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

VIII. Doing the Lord's Will in the Earth as in Heaven

ďThy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.Ē ó Matthew vi. 10

This clause of the Divine Prayer, short and simple as it is, reveals the Lordís purposes in the creation of the material universe, and in all the operations of His Divine Providence. The Lord created the material universe to be the basis of His spiritual universe. The heavens rest upon the earth as the mind upon the body. Earth is the seminary of heaven. The creation of human beings who are to people the heavens, takes place upon the earth. All distinct and permanent creation is in ultimates. This is so, not only in general, but in particular. We all acknowledge that the beginning of our existence takes place in this world, on the earth. It is equally true that every spiritual faculty which we shall possess, every affection we shall ever exercise and enjoy, and every idea we shall gain through the coming eternity, has its beginning in the earth. We gain the materials here, the germs are created here. They will blossom and bear fruit and be indefinitely multiplied and perfected to eternity. But only those principles will be perfected which are implanted here. It follows as a necessary consequence that the broader we lay the foundation, and the greater the variety of truths we learn and of the affections we exercise, and the more excellent their quality, the greater room there will be for increase and perfection in the spiritual world.

There are three distinct and complete degrees of the human mind, natural, spiritual, and celestial, just as in every seed there are the germs of leaves, blossoms, and fruit; only in man these degrees of life are more complete and distinct. The two higher degrees, the spiritual and the celestial, may be opened, and they may not. If they are ever opened the beginning of the process must be made while we are on the earth. If only the natural degree is opened we shall live in that plane of our faculties forever. If the beginning of a genuine spiritual life is made here, we shall rise to that plane and live in it, acquiring its truths and enjoying its blessings. If the celestial degree of the mind is opened we shall live in the highest heaven and enjoy the sweetest peace and the deepest blessedness it is possible for finite beings to attain. In the degree that we lay the foundations for doing the will of the Lord on the earth shall we continue to do it in the heavens. This is the law of relation between this life and the life to come.

The organization of the material body before our birth bears the same relations to its capacities to see, hear, receive sensations, and perform the functions of a human being in this world that the spiritual body, while clothed in the garments of flesh, bears to its capacities to know, love, and enjoy when it is raised up into the spiritual world. As spiritual beings we are in an embryonic state while we dwell in the earth of the material body. If a child is born into this world without eyes there is no way in which it can be endowed with the power of seeing. According to the same law, when we are born into the spiritual world by resurrection from the material body, we can only see, hear, and gain a consciousness of those spiritual objects, and love, know, and enjoy other beings and things in the form and according to the degree and capacity of the spiritual organs which were formed in the earth. There is, therefore, a principle of momentous importance involved in this clause of the Lordís Prayer. When we offer it, we pray for our eternal future; we pray that the beginnings of an immortal life may be made here, and that these beginnings may be the germs of capacities for the varied, rich, and complete happiness of heaven. There are a few obvious inquiries which we need to make to bring the subject clearly before us.

We must first get a clear idea of what is the will of the Lord in heaven. It is His will, His purpose, that men may have eternal life. He created man for the express purpose of blessing him. The Lord's will is His love, and it is the nature of heavenly love to give all its own to be anotherís. It is the essential nature of the Divine character to bless, to give itself in as large measures and perfect quality as possible. This is the purpose for which everything in the universe was created. Everything, from the least to the greatest, is exactly adapted to this end. The Lord could not create a finite form better adapted to receive His love and wisdom, and be blessed by them, than the human. Man can receive the Divine love and wisdom in their highest finite forms, and there is no assignable limit to his capacity to receive and enjoy. It is the Lordís will that every human being should receive the largest possible measures of happiness. There is nothing too great, or too beautiful, or too good for the Lord to give.

It is His will, also, to make it cost us as little as possible. He desires to give us the most for the least. In this respect His will is directly the reverse of selfish men. They desire to get the most for the least. The Lord desires to give the most for the least. He desires to have us get the highest good in the easiest way. He is so desirous of this, that He helps us all He can: He came into the world to point out the way, to be the way. ďThis is the will of the Father, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in Him may have eternal life.Ē The Lord does not exact the least thing of us which is not essential to the attainment of the end.

