Perfect Prayer, by Chauncey Giles

from Chauncey Giles Perfect Prayer. How Offered: How Answered  (Philadelphia: Lippincott 1903)

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Perfect Prayer.
 
How Offered: How Answered

by Chauncey Giles

VII. The Lord's Kingdom; What It Is: How to Pray for It

ďThy Kingdom Come.Ē ó Matthew vi. 9

The subject to which I invite your attention this morning is one of surpassing grandeur and supreme importance. All earthly kingdoms for whose possession the great men of the earth have studied and labored, and struggled and died, are insignificant in extent and trivial in value compared with the kingdom of our Father in the heavens. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall and pass away: but the Lordís kingdom, when once established, will continue to increase in riches and power and glory forever. There are but few who can gain the possession of an earthly kingdom, and the number who can retain it and enjoy it, is still smaller. But everyone can gain a heavenly kingdom who will accept it, and everyone who becomes established in it will become endowed with its power, enriched with its treasures, and blessed with its joys more fully forever. No one will ever dispute his royal title, no one will seek or desire to drive him from his throne. But all the good and true on earth and in heaven will unite with the Lord Himself to secure him in his possession, to extend his dominion, and to make his reign enduring, peaceful, and glorious. Such a kingdom is offered to every one of us by the Lord; such a kingdom we are to ask for ourselves and our children; such a kingdom the Lord is in the constant effort to bestow upon us. Let us try to learn its nature and laws, and what we must do to secure its possession.

The petition ďThy kingdom comeĒ follows in a natural order the one which precedes it. That kingdom can never come to us until we hallow the Lordís name, because it is composed of the principles which constitute the Lordís name, and established by a knowledge and application of them to life. We hallow our Fatherís name when we worship Him in His Divine Humanity; and we worship Him when we regard the love and wisdom, the order and use of all the Divine forces and principles embodied and revealed to men in the Divine Humanity as sacred and holy, and the only way of gaining eternal life. In the degree we come into this state the Lordís kingdom can come to us. Our hearts are open to welcome it; our understandings gain capacity to receive its light, and power to comprehend its laws and order. The Fatherís kingdom is composed of the same principles as His name. It is His name organized in form and brought down to manís comprehension and use. The kingdoms of nature are His name written in rock and
plant, in the glory of the heavens and the beauty of the earth, in the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, and in the kingdoms of men. His glorious name is written in clearer lines and more lovely forms in the church on the earth, and the angels in the heavens: but it exists in its infinite perfections only in the Divine Humanity. The questions, however, which specially concern us, at the present time, are, What the Lordís kingdom is, and How we can effectively pray for its coming.

The general conception of a kingdom is that of a number of human beings associated in one government, under one ruler who is called a King. This is a civil kingdom. The kingdom of the Lord is generally and truly regarded as His Church. The members of the Church are His subjects, and taken together, constitute His kingdom upon the earth. To pray for the coming of His kingdom, therefore, is to pray for the extension of His Church. This, in a general sense, is the true idea. But it involves more than we may from a casual observation suppose. The Lordís kingdom does not consist merely of a collection of men and women under one government, but of men and women of a certain character.

A civil kingdom is determined by a natural boundary. All who live within that boundary belong to that kingdom. But in the Lordís kingdom it is not so. All who are external members of the Church do not belong to the Lordís kingdom. It is a kingdom of principles, and citizenship in it is determined by the spiritual principles embodied in the character. Here is an entirely new test of citizenship. The lines which enclose the kingdom and distinguish it from any other are not material or natural, but spiritual. A man may be naturally within the lines and spiritually without them; he may be naturally beyond them and yet spiritually within them.

The true idea of the Lordís kingdom is best illustrated by what are called the kingdoms of nature. All natural substances and objects are divided into the three kingdoms, called mineral, animal, and vegetable. These kingdoms exist together and depend upon each other. You cannot draw a line around any given space and say all within this line is animal, vegetable, or mineral. The lines which divide them are of a very different character. They enter into the forms and qualities of the structure of the individual objects, and the degrees of life which they embody. So it is with men. They belong to the Lordís kingdom who contain its principles and are the spiritual subjects of the Divine government. Before we can intelligently ask for the coming of that kingdom we must have some knowledge of its principles, and it is to this subject your attention is first invited.

