Prayer and The Mind

Posted on 11/09/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***


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WE BRING THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE

We bring the sacrifice of praise
into the house of the Lord
We bring the sacrifice of praise
into the house of the Lord
And we offer up to you
the sacrifices of thanksgiving
And we offer up to you
the sacrifices of joy


EVEN THE MOUNTAINS

We praise you Lord because you're worthy
You are Lord and King of the earth and sky
Let us lift you up and declare your glory
Let us lift our hands and our voices high

Even the mountains praise your name
the rocks and the stones cry Holy!
Whoever seeks for your face
will never be the same
Let your kingdom come
in Jesus' name

I'm an instrument, I am only a vessel
Help me open up to receive your love
Let us put to death thoughts of opposition
Let me step aside and point the world to above


AMAZING LOVE

Amazing love, how can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it's true.
It's my joy to honor You,
In all I do,
I honor You.

You are my King, Jesus
You are my King

If the Son has set you free,
you are free indeed!


*** listen to the audio to hear the introduction ***


I'm sure you're all familiar with what's commonly called "The Lord's Prayer," and many or most of us can probably recite it from memory without hesitation.

When we hear it, we generally feel as though it is a holy utterance, and some of us repeat it word-for-word as a form of prayer.

Many paraphrase it as a prayer, adding their own words throughout, and still others treat it like an outline, and there are some really in-depth teachings that approach it in this way.

But regardless of which one of these variations you choose, they all have this one thing in common: they are words, ideally from the heart and therefore carrying more than just the sounds which go through the mind and potentially pass the lips.


A few days ago, as part of a writing project, I went through the Model Prayer, expounding upon each part. And because of the subject matter of this particular manuscript, I took the perspective of that to which the prayer could point that is above the level of mind and thought.

But nothing Jesus said was one-dimensional. And by that, I don't mean that everything He said has many ways we can think about it. Instead, I mean that everything Jesus said goes deeper than only what the mind can do with it.

After all, Jesus did speak to our mind, and He also spoke to our spirit. He spoke within the realm of time, and He also spoke from the realm of eternity. He spoke of the things of this earth, as He pointed us to the things of heaven.

But today, I'd like to point to some of the ways in which Jesus' Model Prayer might apply to the realm of our mind.


Most of our minds are thinking all of the time. Have you ever noticed this? For some people, they notice it the most when they're trying to fall asleep at night. It might be very silent in the physical room where they are, but inside their heads, the mind is continuing the deafening din it has been making, less noticed, all day long. And for the very unfortunate, they might, after finally drifting off to sleep, wake up in the middle of the night, at which time the mind pops back to life and starts up the commotion all over again.

But this is just a more easily recognizable example. And if you were to start watching through the day, as the Bible suggests we should most certainly do, then you would notice that your mind never stops. It's like a severly hyperactive child who is fed a constant diet of sugar and caffeine.

And the Bible does give us exercises that, if we were to put them into practice every day, they would put us on the path that eventually leads to at least partial freedom from compulsive thinking. Such as watching our thoughts so we think only on things that are pure, lovely, and so-on, and bringing every thought into captivity to obedience to Christ, which also requires both being aware of our thoughts and also recognizing that our thoughts are not us. Additionally, the Scriptures speak of having the mind of Christ; we are not told to BE the mind of Christ, but to HAVE it, thus we are not our mind.

But unless someone either goes through intense mind-generated suffering and disidentifies from it as a result, or they make a heavy emphasis on the Biblical exercises I just mentioned and practice the principles behind those passages faithfully, their mind will continue to babble on relentlessly, and most of what it says, the person will not even really know.

And that describes almost everyone, including those in the Church. And so today, I'm going to approach this passage from that perspective. Lord willing, we will go into the Biblical practices that lead to a quiet, orderly mind in the near future. But today, here is the Lord's Model Prayer for the Mentally Disturbed among us, which is nearly everyone.