I do not know of anything in which men who claim to be Christians have more misunderstood the Lord's character and purpose than in His infinite desire and effort to give the largest and richest good to His children. It is the common opinion that the Lord is ďa hard master, reaping where he has not sowed.Ē But this is an entire mistake. If He asks us to deny ourselves, it is because His will cannot be done in us until we make room for the operations of His spirit. If He commands us to pluck out the right eye if it offends us, it is because it blinds us to something far more beautiful than can be seen by our natural sight. So it is in every case. He never asks us for any self-denial except for the purpose of doing us a good which He could not give us without it. He never takes anything from us, or permits anything to be taken from us, except for the purpose of giving us a greater good in its place. What a comfort it would be if we could keep this truth clearly before us, in our daily labors and trials: ďThe Lord is seeking to give me the highest good I can receive, and if He takes anything away it is to make room for it.Ē

It is the Lordís will that we should live according to the commandments, shunning what they forbid, and doing what they enjoin, because they are laws of life, because they are the paths which lead to life, and any deviation from them is the way to death. The Lord did not give the commandments to men because He desired to lay any restrictions upon them. He did it to point out the way to the attainment of the highest good. When we obey them we follow the directions of infinite wisdom. The Lord teaches us to pray that His will may be done in the earth as it is in heaven. The next question which it is important to know is, How is His will done in heaven? We can only mention some of the general principles which regulate the life there.

In heaven they keep the commandments, the first of which is, ďThou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.Ē The heavenly inhabitants do this. Their hearts are open to the Lord, and their faces are turned towards Him. This love is not a mere sentiment, an impulse of the affections; it is a principle, a rule of life. The test of it is not an outburst of passionate emotion, breaking forth into song. ďHe that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.Ē The Lord has not one rule of life for heaven, and another for the earth. Life, according to the commandments, is heaven, and when men keep them as well as the angels it will be heaven upon the earth. All the angels love the Lord in the degree that their affections were opened in this world. Some love Him in a celestial way, some in a spiritual degree, and some in a natural. The power to love differs in every one. They love Him with all their hearts; but some hearts are much larger than others. Their love manifests itself in keeping His commandments. Those in the first heaven keep them from the love of obedience; those in the second heaven from the love of the truth. They see that they are laws of life; they see their beauty, harmony, order, and they love to carry them out in all their relations to each other. Those who dwell in the highest heaven do them unconsciously and spontaneously. These laws are engraved upon their hearts, the celestial inhabitants are the forms of these laws, and all their activities flow according to their harmonies. They keep them just as the tree keeps them when it blossoms and bears fruit. Their affections and thoughts flow in the currents of the Divine order, and their whole being is filled with light, love, and blessedness.

The second great law of heaven, and the way the Lordís will is done there is, the inhabitants love one another. Some love others as themselves; others more than themselves. This love also is something more than a sentiment; it is done. It is carried out into all the relations of life. They do all they can to help each other, to make each other happy. We cannot conceive of an angel being envious, or jealous, or unkind, of bearing false witness, or of finding fault with his fellows. We cannot conceive of an angel coveting anotherís place or possessions, or of neglecting the uses of his own to criticize the work of another. Every one loves to be in his own place, and to do his own work in the best manner he can, and in everything he does he has primary regard to the good of others.

As a result of this love for the Lord and the neighbor, there is perfect harmony in all the domestic social, civil, and spiritual relations of the heavenly inhabitants. Each one is living for all. The whole heaven is giving its service to each one of its inhabitants. How lovely and beautiful those relations must be! The feelings are kind, the speech is pure and gentle, the sympathies are warm and sensitive, the hands are gentle and strong to help. The only ambition to be great is to serve. Every one is in his place, desires to be in his place, does that which he can do best, and loves to do it.

Heaven is a society of human beings associated together according to mutual tastes and character. Those who love each other the best, who are of homogeneous natures, and consequently can be of the greatest service to each other, live in the most intimate relations. Supreme love to the Lord and unselfish love of the neighbor are the governing principles of action, and these principles are carried into all the details of life. That is the way the Lordís will is done in the heavens.