The kingdom of our Father in the heavens consists essentially of the Divine love and wisdom as they exist in His Divine Humanity. The Lord rules by the love and wisdom derived from Him. He created human souls in His own likeness and image that they might receive the love and wisdom which flow from Him as light and heat flow from the sun, and thus become His subjects; not the subjects of an arbitrary government, but the subjects of the Divine influences; the subjects whom He created to bless, whom He delights to bless; the subjects of His paternal care and all His providential arrangements. Unlike most human rule, our Father governs men for their good. His purpose is to bring them into a state in which He can do the most for them and not to get the most service from them. He is a father with a heart full of infinite tenderness, and not an exacting tyrant. He seeks to make all the subjects of His government children and not servants, freemen and not slaves; heirs of His power and glory and the riches of His love and wisdom, and not pensioners with a bare pittance. He seeks to establish a kingdom which shall embody His own love and wisdom, be continually enlarging, and whose subjects shall be more and more closely allied to Him and to each other. His kingdom as it exists in its causes and principles in His Divine Humanity consists of all the substances, forms, forces, and qualities that are possible to creative power and to human attainment; it combines all that it is possible for infinite love and wisdom to give, and all that it is possible for created beings to receive.

It is a kingdom of love. It has its origin in the Divine love, which is infinite, and embraces every form which it is possible for love to assume, and every degree which it can attain. It descends to the lowest, it rises to the highest. It may be so weak that it cannot bear a feather's weight, a mere tendency; and it may be so deathless and strong that no force can destroy or resist it. We see the shadow of it even in the material world, in those forces which we call attraction, the bonds by which the material universe is held together. We see it in a little less shadow, in the vegetable kingdom, in those forces which organize each vegetable form, and carry on the processes of creation until it has produced itself in seed. We see it in a little clearer form in the instinct of animals, by which they know their kind, are drawn together in pairs, in flocks and herds, seek the companionship of men, and protect and provide for their offspring.

But we are specially concerned with this kingdom as it is formed and exhibited in man as a spiritual being, for it is the heavenly kingdom for whose coming our Lord taught us to pray. Here we find two distinct degrees of it, the love of love, and the love of truth, or the love of the Lord and the love of the neighbor, celestial love and spiritual love. The love of love is the highest, the inmost, the purest, the most perfect state of existence. It is life, free, full, spontaneous, blissful life. In that state we act from love and love only. We are lifted up and borne onward to the attainment of the highest good in the current of the affections. There is no resistance, there is no failure, there are no obstacles, there are no discords, there is no death. All is life, pure, vivid, peaceful, blissful life.

The second and lower degree of this love is the love of truth, the love of learning it, and of living according to it. This, also, is a pure and heavenly affection. It is the love of knowing what the Divine laws are, for the purpose of regulating the life by them. Those who belong to this kingdom delight to study the Word and the works of the Lord to learn His methods and order of working and when they have learned a truth they delight to carry it out into all the practical details and relations of life.

These two degrees of the kingdom of love, as they come down into the natural plane of life, assume an indefinite variety of forms, and become the motive forces of all action. They are related to all human activities as heat to the material world, as steam to the engine. Where the love is feeble the action is feeble. Love awakens interest; it gives keenness and power to all the intellectual faculties. We all know how easy it is to do what we love to do. Love lightens labor, and when no obstacles lie in its way life is a holiday and a delight. Look over the wide field of human activities, and you find every man, woman, and child, so far as they are not constrained by necessity, carried along in the current of their affections, and seeking their gratification.

This is true, whatever be the quality of the love, whether good or evil. But the Love which is the life of the Lordís kingdom is holy and good in all its degrees and forms. This is the excellence of it. The more we have of it the better we are, the more we give ourselves up to its impulses, and allow ourselves to be carried along in its currents, the higher will be our attainments and the greater our happiness. The Lord has so constituted us that the motive force of life, when it is pure, should carry us in the right direction to attain the highest possibilities of life.