To make what we're about to study more real to you, here's a challenge: today, and for all of this coming week, but let's start with today, after this service, start being aware of the thoughts that go through your head. For now, don't judge them or try to manipulate them, just see them. And take notes. What are your never-ending thoughts? Are they positive or negative? Are they about the past or the future? Are they about you or about others who, ultimately, have to do with you? And are they all necessary and new, or are they useless and highly repetative?

As you do this, the truths we're about to consider will become more and more obvious to you.


Let's start by reading the Lord's Model Prayer, from Matthew chapter 6, beginning with verse 9.


In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-13)


Okay. So this starts with these words: "Our Father." Let's stop there.

The mind is incredibly self-absorbed. And when you start watching your thoughts, you will discover that they are all about the self. I WOULD say they are all about YOU, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, they are all about the SELF -- that person the mind creates that doesn't really exist. What we think is us is really a fantasy. It may be based upon events that have really happened, but those events are filtered through judgments about those events, not just on the events themselves. And most if not all of them are no longer happening, they are just memories in the head.

And when the mind is thinking about others, it is doing so only in relation to the self. So most of our mind's thoughts about others are ultimately pointing back to its self.

And when telling us how we should pray, Jesus starts out with these words: "Our Father." Of what is God the Father? Of our ego? Of our raging minds? Is the ego born again? Our minds are supposed to be being renewed, but are they born again? Or is it our Spirit man that is born again?

God is the Father of our born-again Spirit. And so when we say "Our Father," we are leaving the domain of the mind, and are pointing to the realm of the Spirit. "Father of Life," not "Idol of Mind."


So our minds are probably still raging on at several million miles per second. Or maybe only several million complete circles per hour. They never go in a straight line for long, but always loop back on themselves.

And in this madness, we go into our closet to pray.

At this point, the mind is still doing what the mind does -- thinking about its imaginary self and all the other selves and events that are somehow connected with its own self.

And the model of prayer given to us by Jesus immediately points us out of that insanity, reminds us that we are not that illusion, and points us back to God.


"Our Father in heaven."

Is Jesus talking about some far away land in which God, as a glowing ball of light, sits on a physical throne listening for the sound of the Lord's Prayer being recited from way down here below?

That kind of image is produced by the mind. But distance is a phenomenon of matter. Jesus already cleared the divide, so when we put our attention upon God, we are there where He is.

Heaven is not a distant destination. Instead, heaven is within you in the sense that there is no true distance between you and where God is. And where God is, there is heaven. This is in direct opposition to the materialistic nature of the human mind.

And so, in the middle of our mind's incessant thinking, those thoughts are redirected to point us to something outside of the self, outside of the mind.

You COULD say that the Lord's Model Prayer can drive you out of your mind. But to word it in more familiar venacular, and more appropriate perhaps, it redirects its thinking to point our attention to where it needs to be.

"Our Father in heaven. Hallowed be Your name."

To be hallowed is to be holy, sacred, venerated. In the mind's perspective of dichotomies, it means to be "set apart." Set apart, that is, from it and its self.

We tend to understand holiness as referring to a list of rules and regulations. But here, Jesus points to the name, or nature, of God. And God is not a list of rules. He is, instead, beyond words. His glory is unspeakable. His majesty is unfathomable. His beauty is beyond our ability to define.

So in the midst our mental chatter, we enter our place of prayer. And in that prayer, we use our mind to speak the language of the mind. And in that language, we are pointed beyond that mind and to a direct encounter with God -- the God of we who are Life, the God who is Father of that Life we are, the God who is set apart and is highly exalted above our mind's ability to comprehend.

And in that place of knowing, we come to this: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Our minds can chatter about what it might mean for God's kingdom to come -- His authority, His kingdom order, His Lordship over every area of our life. And we surrender to His will, and for it to be performed on earth just as it is in heaven.