It is also done in another way. It is the Lordís will that every human being should have everything which will promote his happiness in the fullest and highest degree. The inhabitants of heaven possess everything necessary to their happiness. Their clothing, habitation, climate, situation equal the highest ideals of every one in every particular. The blessed inhabitants cannot ask for anything which the Lord will not give them. The promise which our Lord made to His disciples is perfectly fulfilled. ďIf ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.Ē There is nothing to disturb, annoy, offend; everything to comfort, satisfy, and bless.

The Lord teaches us to pray that His will may be done in the earth as it is in heaven. The earth, as it is used in the Word, has large and various meanings. And the Lord desires to have His will done in it in every sense. By earth, in its lowest sense, we are to understand the material world. The Lord seeks to have His will done in it as it is in the heavens. He seeks to have it perfectly adapted to man's condition while he lives in the material body. He created it to be our home in the infancy of our being, and He has supplied it with all the materials necessary for our food and clothing and habitation. How beautiful and grand He has made it! How richly He has supplied it with everything which is conducive to our comfort and pleasure! Look at His provisions for one want,ó food for the growth and sustenance of the material body. What an infinite variety! How delicious it is! How nicely adapted to all tastes, and to the upbuilding of the whole physical structure! In what beautiful forms He presents it to us! How attractive He makes every step of the process of its preparation! Take one fruit as an example,óthe apple. The tree itself is beautiful, and stretches out its motherly arms near the earth as if handing its blessings down to us. The leaves are beautiful, and what a glory of blossoms crowns the tree! How delicate and lovely their crimson tints! How, pure as an angelís smile, they open their lips, whose speech is fragrance, filling the whole air with its sweetness. The old orchards I roamed in when a boy! They smile on me yet. I feel their benedictions now. I did not think then that they were doing it in obedience to the Divine will; but I see it now, and I shall see it more and more clearly forever.

When this rich dower of beauty and fragrance has served its use in introducing and cherishing the tender germs of the fruit it passes away, and the old arms gradually bend towards the earth with the increasing weight of their precious burden. How lovely in form and color the fruit! How delicious to the keen appetite its taste! How much comfort and pleasure and sustenance it supplies! I did not see the Lordís goodness in this bounty then; but I see it now, and the lovely pictures of His working for me when I knew it not fill my heart with gratitude today! This is one example of the many ways in which the Lord is expressing His love, is doing His will in the earth as it is in the heavens. I know that no earthly trees or earthly fruits can compare with those which blossom and bear fruit in the paradise above. But they are adapted to our states in this world. They supply our present wants, and they are the best the Lord can do for us with such rough materials.

But He can do better for us the more earnestly and intelligibly we pray to Him to do it. Here we may see the true use and nature of prayer. It is a well-known fact that all fruits have been much improved in size and flavor by culture. The varieties and abundance have also been much increased. So great has this improvement been, that we should regard our most delicious fruits as hardly fit to eat in their wild, primitive state. How have they been changed? By prayer! By the only effectual prayer. Men have prayed with the plough and the hoe, and the pruning-hook. They studied the Divine commandments written in the soil and in the climate, and in the sun and winds, and in the plant itself. They studied diligently to discover what the plant loved, what materials it could use to the best advantage, and as fast as they discovered these laws they kept them. They prayed for a better and more abundant fruit, and they prayed in the right way; and their prayers were answered.

The Lord is doing His will on the earth as it is done in heaven in a larger and different way from what is generally supposed. The material universe, and every useful and beautiful material object is cast into the mould of heavenly forms. There are three kingdoms in nature because there are three kingdoms in the spiritual world to which the material kingdoms correspond. They are the effects of spiritual causes. There are minerals, plants, birds, and animals on the earth because there are minerals and plants, birds and animals in heaven. The Lord is carrying the great purposes of His love into effect according to the same laws, and by the same means in the earth as He does in heaven. He creates the same objects that they may perform the same use to men in the material body that they do on a higher plane to human beings in a spiritual body. The earth and all material objects are shadows of the spiritual earth which we shall inhabit when we have served our apprenticeship here, and the material objects in their various forms of mineral, plant, and animal are only the rough casts and rude outlines of corresponding spiritual objects in heaven. When we pass from earth to heaven, we shall not pass from the known to the entirely unknown. We shall find the same objects in general that we have left behind us. The difference will not consist in unlikeness and opposites, but in greater variety, in surpassing beauty and grandeur, in supreme excellence in quality, and in a more complete adaptation to every human condition.