This is the point I wish to make. The underlying, vivifying, and controlling forces of the Lordís kingdom all tend to righteousness, to human good in its highest form. They all tend to draw us nearer to Him, and to enlarge our capacities for the reception of life from Him, and to increase our happiness. They all tend to draw us to each other, to form us into orderly, harmonious societies; to make us helpful and a blessing to each other, to make each one a blessing to all, and all a blessing to each. Where there are no hindrances, as in heaven, this end is attained. The whole kingdom of heaven pours its concentrated life into each member of it, and every one of its blessed inhabitants gives out its life to all. Where there are hindrances to a holy and happy life, as in this world, this Divine force tends to remove them. It is its tendency, its nature, both in general and particular, to give to man the largest measures and the highest degrees of life it is possible for created beings to receive.

The Lordís kingdom in a specific sense is His Divine truth. Here it is important to get as correct and clear an idea as possible of what truth really is. ďIt appears to man,Ē says Swedenborg, ďas if the Divine truth were not such as to be capable to cause anything to exist, for it is believed that it is as a voice, which being uttered with the lips, is instantly dissipated; but the case is altogether otherwise. The Divine truth proceeding from the Lord is the veriest reality, and such a reality that all things have existed from it, and subsist by means of it, for whatever proceeds from the Lord is the veriest reality in the universe. Such is the Divine truth, which is called the Word, by which all things were made.Ē We are to conceive of truth not as an abstraction, but as a substance which the Divine love uses to embody itself, and to attain its ends. It is the Divine and spiritual substance out of which the spiritual world and all human souls are formed. Truth is related to love as unorganized matter to those spiritual forces which clothe themselves with it, and mould it into their own forms. It comprises all the laws, order, and arrangement by which the Lord seeks to create a universe of intelligent human beings.

These substances are perfectly adapted in every respect to the nature of the Divine love, and contain within themselves every quality which is essential to make them the perfect instruments of love. Love is life; truth is a substance which yields itself to the plastic forces of life, to be moulded into its form, and to take its perfect impress. Love is spiritual force; truth is perfectly adapted to the reception and transmission of that force to accomplish the ends of love. It is the nature of love to communicate itself, and to conjoin itself to others; it is the nature of truth to receive love, and to be conjoined with it; to become one with it. It is the nature of love to bless, to make others alive with its own happiness; it is the nature of truth to receive life and to be blessed by it, to be the instrument of communicating that blessing to others. Truth is a perfect conductor of love. It is the flesh and bones of love, cast into its own image, married to it, one with it.

Heavenly love, as we have seen, in all its qualities, in its very nature, seeks to give itself to others, to be one with them, to bless them. Truth is a perfect means in the hands of love for accomplishing its purposes. And the two together, in their action and reaction upon each other, are the substances and means which the Lord has created to form His spiritual kingdom in the heavens. Truth comprises all the laws, forms, substances, activities, relations, and modes of operation necessary to carry into full and complete effect the purposes of love; to display all its qualities; to communicate all its good.

The result of the combination and interchange of activities between these two component factors of the Lordís kingdom is the kingdom itself in the form of human beings, who are the embodiments and forms of this love, and the constant recipients and communicators of this life. The Lordís kingdom in the heavens, in its concrete form, is composed of human beings, of angels who were once men, women, and children upon the earth, who are the embodiments of His love and wisdom. As we have seen, there are two elements which enter into the formation of these human beings, which are perfect in themselves and perfectly related to each other. The Lord, therefore, has made the most ample provision for the establishment of this kingdom. It is His sole occupation to establish it, to provide for it, to extend it, to bless it. Everything which He has created, from the least to the greatest, from the lowest to the highest, was created to promote the interests of this kingdom, and has a direct reference to it. Here, then, the Lord directs us to pray for the accomplishment of the purposes for which He lives, and in which He employs His infinite love and wisdom and omnipotent power.

Having endeavored to gain a true idea of what the Lordís kingdom is, and of the principles which compose it, the question naturally arises, How can we effectively pray for its coming? If our prayer is not a hypocritical or a vain prayer, merely an empty sound, the question is equivalent to asking, What can we do to aid in its coming? This is the only question of practical value, and the one to which I desire to call your special attention. It is a kingdom of love. What can we do to bring that love down to earth, and make it the motive power of human action? It is a kingdom of Divine truth. What can we do to bring its light down into the darkness of human error, and make it the guide of human action? It is a kingdom composed of men and women who are becoming the embodiment of the love and wisdom which constitute the Divine character. How can we become the living form of these principles, and the loyal subjects of the King, our Heavenly Father? It is evident that there are many obstacles to the establishment of this kingdom in our own minds, and among men on the earth.

