Affirmative Prayer

Excerpts from Chapter Eight of New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality

It's one thing to read about New Thought and agree intellectually that a positive attitude is a good idea; it's quite another matter to assimilate it so that you put it into practice automatically when life hands out lemons. . . .

The number one New Thought suggestion for getting through the day is to change your mind and keep it changed. Like Brother Lawrence, New Thought teaches that our beliefs should help us get through the day. Since our experiences are derived from our beliefs, we might as well picture the best and expect the best, especially in view of the research on optimism and expectancy. Having survived the day, we need to take time to visualize and plan for the future that we want, that fulfills our mission in life; and take whatever steps we can to make it come about. The idea is not to keep living the same day over and over, but to visualize and plan for something better.

This reminds us of the story about the construction workers who ate lunch together. Every day one of them would open his lunch box and exclaim in disgust, "Peanut butter and jelly again!" Finally the other inquired, "Why don't you ask your wife to fix something else?" "Oh, I'm not married," was the reply. "I make my own lunch." All of us make our own lunch with our thoughts.

No matter how limited we may feel at present, we can continue to visualize daily and be alert and ready for new opportunities, which have a way of suddenly appearing. If we are very clear about what we want, we will recognize such opportunities.

New Thoughter Joseph Murphy illustrates this well with an account of a scientist who was in a Russian concentration camp with no apparent hope of escape. He had seen pictures of Los Angeles, so every day and night he would picture himself driving along Wilshire Boulevard. One morning during roll call, the guard unexpectedly interrupted the count, and the scientist was able to step out of line and slip away without being missed. He made his way to Switzerland, where he met a couple from California who invited him to visit them there. He soon found himself being driven by their chauffeur along Wilshire Boulevard, just as he had pictured.

When we are embroiled in our problems, the hardest thing in the world is to picture what we want instead of stewing overþgiving our attention toþwhat we don't want, which we thereby attract more of. There's nothing supernatural about it. Mysticism is helpful, but optional. What is not optional is the self-discipline necessary to back up our imagination with the willpower to commit to and stay focused on what we want while taking whatever steps we are able to take to reach it. Those steps may include additional learnings, in or out of school, with perhaps some research in the local library or seeking out a knowledgeable person to talk with. They may involve rethinking our attitudes and opinions about someone or something. They may involve breaking old habits, old patterns of doing things, and replacing them with new patterns. In any event, they mean change, and change is strange; otherwise it wouldn't be change. We have to be willing to put up with that strange feeling.

When problems have us discouraged, reading an inspirational book can help us raise our consciousness. New Thought literature runs the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, so you need to pick and choose what meets your needs. The words and actions of Jesus are our best role model, and symbolic interpretation of the Bible can make it relevant and meaningful for you. People have always had to scramble for a living, wrestle with health challenges, and struggle with relationships until they develop a prosperity consciousness, a habitually uplifted state of mind. You feel stressed? Read about St. Paul's shipwreck, or Daniel in the lions' den, as discussed by Emmet Fox. Now there's a stressful situation. Still, as Robert Schuller says, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." Old Daniel made out all right, as did Queen Esther in another Old Testament story involving even more stress than going to the boss to ask for a raise.

Robert Ringer, author of the much-misunderstood book, Winning Through Intimidation, has a Theory of Sustenance of a Positive Attitude Through the Assumption of a Negative Result. This means preparing for long-term success by being prepared for short-term failure. Ringer points out that this only works if you are really prepared mentally to succeed and not merely seeking excuses for failure. You're only a failure if you say you are; otherwise, you just haven't succeeded yet. How many times did Edison fail to invent the light bulb before he finally succeeded? It was somewhere in the thousands of times. Control theory has a saying, "There is no failure, only feedback."

Charles Fillmore employed this non-negative thinking when the sheriff came to repossess the printing press on which Fillmore had been unable to make payments. He said calmly to the sheriff, "I have a rich Father who is taking care of this." "Oh," said the sheriff, "in that case, we will give you a little more time." And of course, Fillmore's heavenly Father did come through, first with ideas, and eventually with lavish abundance, monetary and otherwise.

The self-disciplined, God-centered mind looks for the good in the midst of trouble, and is therefore prepared to act when opportunity presents itself. You may not be able to prevent negative thoughts from coming into your mind, but you don't have to dwell on them. Emmet Fox likens them to a hot ash lighting on your sleeve. You can let it burn a hole or simply brush it off, and you certainly don't have to express negative thoughts aloud. It is literally true that words have power, and your brain hears what your mouth says. If you have to listen to yourself, you don't want to go around steeped in negativity; it's unhealthful. Remember the little prayer that goes, "Lord, help me make sure that my words are sweet and pleasant, for tomorrow I may have to eat them."

Even deep grief or catastrophe can be better dealt with by striving for an uplifted consciousness: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" (Psalm 121). We can also pray to be shown the good in any situation. This is especially helpful when no good at all seems apparent.

