Vague requests getting vague results.
I’ve always excused myself, telling myself that I am leaving the door open for God to bless me. But is this true? Or am I just being lazy? Does sitting down and getting specific about “this is what I need” for this day, this week and this month, make me more accountable? How motivated do I feel when I am specific about my needs? Acting responsibly requires that I identify what I really need, versus what I simply want. It also enables me to be realistic about “What do I need today?“. It’s very easy to worry about everything – it’s not so easy to prioritise which ones really come first.
Proverbs 14:23 reminds us:
Hard work always pays off, mere talk puts no bread on the table.
When I sat down this morning, after watching her short video, with the office expenses and my personal expenses, and I got detailed about “this is what I need“, today, this week and this month, that was “hard work”, not just vain and empty words. But there was more than just the financial aspect of “this is what I need and desire”.
The bread referred to in Proverbs, as well as the bread in Matthew is not simply a physical bread to satisfy my stomach’s hunger. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread“, we are actually asking for the sustenance of the day: the food, the shelter, the strength, the patience, the creativity, the motivation, the opportunities. Our “daily bread” represents our “necessities” of life. It may be the support that we need from another person, the encouragement to continue working hard. It may be a new contact that we need to make, or a door that we need to open.
And so suddenly, my question became: what do I need for today? As I look at today’s schedule, what I am supposed to work on and work through, what do I need? Strength? Focus? Creativity? Empathy? What am I truly asking for today? Do I truly trust God to be my Source and provide me with my daily bread?
As I have gotten more in touch with the idea of continually living in the present and Presence of the Divine, I have realised that that I need to differentiate between God as “source” and the actual channel of my “bread”. By this I mean: I could receive $100.00 from my work, or as a gift from someone, or from an investment – each one of these are different channels. But ultimately, all come from the Divine. Am I believing in the Divine or am I stuck on just one channel?
I have acquired a certain level of security knowing that my security or sustenance is coming from a particular channel (my work). But what happens when that channel gets blocked? Do I lose faith in God as our Source? I’ve been there. One door closed and suddenly my whole world has fallen apart. But that’s not actually true. Just one door closed. But I was too reliant on that one door. Maybe even made an idol out of that door. It because “God” and Source. And then that door closes, and I have been left feeling “God has abandoned me“.
So, this morning, as I looked at what do I need and want for this month, week and day, I started to identify my “ask“. This is what I need, here and now. This is what today holds: financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This is what I need and these are the desires of my heart. And to sit back and expect Divine grace to fill it. As I sat in silence with those needs, light and illumination came. “This” is where my focus and energy needs to go today, these are the things that need to be done.
We ask for our daily bread, and then we need to wait and hear the answer about which areas we need to focus on and work at. The hard work will pay off: but we need to be working on the right things. And it’s only in the silence that we can hear the answer of what that right thing is!
We need to remember that each day we are “born anew”, we die to sin and rise to Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Because we are shown grace and mercy, we have the possibility of dying to whatever holds us back, and rising again renewed and full of life and light.
Matthew 5: 13-15
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 Youarethelightof theworld.A cityona hillcannotbe hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house
But until we actually recognize that living in the Presence of our Creator actually means shining forth every day as light in this world, we are only surviving, instead of thriving.
If you haven’t read Emmet Fox‘s book “The Lord’s Prayer“, I definitely recommend it. This is the part about “Give us this day our daily bread”. I particularly love his explanation of the thought:
“we have to recognize God and God alone as the Source and fountainhead of all our good. Lack… is always traceable to the fact that we have been seeking our supply from some secondary source, instead of from God Himself, the Author and Giver of life.”
Of course, that’s not necessarily “prosperity” or abundance, but it certainly is seeing God as our source of sustenance, our daily bread. If our reliance is upon God, we are indifferent to HOW we are provided for – the “channel”. We train ourselves to look to God for all we need, knowing that the channel will take care of itself.
Matthew 6:33 (The Message)
“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
The Lord’s Prayer
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Because we are the children of a loving Father, we are entitled to expect that God will provide us fully with everything we need. Children naturally and spontaneously look to their human parents to supply all their wants, and in the same way we should look to God to supply ours. If we do so, in faith and understanding, we shall never look in vain.
