Most of us long to connect with someone who can understand us and share in our day to day life. That is what prayer is – a personal connection with God, who created us and loves us. Prayer is like talking to your best friend. It’s easy to talk to someone who loves you unconditionally and knows everything about you. But, if God already knows everything about us and everything we need, why do we need to pray? Because we are not puppets. We have been given freedom and it is up to us to choose to connect with the Lord and establish a relationship with Him.
In our busy world, finding the time to pray takes conscious effort. But prayer can take place anytime, anywhere – while travelling to work, walking the dog, in the middle of a room full of people – you name it. People don’t need to know you are praying. We are told to pray in secret. But there are times when we may pray out loud with other people. There are other times when we may pray out loud on behalf of someone or a group of people. I have heard of a surgeon who prays with those assisting him before performing an operation.
When praying about a problem, however, we have to be prepared to be a part of the answer. The Lord told Emanuel Swedenborg that we should not just hang down our hands and expect a solution to materialise. While miracles do happen, it is far more likely that the Lord will work through you or others to resolve the issue. We may need to be ready to make changes in our lives, or step out of our comfort zones. God works through our efforts. His answer to prayer may be to show us what we need to do and to give us the resolve to do it.
Answers to prayer may come in various ways. God speaks to us through His Word, through random thoughts and ideas, conversations with others, and through circumstances. These should always be confirmed by our conscience and by seeking His will in His Word. Sometimes the answer will not be the one we want to hear. We should always say, “Your will be done.”
Jesus taught His disciples what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is said to be the most powerful prayer because of the depths of meaning contained within it. We do not have to understand all that it means for it to have power. When you pray, pray from the heart. If nothing is laid on your heart, pray the Lord’s Prayer – it will bring the Lord and His angels close to you.
When Jesus was born on earth, He was God giving people a new relationship with Himself. He was God showing us that He was a Divine Human Being and a Being of love. God came Himself, not as He is in Himself, but in a way that we could all form a personal mutually loving relationship with Him. This way of showing Himself was called “the Son of God.” While on earth He appeared to be separate from the Father (His Divine essence or soul) but, as He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:29) and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). As it says in Isaiah 45, “Was it not I, the Lord, the God who saves His people? There is no other god. Turn to me now and be saved, people all over the world! I am the only God there is.”
Despite coming in this new way, the world misunderstood it and made Jesus one of a trinity of persons. In time, God revealed who “Jesus” really was to Emanuel Swedenborg. In his books he tells us that, before Jesus came, the human race had fallen into spiritual darkness and only God’s coming into the world could bring us back from the point of no return. So God took on a vulnerable human form and came to where we were at that time. Through the human nature that He inherited from Mary He was tempted throughout His life by the forces of hell. By His overcoming them, hell could no longer overwhelm people’s minds. They were free to choose – between good and evil; between putting God or themselves at the centre of their lives. This is why He was known as the Saviour of the world and why the angels rejoiced at His birth. Today we can also rejoice because we have been set free and are able to choose our own path by the life that we live. And God has given us the gift of Himself in a way we can think about, talk with, find comfort in and strength from. He is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
With every good wish for a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year,
Jenny and John
This time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We can imagine Mary’s feelings as she rejoiced at the birth of her firstborn child. As she gazed at her baby and felt the innocence of a newborn, she marvelled at the things she had been told by the angel Gabriel and the shepherds. Was this really the Christ? Would he be the saviour of Israel? The fulfillment of the ancient prophecies? The prophet Isaiah had predicted over five hundred years earlier, that a virgin would conceive and bear a son who would be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”
But, if He was God, why was He born as a little child? Why did He not come to us as the great Creator of the universe with power and great glory and force us to believe in Him? What would it have been like if God had come here in His completely unveiled divinity? We humans could not have stood His majesty and wonder and would have been completely overwhelmed. We would have been forced to believe in Him and so our freedom to make up our own minds, which is so important to Him, would have been taken away.
God had to come down to our level and accommodate Himself to natural life on earth. In this way, He was able to reach us. He appealed to the basic love that all people are born with and gave us a way to relate to and express that love for Him by being born a tiny baby in need of lots of care and protection.
Babies have a love for their parents that is instinctive. It is pure innocence. And, as parents, our loving care and protection of our babies is a simple response to that innocence. By coming into the world as a little child, God enabled us to respond to Him and relate to Him. If we choose to open up with love to the Lord and a willingness to be led by Him, our own inner child is awakened and we are given a taste of heavenly joy. The day will come when we will find ourselves in our heavenly home among the angels who are always with us when we try to do what we know is right and good, and we will know for certain the reality of heavenly happiness. This is why the Lord was born – to show us who He truly is – a divinely human, loving Being, who wants us all to come to Him so that He can bless us.
One of the most popular Christmas songs played on the radio and in shopping malls every Christmas is “Snoopy’s Christmas.” Set in the First World War, it is about how Snoopy and his foe, the Red Baron, make peace for a day because it is Christmas. Aside from the very catchy tune, the strong appeal of this song is the story – of how two enemies put aside their conflict and extend the hand of friendship for the sake of peace on earth, the message of the Christmas bells in the village below: “Christmas bells, those Christmas bells, ring out from the land, asking peace of all the world and goodwill to man.”
Did you know that the theme of this song is based on fact? You’ll be interested to hear that a similar scenario actually played out in the trenches of the First World War. An English second lieutenant recalled that “the prayers were read first in English by our padre, and then in German by a boy who was studying for the ministry. The Germans formed up on one side, the English on the other, the officers standing in front, every head bared. I think it is a sight one will never see again. There was not an atom of hate on either side that day” (‘Christmastime 1914: Soldiers Paused war for a Day of No Hate.’ by Cynthia Crossan, The Wall Street Journal, December 4, 2002).
What this demonstrates is that, when we put our minds to it, we human beings are capable of choosing good over evil. When we decide to turn away from negativity, God can flow into us with goodness. The power to do good comes from the Divine. Actually, it is the Divine working through us and by means of us.
The Christmas story happened long ago but it can also happen within our lives over and over. The Lord is born in the darkest night at the darkest time in the history of the world. He is born in a lowly stable because there is no room in the inn. Are our minds too crowded with the cares of the world, conflicts with our loved ones, the drive to get ahead, etc., etc., to give this Babe a thought or are we making room for the Divine Child to be born in our hearts this Christmas? We can each do our bit for peace on earth if we ask God’s help to remove a negative tendency that we have so that He can flow in with what is good. But we don’t have to wait until Christmas to do this. We can cultivate peace all year round!