Do we surrender? Or do we fight? Does our mind still hold on to its being in control of this thing called prayer? We fight against something pretty much all the time, but this is a good place to start recognizing that inner resistance.

When, in prayer, we are praying for God's will to be done, is it general, as in, "Lord, end world hunger, end all wars, and cure all disease, and save everyone," or do we get more specific and closer to home? If the latter, if we make it personal, does a faint feeling of fear or dread ever start to rise?

The fear of loss of control is more universal than we might be tempted to believe. What if God asks me to sell everything I own and, without any financial backing or support, go to the slums and start preaching the Gospel?

Or, more within what we think could be the realm of possibilities, what if God asks me to give up this or that thing or person or position that is dear to me, and do something I absolutely dread?

These are not YOUR fears. They are universal. Everyone experiences them when they first begin to genuinely seek for God's will to be done instead of their own. But a lack of surrender is a lack of Life, and a lack of true Life is a lack of walking with God.


So we are reminded we are Spirit, not mind; we are pointed away from the self and to God -- not His definition but His nature, who He is; and we are challenged to let go of our attachments to the things of this earth as we fully surrender.


"Give us this day our daily bread."

In Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV), right after He gave us the model prayer, Jesus continues that same teaching by saying this:

25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Do we ask for tomorrow's bread? Of course this isn't some sort of rule or regulation. We aren't sinning or even doing anything we shouldn't if we ask God for something that we believe is coming in the future. But the past and the future are not our focus. Our focus is where and when we are, which is always right here and right now.

Give us THIS day our daily bread.

He said that life is more than bread, and the body is more than clothing.

What is your body? It is a temple for your Life. And He said that Life is more than the food your give your body, and your body is more than the physical materials with which you clothe it.

And to help us understand what that means, He follows it with this:

"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them."

So the birds aren't worried about food. Instead, they do what birds do, which is to live. When they fly South for the winter, they don't do so because they read it in a book or heard it in a seminar. Instead, they fly South because they, being unobstructed by the human mind, live in the Present Moment, and in that moment, they do what Life does through them.

It can be amazing to watch animals in nature, or to watch documentaries about them on TV. There are some very complex and vastly wise things they do, and they do them all naturally.

And then comes man. Continually confused about this and that; always worrying about things that are out of his control or don't even really exist right now where he is. And so he suffers.

But Jesus directed us to pray for our daily bread, and to pray for it for today. "Look at the birds of the air." And "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

When we pray, "give us this day our daily bread," we aren't seeking things that are fancy and bejeweled. Instead, we are trusting God for simplicity. Jesus COULD have said, "Give us today a lifetime supply of caviar and fine wine." But instead, He said "today," and He said, "daily bread." Simple. For the Now. And already promised even before we ask; so we acknowledge this in our times of prayer.

31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Next, Jesus says this: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

How many times does your mind rehearse the real or imaginary wrongs others have done against it? Or if it does not do this for you when that person is absent, what happens when they are brought to mind or you find yourself interacting with them?

Unforgiveness is completely the domain of the mind. That's why Hebrews 8:12 tells us that God does not remember our sins. "Remember" means "to bring back to mind." God doesn't have a problem with a human mind that is ill and therefore controls Him.

We, on the other hand, do. And if there is anyone who, when you think about or interact with them, you feel resentment against them, then even when you are in prayer, that resentment is somewhere in your mind, perhaps buried but still active. That mental activity keeps you bound to the mind and to the feelings that mind produces about them.

And as long as we give our mind the energy and identification it needs to keep that unforgiveness alive, we are completely unable to accept forgiveness ourselves.

And so, as we are in our time of prayer, and our unrenewed mind is still in charge, we are called to notice its unforgiveness, to recognize it as foreign to the Life we are, and in the state of surrender and simplicity to which we have just been pointed, we let it go.

Unforgiveness is a heavy, abusive burden, fused tightly into the mind-made self it thinks you are. And this part of the prayer model leads you to recognize that so that you can let it go and be healed and restored by the ever-present Love of God.