There is a kingdom to subdue and extirpate before the kingdoms of this world can become the kingdoms of our Lord. This kingdom has become established in us, and it must be overthrown. There must be many conflicts and many victories. The theatre of the warfare is not only without but within ourselves. We must be in the daily and constant effort to restrain our selfish and worldly affections. We must lay down our natural, selfish, worldly lives, and take up the cross and follow the Lord. The promised land in which this kingdom is to be established is in the possession of enemies. They must be driven out, and this can only be done ďlittle by little.Ē

This order of procedure is universal. If we desire to build a new house on the site of an old one, the old one must come down. When a farmer desires to raise corn in a field covered with a forest, his first work consists in clearing away whatever cumbers the ground. He must pray for the coming of the new kingdom with his axe and fire and plough. If we desire to have the Lord's kingdom come in our own souls, or in the world, we must clear away the rubbish which preoccupies the ground. If we moved into a house whose windows were covered thick with dust and cobwebs, and we desired to have the kingdom of light come to us, we should not fall upon our knees, and with much solemnity and earnestness cry, O Lord, let thy kingdom of light come into these dark rooms, and into the rooms of every one in the world. We should not continue this prayer from day to day, while we made no effort to remove the obstacles which prevented the entrance of the light. If our servant should try to get the light by counting her beads and repeating her Paternosters, we should soon teach her a more effective way of praying. We should teach her to pray with brush and water. Why should we not use the same good sense in spiritual things?

We daily repeat the words, ďThy kingdom come.Ē But how can it come to a nature in which there is no room for it? How can it come when the kingdoms of self and the world have full possession? How can purity live with impurity and preserve its sweetness? How can truth dwell with error, discord with harmony, light with darkness, health with disease, love with hate, life with death? The first step in becoming the Lord's kingdom, or in establishing it among men, consists in clearing away the obstacles to its coming; it is a destructive, laborious, painful work. This is one reason why we shrink from it, try to content ourselves with repeating words, and seek to take the second step before we have taken the first. We hope to become good before we cease to be evil. But we can never succeed in this way. The kingdom of sin and falsity are first established in us, and that kingdom must be extirpated. Our holy land is filled with enemies who must be put to the sword, whose cities must be leveled with the dust before the Lord can establish His kingdom there. This removal of the obstacles is our work in establishing the Lordís kingdom, and a most important part of it. It is a work that can only be done by us. The Lord does not ask us to create heavenly affections, to originate the principles which constitute His kingdom: He only asks us to receive them. They are of such a nature that they cannot be forced upon us. We must ask for them; we must open our hearts and understandings to receive them. But we cannot receive them passively as an empty vessel receives water. We must take hold of them; we must welcome them. The Lord does not ask the farmer to make his crops grow. His first and essential work consists in preparing the ground. We cannot create light: we can only remove the obstructions to its inflowing. We must shut our door and open the one at which the Lord knocks. If men would pray as sincerely, and wisely, and energetically for spiritual blessings as they do for natural ones, how quickly and largely their prayers would be answered! How rapidly the Lordís kingdom would come to us! Its love would fill the soul with the pure, quickening breath of heaven; its light would stream upon us with noonday brightness; every affection would become vivified by its life, and every thought moulded into its order and loveliness.