It is the Will of God that we should all lead healthy, happy lives, full of joyous experience; that we should develop freely and steadily, day by day and week by week, as our pathways unfold more and more unto the perfect day. To this end we require such things as food, clothing, shelter, means of travel, books, and so on; above all, we require freedom; and in the Prayer all these things are included under the heading of bread.
Bread, that is to say, means not merely food in general, but all things that man requires for a healthy, happy, free, and harmonious life. But in order to obtain these things, we have to claim them, not necessarily in detail, but we have to claim them, and, we have to recognize God and God alone as the Source and fountainhead of all our good. Lack of any kind is always traceable to the fact that we have been seeking our supply from some secondary source, instead of from God Himself, the Author and Giver of life.
People think of their supply as coming from certain investments, or from a business, or from an employer, perhaps; whereas these are merely the channels through which it comes, God being the Source.
The number of possible channels is infinite, the Source is One. The particular channel through which you are getting your supply is quite likely to change, because change is the Cosmic Law for manifestation. Stagnation is really death; but as long as you realize that the Source of your supply is the one unchangeable Spirit, all is well. The fading out of one channel will be but the signal for the opening of another. If, on the other hand, like most people, you regard the particular channel as being the source, then when that channel fails, as it is very likely to do, you are left stranded, because you believe that the source has dried up – and for practical purposes, on the physical plane, things are as we believe them to be.
A man, for instance, thinks of his employment as the source of his income, and for some reason he loses it. His employer goes out of business, or cuts down the staff, or they have a falling out. Now, because he believes that his position is the source of his income, the loss of the position naturally means the loss of the income, and so he has to start looking about for another job, and perhaps has to look a long time, meanwhile finding himself without apparent supply. If such a man had realized, through regular daily Treatment, that God was his supply, and his job only the particular channel through which it came, then upon the closing of that channel, he would have found another, and probably a better one, opening immediately. If his belief had been in God as his supply, then since God cannot change or fail, or fade out, his supply would have come from somewhere, and would have formed its own channel in whatever was the easiest way.
In precisely the same way the proprietor of a business may find himself obliged to close down for some cause outside of his control; or one whose income is dependent upon stocks or bond may suddenly find that source dried up, owing to unexpected happenings on the stock market, or to some catastrophe to a factory or mine. If he regards the business or the investment as his source of supply, he will believe his source to have collapsed, and will in consequence be left stranded; whereas, if his reliance is upon God, he will be comparatively indifferent to the channel and so that channel will be easily supplanted by a new one. In short, we have to train ourselves to look to God, Cause, for all that we need, and then the channel, which is entirely a secondary matter, will take care of itself.
In its inner and most important meaning, our daily bread signifies the realization of the Presence of God – an actual sense that God exists not merely in a nominal way, but as the great reality; the sense that He is present with us; and the feeling that because He is God, all-good, all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving, we have nothing to fear; that we can rely upon Him to take every care of use; that He will supply all that we need to have; teach us all that we need to know; and guide our steps so that we shall not make mistakes.
This is Emanuel, or God with us; and remember that it absolutely means some degree of actual realization, that is to say, some experience in consciousness, and not just a theoretical recognition of the fact; not simply talking about God, however beautifully one may talk, or thinking about Him; but some degree of actual experience. We must begin by thinking about God, but this should lead to the realization which is the daily bread or manna. That is the gist of the whole matter. Realization, which is experience, is the thing that counts. It is realization which marks the progress of the soul. It is realization which guarantees the demonstration. It is realization, as distinct from mere theorizing and fine words, which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
This is the Bread of Life, the hidden manna, and when one has that, he has all things in deed and in truth. Jesus several times refers to this experience as bread because it is the nourishment of the soul, just as physical food is the nourishment of the physical body. Supplied with this food, the soul grows and waxes strong, gradually developing to adult stature. Without it, she, being deprived of her essential nourishment, is naturally stunted and crippled.