The disciplined mind is also disciplined in its dealings with others. Three of Covey's Seven Habits (see Chapter 7) deal with interpersonal relationships: Think win/win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; and Synergize. If we are all part of one good God, then there is good in each of us, even if it seems to be particularly well hidden in some. The most obnoxious or troublesome people in our lives are there to teach us something. When you have learned your lesson, you will find that either they change or they disappear from your life. You need to love them (remember, love means to wish someone well. Well in some cases might mean a brain transplant). We don't always know what is best for someone else.

Specific Techniques

New Thought is founded on the premise that we create our world with our thoughts (Process New Thought would say through our responses to God's initiatives in our lives, for those responses are largely experienced as thoughts). The only behaviorsþand thoughts are behaviorsþthat we can change are our own. Changing our own thoughts changes at least slightly the background from which we and everything else emerge. Consequently, changing our thoughts really does change everything.

Specific thought-changing techniques include, in addition to Spiritual Mind Treatment and the Golden Key [Emmet Fox's name for moving attention from a problem to the presence of God in its place], any form of meditation along with visualization. Changing what you are doing with your body also helps you change your thoughts, especially when you go from inactivity to activity (overcomes depression), or from running about to rest (calms you down).

Changing our thoughts and keeping them changed requires the self-discipline of habitual practice of whatever techniques we select. This means that at least once a day and preferably oftener, we take the time to "sit in the silence," as Charles Fillmore put it, and become aware of God everywhere present. We can meditate, visualize, pray in conventional fashion, or walk in beautiful, natural surroundings. But whatever we do, we get our thoughts off of our problems and onto God. Emmet Fox's technique called the Golden Key was simply that: stop thinking about the problem, and instead, mentally rehearse everything you know about God.

Science of Mind (Religious Science) founder Ernest Holmes developed a similar technique that he called Spiritual Mind Treatment, described in Chapter 2 [and after this paragraph]. You can use it for yourself or others, to get a new car, a job, a mate, a healing, insight, or whatever else you desire. There are several variations, but it basically goes something like this: you focus your attention on God, feel your oneness with him/her, state your desired outcome as if it had already occurred (sometimes called "speaking your word"), give thanks that it is accomplished, and release any further thought or worry about the thing you are treating for until time for your next treatment (let go and let God). Jesus regularly gave thanks in advance for his miracles.

As presented in Chapter Two:

The most practically important part of Science of Mind is the method called Spiritual Mind Treatment. This is not basically different from the praying practices of other forms of New Thought, but it is put forth in a methodical way, with clearly distinguished steps:

1. Recognition of God's existence.
2. Unification of yourself with God (a meditative practice ideally producing something at least approaching mystical experience).
3. Realization (making real, calling into actuality what you desire, accepting, affirming, choosing your good, truth telling, firmly and confidently "speaking your word," always in the present tense, as if already accomplished).
4. Thanksgiving (gratitude).
5. Release (letting go, allowing God to work without your supervision, not pulling up the seeds that you have just planted, to see whether they have sprouted yet).

In the January 1994 Science of Mind, Craig Carter says:

There are many ways to give a metaphysical treatment for healing, but there is only one purpose behind any treatment, which is to change the consciousness of the person giving the treatment. Generally speaking, this is done either by "argument" or by "realization," but the effect is the same.

We usually give a treatment by stating, in various ways, the Truth involved, until we finally realize that this Truth is now established, and we can "let go and let God," knowing the work is done.

Some students prefer just to see and feel and know God's perfect Presence at, in, and as the person, place or thing treated. This kind of work is a silent "realization," rather than a use of statements or words.

But whatever the method of treatment, what happens is that our own consciousness is changed: where we saw a problem, we now see Truth established. . . .

Returning to Chapter Eight:

Once into a calm, centered, uplifted state of consciousness, we can become aware of our mission in life, the fulfillment of which will bring us the greatest happiness. We can set goals and make plans to carry them out, guided by divine Wisdom. Emmet Fox defines Wisdom as a blend of Love and Intelligence, one of which without the other can get us into difficulties.

The practice of the presence of God for practical purposes empowers us. It teaches us that we are God individualized at the point where we are, all the love and power and abundance of God. We are not victims or worms of the dust or sinners, unless we say we are. We are co-creators with God, and our mission is to glorify God ("Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me" Matthew 25:40) by serving each other in ways suited to our particular talents and desires, which are God's perfect possibilities for us. To do this is to follow our bliss, to live in peace, harmony, joy, and abundance. Jesus said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over" (Luke 6:38). To live this way is to be well; illness results when we are unhappy and out of balance, at odds with other people, or not making good use of our talents. Fear limits us; love empowers us. We are empowered when we change our thoughts and keep them changed, away from fear and separation and onto love and oneness. That can transform our lives: "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

We'll let Jesus have the last word: "Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

For more on the above topic, see Mildred Mann's words at Society of Pragmatic Mysticism.

Inspirational Metaphysical Affirmations

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Latest update Nov. 13, 2000