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Religion & Culture | ‘Give us our daily bread’: The greatest prayer is action

Published:Sunday | June 3, 2018 | 12:30 AMDr Glenville Ashby

“When you implore your God for help, be prepared to do the heavy lifting.” - Glenville Ashby

The Lord’s Prayer is arguably the most recited supplication in Christianity. It is referred to by Marshall Connelly of Catholic Online Network as one of Christianity’s most powerful prayers.

He writes, “This is the quintessential Christian prayer by Jesus Christ Himself. It suffices as an all occasion prayer that hits all the bases. It acknowledges God’s greatness, it invites God’s will, it petitions God for our needs, and requests pardon as we pledge to forgive.”

God, we are taught, has a venerable name and residence where he awaits our supplications before disbursing his generosity and protection (Give us this day our daily bread and lead us not into temptation).

This prayer also raises the question of predetermination versus free will (Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven); and forgiveness (forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us).

The Lord’s Prayer appears straightforward. We implore our Creator for sustenance and protection, ask for his forgiveness, and leave the rest to Him. What could be wrong with that? And coming from the Saviour himself, we are doubly assured of the prayer’s efficacy. But is that all there is to prayer?

The literal, or exoteric, interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer is what mainstream religions have long presented. It fits nicely into the patriarchal narrative of a God who gives but could well rescind his magnanimity. There is no better illustration than the story of Job.

Still, the Lord’s Prayer, in demanding that we act (forgive others) can be a transformative tool. However, in designating a name and ‘residence’ of the Creator, along with its supplicatory tone it can prove difficult for some, like myself, to acknowledge.

The Lord’s Prayer, like so many other orisons, can fall short, leaving us disillusioned.

Fundamental to this concern is that we have a skewed understanding of the true nature of prayer. Prayer is not an act of supplication to the gods, deities or God.

Authentic prayer is based on a philosophical principle called Yin and Yang.

This philosophy was first expressed in The Book of Changes (I Ching) in 700 BC. According to this teaching everything in nature is based on complementary opposites (yin and yang).

Yin and Yang energies are foundational to life and to our very existence. It is the basis of harmony and homeostasis. For example: day (yang) and night (yin); heat (yang) and cold (yin); moisture (yin) and dryness (yang); activity (yang) and rest (yin).

This principle has been used to explain universal laws, and indeed, it is also applicable to prayer.

For prayer to be effective, there must be two forces at play: intent (yin) and action (yang).

Prayer starts with intention, a thought. It is first and intellectual or intuitive process. This is an example of yin energy. When we act upon this thought, we are using yang energy. Our prayer lacks meaning without these two opposite but complementary forces at work.

Unfortunately, we have erroneously learnt overtime that prayer is a recitation of words, a supplication for help. 

But no amount of prayers could have healed the likes of a Helen Keller or a Stephen Hawkin. They became whole, healed completely, by their will for meaning, their will to create against impossible odds. They might have asked (God) for the strength but they acted upon their intent. In other words, they shaped their future. Indeed, our future is the manifestation of our present actions.

This demonstrates that we are as responsible for our wholeness as ‘God.’  We are co-creators with this Universal Energy we call God. This realisation (idea or concept) drives us to act.

Of importance is our recognition that we are creators, gods with the ability to transcend the impossible, as Jesus himself noted. 

I refer to John 14: 12:  “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these...”

In John 10: 34, we read the following: “We are not stoning you for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy because you, who are a man, declare yourself to be God. Jesus replied, “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the Word of God came- and the Scriptures cannot be broken.”

And in psalm 82: 5-6, it is inscribed: “They do not know nor do they understand. They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.”

And of the God that we so adore it is foolhardy to believe that this power resides in a place that we call heaven. God is the conscious spark found in all of Nature, as stated in Luke 17:21 - “Neither shall they say, lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Thus, the greatest of prayers is our will to live and to create, and create, ad infinitum.

When we pray we must not ask for (something), but rather, ask to realise (something).

Here we are called to action. We are empowered and work towards shaping our destiny. We are not always successful and this is where acceptance comes in (Thy will be done). This is wisdom.  

And wisdom tells us that the highest homage we can pay to God is to assume our role as co-creators in the advancement of self and humanity. And again, I reiterate Jesus’ words: “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I have said you are gods’?”


- Dr Ashby is the author of the newly released, Inn Search of Truth: A Course inn Spiritual Psychology, available at Amazon and iBooks.

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