This order in the establishment of the Lordís kingdom applies to our efforts to extend it among men, as well as to its upbuilding in our own souls. We must first ďcast the beam out of our own eyes before we attempt to cast out the mote out of our brother's eyes.Ē One of the most effective ways to influence others is to become a centre of influence. Words are not the only means of influence. Character is more potent than words. When the hearts of men and women are filled with heavenly love, and their understandings are radiant with heavenly light, a power which ďmakes for righteousnessĒ constantly emanates from them. They are magnets which attract homogeneous natures and repel the evil and false. They are a harmonizing and unifying power. An influence flows from them which tends to quicken into life the germs of good in others. Their light shines in their deeds. Every word such a man or woman says is weighted with an influence greater than the words they utter or the ideas contained in them. In the degree that the Lordís kingdom comes to us we shall be the means of its coming to others. We may see some of the laws which constitute it, and we may talk about them and commend them, but what we say will have but little weight with others unless we give to them the testimony of our lives. Those who pray with their lives offer the most effective prayer, even though they do not utter a word. They carry the Lordís kingdom with them; they are examples of it; they are building it up while engaged in their business, in their leisure, their recreations, at home or abroad. Let us, then, begin the building of the kingdom in our own minds. Let us seek it first in all our activities; then our lives will be a constant prayer for its coming.

The next distinct step in this prayer consists in learning the laws of this kingdom, all of which are Divine truths. We are not to understand by this that we are to wait until the old kingdom of evil and falsity is destroyed before we begin to learn these laws. The work of destruction and building up must go on together. We must learn truths to discover errors; to see what to shun and how to shun it. We need truths as weapons to combat our evils. Truth is a sword, a shield, a wall of defence. We cannot meet the assaults of our spiritual enemies and overcome them without it. But no truth becomes ours until it is applied to life and we cannot apply it to life until we begin to shun evils and false principles as sins against God.

The Lord has given us in the Sacred Scriptures a full code of the laws of citizenship in His kingdom, illustrated by innumerable examples. They are so plainly stated that a child can understand their essential principles. They are all summed up in the Golden Rule, to do to others as we would have them do to us. They are more distinctly and particularly stated in the Ten Commandments, and they are unfolded in an endless variety of forms, in statutes and precepts, and specially illustrated and enforced by the example of our Lord Himself. We must learn these laws for the purpose of knowing what to do to become members of this kingdom and to aid others in doing the same thing.

These laws are not theories, or speculations, or doctrines to be received by faith, with the idea that there is any virtue in a merely intellectual knowledge of them. One of the greatest hindrances to the coming of the Lordís kingdom, even among those who study its laws, is that they do not learn them for the purpose of knowing what to do so much as what to think. But the law of life is the same in spiritual as in natural things. If we desired to become citizens of an earthly kingdom, we should seek to know what steps to take with the purpose of taking them. Our knowledge would be of no use to us unless we acted according to it. A kingdom cannot be established by abstract laws. The law only points out the way to secure the end. We must use the same practical good sense in spiritual that we do in natural things. The Lord has taught us to pray that His kingdom may come. We know that it is the purpose of His love to establish His kingdom on the earth. If we desire to become citizens of that kingdom we must learn its laws.

The next and final step consists in doing what they require. If they only required a formal assent to them, the work could be quickly and easily accomplished. But we must not only assent to the laws, we must become their embodiment. The law must be put in our inward parts, and written in our hearts. The kingdom of God is within us, and only as it is established within us can we become members of it. Love to the Lord and the neighbor must become the ruling motives of our lives. Our understandings must become the recipients of Divine truth, and our lives must be employed in some kind of useful service. By exercising heavenly affections and doing heavenly work the Lordís kingdom will gradually become established within us, we shall become members of it, and our whole nature will be transformed into the image and likeness of the Lord.

There is no higher honor and no greater good possible to created beings than to become members of the Lordís kingdom. The King of kings and Lord of lords does not regard the members of His kingdom as subjects, but as children. The King is our Father, and He desires to have us partake of His nature, bear the beauty and loveliness of our parentage, and become heirs of His riches, power, glory, and blessedness. Such is the nature of spiritual power and riches that they are not diminished by division. Our Father can give to all His children as much and even more than He could if there was only one. As the numbers of His kingdom increase, the portion which every one will receive will be enlarged and multiplied. We have every conceivable motive to offer this petition in word and deed. In His Divine Providence the Lord has supplied us with the most abundant means and opportunities to cooperate with Him, and with all the good and true on earth and in heaven in establishing His kingdom. Let us be diligent and faithful in removing all the obstacles in ourselves and in others to its coming; let us be earnest and docile in learning its laws, and scrupulous in regulating our thoughts and in living according to them. Then His kingdom will come to us, we shall become citizens of it, and partakers of its power and glory, its peace and rest.

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