The Lord is doing His will on the earth as He is doing it in heaven. When we study science, and learn the laws, forces, qualities, and relations of one object to another, we are learning how the Lord accomplishes His will, what means He employs, and in what form His will becomes embodied. We find also that He employs human agency. He does the best He can by working from within according to general laws to give man food, clothing, and habitation. But to carry out His purposes of good to man in the most complete manner He needs our co-operation. By working through us He can obtain better results than He can by working through nature alone. He takes His children into partnership, gives them abundant materials, and teaches them how to use them, to improve them. He teaches us how to be creators, and gives us opportunities to work for others, and do good to them, as He works for and blesses us. By these means the affections are enlarged, and all our intellectual and spiritual faculties are developed. The Lord desires to have all His children well fed, well clothed, to have them dwell in comfortable and beautiful habitations on the earth as well as in heaven. For this end He works, for this end He desires to have us work with Him.

The Lord desires to have His children live in domestic comfort, love, and peace. Those who are trying to bring their own families into this condition are offering this prayer. When husband and wife tenderly and truly respect and love one another, and seek each othersí happiness; when children love their parents, and are obedient to them, and try to make them happy; when they love and respect each other, and try to serve each other; when all the members of a family combine to live for each other, according to the measure of their success, they are doing the Lordís will on the earth as it is done in the heavens. They are praying for it without ceasing, and their prayer is answered. The same principle applies to all the social, civil, and industrial relations of men. Every man and every woman who is trying to improve the condition of humanity in this world is offering this prayer, and is doing it in the only way in which the Lord can answer it. Oh, that the prayers of men were more fervent, and more intelligent, and more constant! It is a blessed sign, full of promise, that menís prayers are coming down from the abstract and ideal into the practical and real.

But we pass on to notice another meaning of earth, which has a most important bearing upon our personal happiness and excellence. By the earth is meant the natural which is the subject of all our natural thoughts, desires, passions, and attainments. In this petition the Lord teaches us to ask that His will may be done in the natural degree of our life as it is in the spiritual. The spiritual degree of the mind is first regenerated. We learn spiritual truth which teaches us how we ought to live. We have aspirations after a heavenly life. We resolve to live it and we make efforts to do it. It is not difficult to acknowledge the beauty and excellence of a heavenly life, and when the passions are at rest and we are not exposed to temptations, to dream of living it.

But when we bring these heavenly principles of supreme love to the Lord and equal love to the neighbor down into natural affection, thought, and deed, we find they come into conflict with all our selfish and worldly desires, and a long and weary conflict must be waged before the heavenly gains full lodgment in the earthly, subdues its obduracy, moulds it into its own likeness, and moves it to harmony with itself. The Lord teaches us to pray that all our natural affections may be clarified into heavenly purity; that a heavenly love may imbue and control our natural wills; that heavenly light may illuminate our understandings; that heavenly kindness and gentleness may characterize all our actions; that our speech may be gentle, and true, and helpful, and all our actions useful and good.

When we are trying to bring heaven down into the earth; when we are learning the truth; when we are performing some use from love to others, we are offering this petition continually. Husband and wife are praying this prayer when they are living a true married life. The merchant, and the mechanic, and the seamstress, and the teacher, the cook, and the mistress of a household; the lawyer, and the physician, and the minister, and every one in any useful office is offering this prayer who is working from love to others. He is translating it into deeds; is working for the accomplishment of the Lordís will both in himself and in others, and just so far as he offers it fervently, patiently, persistently, it will be answered.