The common mistake, of course, is to suppose that a formal recognition of God is sufficient, or that talking about Divine things, perhaps talking very poetically, is the same as possessing them; but this is exactly on a par with supposing that looking at a tray of food, or discussing the chemical composition of sundry foodstuffs, is the same things as actually eating a meal. It is this mistake which is responsible for the fact that people sometimes pray for a thing for years without any tangible result. If prayer is a force at all, it cannot be possible to pray without something happening.
A realization cannot be obtained to order; it must come spontaneously as the result of regular daily prayer. To seek realization by will power is the surest way to miss it. Pray regularly and quietly – remember that in all mental work, effort or strain defeats itself – then presently, perhaps when you least expect it, like a thief in the night, the realization will come. Meanwhile it is well to know that all sorts of practical difficulties can be overcome by sincere prayer, without any realization at all. Good workers have said that they have had some of their best demonstrations without any realization worth speaking about; but while it is, of course, a wonderful boon to surmount such particular difficulties, we do not achieve the sense of security and well-being to which we are entitled until we have experienced realization.
Another reason why the food or bread symbol for the experience of the Presence of God is such a telling one is that the act of eating food is essentially a thing that must be done for oneself. No one can assimilate food for another. One may hire servants to do all sorts of other things for him; but there is one thing that one must positively do for himself, and that is to eat his own food. In the same way, the realization of the Presence of God is a thing that no one else can have for us. We can and should help one another in the overcoming of specific difficulties – “Bear ye one another’s burdens” – but the realization (or making real) of the Presence of God, the “substance” and “evidence,” can, in the nature of things, be had only at firsthand.
In speaking of the “bread of life, Emanuel,” Jesus call it our daily bread. The reason for this is very fundamental – our contact with God must be a living one. It is our momentary attitude to God which governs our being. “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” The most futile thing in the world is to seek to live upon a past realization. The thing that means spiritual life to you is your realization of God here and now.
Today’s realization, no matter how feeble and poor it may seem, has a million times more power to help you than the most vivid realization of yesterday. Be thankful for yesterday’s experience, knowing that it is with you forever in the change of consciousness which it brought about, but do not lean upon it for a single moment for the need of today. Divine Spirit is, and changes not with the ebb and flow of human apprehension. The manna, in the desert is the Old Testament prototype of this. The people wandering in the wilderness were told that they would be supplied with manna from heaven every day, each one always receiving abundant for his needs, but they were on no account to try to save it up for the morrow.
They were on no account to endeavor to live upon yesterday’s food, and when, notwithstanding the rule, some of them did try to do so, the result was pestilence or death.
So it is with us. When we seek to live upon yesterday’s realization, we are actually seeking to live in the past, and to live in the past is death. The art of life is to live in the present moment, and to make that moment as perfect as we can by the realization that we are the instruments and expression of God Himself. The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to make today all that it should be.
If you haven’t read this commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, I definitely recommend it.
A couple of weeks ago I finally started a weekly prayer group at Balboa Union Church, after all these years of saying that the reason I had come back to church was to explore the power of prayer.
Admittedly, I have spent the last 3-4 years completely separated from prayer and where I was at. There are so many excuses that I could give – but all of them would be just that, excuses. I have had many moments where I’ve felt I was drowning under the weight, where I felt I had lost my faith and that nothing could bring me back.
But recently I have started to experience again the beauty of being still. Of taking time to breathe and connect with a Power much greater than myself – acknowledging that God is everywhere and in everything. Once again realising the beauty of the rain, of the birds singing first thing in the morning, and slowly finding my way back to faith.
These past couple days I’ve been practicing spending ten minutes a day in meditation. Some days have been easier than others.
But the practice has been all about creating new habits, getting into the habit of listening, rather than speaking. Being grateful, rather than asking for. Being still and at peace.
And I’ve realised how much we like to keep busy. Always running. Always something else to do.
My quiet time, for so long now, has been a multi-tasking time. Not a quiet time. Not dedicated to letting my Creator speak with me. Always presenting a “to do” list and asking for God’s blessing on this list, to give me the strength I need, to help things flow smoothly…
But as I’ve started to learn to be quiet, just breathe, just be at peace, I’ve started to realise there is more to this. A joy to taking it slowly. And just being present. Unhurried.