"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

By this time, you have brought your blabbering mind into your prayer closet.

You have been reminded that you are NOT your mind.

You have had your attention drawn away from the mind and pointed instead to God, who is not a list of mental definitions, but is the unspeakable giver and glory of Life.

You have been led into a place of full surrender, in which you relinquish the resistance and attachments of your mind.

You have come into a place of present-moment simplicity, letting go of the past and future and of the worry those imaginary times produce, trusting in and surrendering fully to God as your source of all you truly need.

And in that place, you will find that you might start to experience first hand what Jesus said, that He says only what He hears the Father speak, and He does only what He sees the Father do.

In that place of pure surrender, you stop striving to live, and instead, Life starts to live through you without any striving, like the lillies of the field who neither toil nor spin and yet are clothed with glory.

And so you are led by God. And this place to which He leads you is not into temptation. What is temptation? It is being pulled by your carnal desires, the earthly desires of your carnal mind. And when you are walking in the Spirit, you will not, you can not, fulfil the desires of the flesh.

And as you are not bound, in that place, by the flesh, you are delivered from and cannot be touched by evil.


So you have brought your compulsively thinking mind into your prayer closet.

You have been reminded that you are NOT your mind.

You have had your attention drawn away from the mind and pointed instead to God, in a direct knowing that is beyond mental definitions.

You have been led into a place of full surrender, in which you relinquish all resistance and attachment.

You have come into a place of present-moment simplicity, letting go of the past and future and of the worry those imaginary times produce, trusting in and surrendering fully to God as your source of all you truly need.

In that place of awareness and surrender, you are walking in the Spirit and are delivered from all evil.

And, if your mind is still holding on, or if it attempts to regain control by feeling pleased with itself and by adding that pleasure to its self, you are pointed once again to the only Truth, the only Life, and only true Direction.

"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever."

The kingdom is God's -- the ordering of time, the final outcome of all events, the rise and fall of kingdoms, of civilizations, of stars and galaxies, and of time and matter.

The power is God's -- power over every tiny detail of your Life and over every circumstance surrounding You, complete power in and over what "is" for you right now -- and to that "isness" of what you see and hear and are experiencing right here and now, you fully surrender.

The glory is God's -- the unspeakable majesty of the rising and setting sun; the glorious beauty of the mountains, the valleys, the flowers, the trees; the innocent joy in a baby's laugh or the pure life in a newborn's first cry; the pure delight that is present in every moment of your Life in which you are not lost in your mind, but are instead fully Present with What Is; and that glory of His Spirit, and of the complete union you have with Him in this place of knowing surrender, as you are led by Spirit and are completely safe from all evil.

Forever. Not some time in the future. Not lost somewhere in the past. But Now. Always Now. Where the mind, if it is still holding on at this point in prayer, cannot go. Right now, and always right now, God's kingdom is here. God's power is here. God's glory is here. And you look away from your mind. Away from its self. Away from all the drama and the unreal fantasies it generates about Life. And you fix your attention on Him. Not stuck on definitions about Him, but brought beyond all that by the attoning Blood of the Lamb, directly into the glorious Presence, and the ever-present Glory, of God.

And in this place of life-transforming prayer, your soul utters a timeless and heaven-breathed "Amen."


Let's go ahead and wrap up today's service. This altar is open, and you're invited to make your way to the front, or to seek God where you are. And let's just let the Scriptures we've read and anything God might have spoken to you through them to sink in and settle.

If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message one of us, or if you're listening later in the week or outside of Second Life, you can to to the website at almcyberchurch.org, click the Pastors' Offices link, and contact us there.

Whenever you need to leave, you are free to go, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way up the steps to your left after you're done here, and we'll meet there in a few minutes for some fellowship.

But for now, come, and let's enter into and continue to grow in this life of prayer.


*** listen to the audio for the closing prayer ***