We must not expect the whole work to be done instantly. The farmer does not expect an immediate answer when he prays to have a harvest of wheat where there is a forest of giant trees. He must pray long with his axe, with fire, with ploughshare driven through the hard earth, with seed cast into the ground. Then he must wait for the Lord to come with light and warmth, with rain and dew, before he can see His will accomplished. So must we diligently pray, and faithfully labor, and patiently wait for the coming of His spiritual kingdom into our own hearts and understandings. It is a great work, and we must pray without ceasing and faint not. If we do, our prayer will be answered. The natural and the spiritual mind will become one. The Lordís will will be done on the earth in us as it is in the heavens within us. But we must not forget that we never offer this prayer, however often we may repeat the words, until we try to do it.

By earth is also signified the Church in the world. Here we might expect to find the Lordís will done as it is in heaven. Its members profess to be followers of the Lord, to believe in His Word, and to live a heavenly life. But it is often difficult to discover in the societies of the Church any similarity to the societies in heaven except in form. We do not find the great law of love to be the controlling principle of action. We do find bigotry, pride, hypocrisy, hatred, love of self and the world, ignorance of heavenly laws, and indifference to them. In business, in social and civil life, in the privacy of home, and in public affairs, it is difficult to distinguish the members of the Church from those who make no profession of religion. But our Lord teaches us to pray that the earthly society may be animated by the same spirit, guided by the same principles, and engaged in the same work as the heavenly societies. They have the same Father; they are members of the same family; heirs to the same inheritance. They only dwell in different provinces of the same kingdom. As the earth is the ground in which the heavenly seed is planted and the germs of heavenly blessings take root, we must be diligent in planting, faithful in cultivating and protecting them. Every genuine member of the Lordís kingdom is an embodiment of a heavenly force and a medium of transmitting it. We stand between heaven and the society to which we belong. We communicate what we are; and the character of every society is the sum of the intelligence, energy, love, order, purity, and devotion its members contribute to it. Let us who are members of this society pray this prayer, and constantly, patiently, and faithfully labor to make it a vigorous and thriving branch of the Lordís kingdom.

There is much thought and said in the Church about going to heaven. Wearied with the labors and contradictions of this life, tormented by its cares, disappointed by its illusions and unsatisfying joys, we long for the freedom and rest, the joys and peace of heaven, which we hope to gain only by escaping from the world. But our Lord teaches us to pray that His will may be done in the earth as it is in heaven. He reverses the order of our purposes. We are to aim and to labor to bring heaven down to earth; to make every society a heavenly society. It is not by escaping from the labor, but by putting a heavenly purpose into it and giving it a heavenly direction; it is not by withdrawing from societies and withholding our hands and closing our hearts to its work, that we can gain heaven here or hereafter, but by bringing the principles of heaven into our work and worship; by uniting with others and extending our influence as widely as possible. It should be our aim and our constant effort, as far as lies in our power, to make this society a living, vigorous member of the Lordís kingdom. We should seek to make ourselves a medium of transmitting the principles, the light, the order, the harmony, the purity, the vital power, and the peace of heaven to the whole body of the society.

The essential principle of heaven is love to the Lord. Let us try to bring this law of a heavenly life into all our relations with one another as members of a society of the Lordís kingdom. Let us desire and labor that His will, not ours, except so far as it coincides with it, may be done in our society; that His way may be our way, His purpose our purpose. May we look to Him, keep the door of our hearts open to Him, that He may guide us by His wisdom, vivify us by His love, and make us willing instruments in His hands of doing His will and helping others to do it.

The members of the Lordís kingdom in heaven love one another with an unselfish and devoted affection. Let us bring this love into all our relations with one another. Let us feel kindly towards all. Let us give to every one all the aid we can in overcoming evil, learning truth, and living a heavenly life. Then we shall pray this prayer without ceasing. Every aspiration will ascend as incense to the Lord, and will return to us as a purer love, a clearer light, and a larger capacity to do His will; and through us, according to the measure of our ability, we shall become a society which is a branch of the heavenly kingdom, and which is doing the Lordís will upon the earth as it is done in heaven.

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