1. Introduction

And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the open streets so that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet and shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret. And your Father seeing in secret will repay you in the open. But when you pray, do not be babbling vain words, as the nations; for they think that they shall be heard in their much speaking. Then do not be like them, for your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him. So, then, you should pray this way: Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as it is in Heaven, also on the earth. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory to the ages. Amen. (Matthew 6:5-13)

Today I want us to give some thought to the idea of prayer as an introduction into looking at the inner meaning of the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer should be prayed with understanding and with intention, and not just recited repetitiously like some sort of mantra that is spoken without thought to the meaning or implications for what is being said. What these words capture is so much more than a mere rote formula for communicating with God. The words of this prayer are a summary of the whole of the spiritual life and should be meditated on with this in mind.

Prayer is not found in the words spoken, anyone can utter any words they like for any reason they like. True prayer, like true worship, is a matter of the life. In other words think of your life as your prayer. It is a useful exercise to reflect on what our lives are saying, what is it we are inviting into our life, what messages are we giving out. Is my life a prayer in support of self and worldly interest? Or is my life a prayer that is asking the Lord for His love to fill me for the sake of others and is looking to be useful in this regard? This kind of reflection takes us away from seeing prayer merely as the words that we speak, and brings our focus onto the need to ensure that energy is being put into co-ordinating as much of our lives as we can under spiritual truths or principles.

The Lord’s Prayer contains all that we can ask of God, because once understood we shall see that it contains all that the Lord can possibly give us. This is an amazing thought! The Lord’s Prayer is the archetypal prayer, it contains everything a person can ask of the Lord because it contains everything that the Lord is able to give to us. But for this intercommunication to occur we have to learn how to live the prayer because it is only in living it that we can become receivers of its benefits. Saying the prayer will effect nothing if it is not lived and it is the prayer understood as something to be lived which will guide us in our examination of it over this series.

We can’t understand what this prayer is about until we realise that the human mind is structured in levels. Many spiritual traditions teach this, so in that sense it’s nothing new. Spiritual Christianity also teaches this and uses specific terms to identify these levels. In the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity these levels are often referred to as discrete degrees of the mind. There are three general levels of the mind which have the same name as the three heavens; these are called the celestial, spiritual and natural levels. In terms of our own mind, the celestial level corresponds to what belongs to our affections, the spiritual level what belongs to our thoughts and the natural level is where these two come together in producing our behaviour, or actions and speech. Now each of these levels have their own divisions as well but for the sake of what we are dealing with today, we are only going to be referring to the internal and external mind or man.

The internal man, which is the higher part of us, is made up of the celestial and spiritual levels. Taken together they are what are referred to in the prayer by the term heaven, which corresponds to the internal man. The kingdom of heaven, Jesus said, is….within you. This idea of heaven being within us is such an important idea for setting the frame for which all discussions about the heavens in the Scriptures can be more fully understood. We have to get away from thinking of heaven as being out there somewhere if we are to make any real practical sense of what the Lord is teaching us through the prayer He gives us in the Gospels.

So if heaven refers to what is more internal within us then of course the term earth must refer to what is more external in us, and it does, for the term earth is a term that points us to the natural or external part of man. Everything in Scripture refers to the inner workings of the human mind, because it is here that the real issues of life exist for us. So we come to the first part of Jesus’s words in the verses that made up our reading from Matthew’s Gospel. Here, He is trying to point out something about the attitudes that exist within us in how we live out our spirituality. There is a spirituality that is natural and is of the external man, and there is a spirituality that is spiritual and is of the spiritual man. If what is lower in us, or the natural man is dominant over the spiritual man then what is genuinely spiritual lies pretty much dormant, or is unable to have any real or significant influence in our lives. A person may appear to be spiritual from an external stand point but their religious or spiritual life is all based in externals and when it is based in the natural man, its motivations are clouded by worldly and selfish interests.

This focus on how things look, or giving the impression of being spiritual is what is referred to in Jesus’s statement as the hypocrites. This word could be translated as actor, or more accurately as a dissembler. Whenever what is external dominates what is internal, then there is a separation between the internal man and the external man – they stand disassembled in terms of their relationship to each other. This is because the created order for man is that what is spiritual rules over what is natural. If an employee was unwilling to carry out the tasks set for him by his employer, there would be tension in the relationship that would eventually lead to a separation. Similarly if a private disregarded the orders of his superior in the army, this would constitute a separation in the proper order of things. It is this kind of break in order or the separation of what is lower in us from what is higher that constitutes the problem within the human condition. It is this condition that the Lord seeks to save us from for when the natural man is separated from the spiritual man, we are at the mercy of lower motivations that have our sense of ourselves bound up in selfishness. So when the Word speaks of hypocrites don’t think of people out there, it’s referring to a condition within our minds – when we allow what is natural to rule over what is spiritual.

A truly spiritual practice or life is focused on what is internal – on what lies within. It is not concerned with appearances for appearances sake. It understands that what presents externally isn’t always going to appear very spiritual because some things have to be exposed in this way before we are prepared to deal with them. The main focus of a life where what is spiritual is beginning to take a hold, is on the inner affectional and thought life. Getting our thinking faculty into order so that our lower, self centred affections and emotions are not dominating our sense of who we are. This is a life that involves a lot of inner soul searching, and making subtle adjustments to our life which is not open to the scrutiny of the outside world. There is no praise of others, its simply, humbly, peacefully going about one’s work with the Lord to have the things that arise within us that stand opposed to what is of heaven, dealt with. This kind of life is described by Jesus as a living prayer, not of the lips, but of the life and involves going into our closet and praying to the Father in secret where upon we shall be rewarded openly.

The reward spoken of here has nothing to do with the praise of others, nor is the reference to it being given openly have anything to do with others seeing how spiritual we are. If it did then it wouldn’t be much different to that which a lower state of hypocrisy seeks through our ego or proprium. Spiritual work and progress happens in secret as far as others are concerned but is something very real and rewarding for the person engaged in this kind of work. The practice of the spiritual life becomes its own reward, which is something the external or natural man can never understand. The Greek word translated closet refers to a hidden area or room in an oriental house where stores are kept. So this closet is closer to the Western idea of a pantry, it’s a place where goods are stored and are distributed for the needs of the household.

Spiritual goods are stored up in the inner parts of the mind. This occurs over a person’s life as they come into contact with spiritual teachings, ideas and concepts, where they enter the memory via our senses which the Lord then takes and stores up in our internal man. From the perspective of Logopraxis, these spiritual goods are found in the Bible and the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity . As they are taken into our minds they are stored up for when we are open to receiving spiritual life from the Lord. So going into the closet or storehouse to pray means seeking out the good and true things of the Word. To look to the spiritual well being of others by being more conscious of our own states with the Word in our dealings with them and with the conditions of our life in general.

The Father we are to pray to once having entered our closet is, in the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father who is in the heavens. The heavens are within us, and as we have already seen are in fact what make up our internal man. The Father of all that is good and true, must and can only be the Word for it is the Word as it is taken into our life that gives birth to, or produces within us, new heavenly affections and ideas. To pray to the Father is to listen to and live from the Word by taking on the responsibility to make it the centre around which our life is built and governed. As we consciously look to the Word to direct our life and relationships with others we are in the act of going into the store house to find what is needed for the situations and people that we meet. The reward that comes openly is seeing what the appropriate response is for a situation, and knowing that this is from the Lord, or from what is truly good and loving. The Greek word translated, openly means literally to shine forth. How wonderful a description of the process of receiving insight or enlightenment this is!

When we enter the inner secret place, looking to find what is good from a spiritual perspective, from a genuine concern for the spiritual well being of another, then the Lord is able to enter into our minds and shine the light of His Word there – revealing to us what is required for the situation. This is the reward spoken of here and it is the delight of the spiritual or internal man. So we see that the kind of prayer being spoken of in the Text is not of the lips, it is of the life – it is living the prayer. It is not concerned with material and bodily things for prayer on this level becomes what is described as vain repetitions. The teachings for Spiritual Christianity instruct us that prayer is living from the Word. This is the only kind of prayer that can bring any lasting, permanent, or positive change in our lives. It is the means by which our lives are able to be brought into alignment with the will of God, for the Word is His will and when lived, we enter into the stream of the Lord’s will for our life.

When we begin to live from spiritual principles we begin a journey that reorganises our minds with new affections and thoughts. This is a process that takes time as we consider truths and their impact on our lives and then respond to them affirmatively. This is the kind of prayer that effects changes in us, that leads to new perceptions of the world and those around us. Asking God to change our attitudes or situation in verbal prayer without being in the effort to stop negative thoughts and feelings from dominating, will achieve nothing. Asking God to change our situation, without attending to those behaviours which we know are detrimental to spiritual goals will have no effect. It’s simply wishful thinking – vain repetition, as we keep asking God to make our lot better yet do nothing to build what is genuinely spiritual into our life. True prayer is found not in what we say, but in our response to the teachings we have. It is something that comes from the will. And it is this understanding that we need to keep in mind if we are to understand the inner meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, which we will look into a little further next time.

In the meantime, as a work task, try meditating on the idea that your life is a prayer, and observe what your life is asking for in your responses to the situations that make up your daily life…

By prayers, in the internal sense, are meant all things of worship:…Worship does not consist in prayers and in external devotion, but in a life of charity: prayers are only the externals thereof, for they proceed from the man by his mouth, therefore, according to the quality of the man as to his life, such are his prayers. It does not matter that a man bears himself humbly, that he kneels and sighs when he prays; these are external things, and unless the externals proceed from internals, they are only postures and sounds without life. In everything that a man gives utterance to there is affection, and every man, spirit, and angel is his own affection, for their affection is their life: it is the affection itself that speaks, and not the man without it: therefore, such as is the affection, such is the prayer. Spiritual affection is what is called charity towards the neighbour; to be in that affection is truly worship; prayer is the proceeding therefrom. Hence it is evident that the essential of worship is a life of charity, and the instrumental of it is posture and prayer; or, that the primary of worship is a life of charity, and its secondary is praying; from which it is evident that those who place all Divine worship in oral piety, and not in real piety, err greatly. …[6] As essential Divine worship primarily consists in the life, and not in prayers, therefore, the Lord taught that, in praying, they were not to be given to much speaking and repetition, in the following words:

“When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Do not therefore make yourselves like them” (Matt. vi. 7, 8).

Now because essential Divine worship consists primarily in a life of charity, and secondarily in prayers, therefore, by prayers, in the spiritual sense of the Word, is meant worship from spiritual good, that is, from the life of charity, for that which is primary is meant, in the spiritual sense, whereas the sense of the letter consists of things secondary, which are effects, and correspond.

(Apocalypse Explained 325{5&6})

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