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

XIII. The Kingdom, Power, and Glory of the Lord;
What They are, How We Can Ascribe Them to Him

For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever. Amen.” — Matthew vi. 13

The Divine Prayer which our Lord teaches all His disciples commences with acknowledging Him as our Father, and ends with the humble confession that the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to Him, thus completing the circle of thought and life. The first conception of God should be an idea of Him as a wise, loving, tender Father. We should impress this idea upon our children; we should keep it fresh and clear in our own minds; it should enter into, qualify, and dominate every conception we form of Him as we advance in spiritual knowledge. It is a Father’s name we should desire to hallow; it is a Father’s kingdom we should desire to see established; it is a Father’s will, kind and tender and solely regardful of our happiness, we should pray to have done on the earth of our natural minds and in all human relations, as it is done in heaven; it is to a provident Father, and not to some abstract law or unfeeling official, we look for daily bread; it is to a Father’s merciful heart, and not to some arbitrary and relentless tyrant, we appeal for forgiveness; it is a Father tried and true to whom we trust for help in the conflicts of temptation, and from whom we seek deliverance from evil, and it is to Him, to our Father, we are ready to ascribe the kingdom, and the power, and glory, forever. How beautiful and happy life would be if we could keep this conception of the Fatherhood of the Lord constantly in our minds!

The acknowledgment that the kingdom, power, and glory are the Lord’s is a logical consequence from the preceding petition. When we are delivered from evil, and so far as we are delivered from it, we shall ascribe the kingdom, power, and glory to Him. We shall see that it is by His power we are delivered from evil; that His kingdom does come as the kingdom of evil is subdued and destroyed. Our Lord teaches us to pray for that which He desires and intends to grant. Let us, then, endeavor to understand what is meant by the kingdom, power, and glory of the Lord, and how we are to acknowledge in heart and life that they are His.

“For thine is the kingdom.” A kingdom is a country or people governed by a king, or, when regarded abstractly, it is the government of a king. It is also one of the primary divisions of natural history, a province of nature, composed of distinct forms and subject to special laws, as the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal kingdom. Here, in the material world, we get a clear example and representation of what a kingdom essentially is. Theologians have taken civil government, with an arbitrary and irresponsible ruler at its head, as the true type of the Divine
Government. But nature is a better representative. It is a province of the Lord’s kingdom, and in it we can see how He governs and works. We can see that everything, from the least to the greatest, stands in a perfect order, and proceeds according to immutable law. Nature is not first created by an almighty fiat, and then brought into subjection to an arbitrary will. It is evolved according to laws which it embodies, and which constantly operate.

The Lord’s spiritual kingdom, which is composed of human beings, is created and governed in the same way. The Lord did not create men and then impose laws upon them. He created them in His own likeness and image. He embodied in them the laws and principles of His own nature. The human soul is the organized form of the Divine nature; it was made to be a receptacle of the Divine life and to live by a constant reception of that life. Human life is the Divine life in finite forms. Even when outward laws or commandments were given to men, as on Mount Sinai, or when they came from the Lord’s own lips in the flesh, they were only a statement of the laws which had been enacted in man's nature. “The kingdom of God is within us.” All its substances, forms, activities, principles, and laws are embodied in potency in every human being, and when our natures are developed into actual existence according to these laws and principles, we become a kingdom of God in its least form; we become units in that kingdom.

A heavenly society, whether on the earth or in the spiritual world, is a kingdom in a larger form. All the regenerated in heaven and the regenerating on the earth constitute the Lord’s universal kingdom. But, as every plant is the embodiment of all the principles of the vegetable kingdom, so every human being contains within himself all the principles of the heavenly kingdom. This is a kingdom of immutable law, of absolute order, and perfect relation. All its motions are harmonies; all its activities tend directly with the most exquisite precision to accomplish the Divine purpose, which is the communication of the greatest amount of the purest happiness to man, to make man the embodiment of the largest and richest joys. Every substance, every force, every activity which conduces to this end belongs to His kingdom.

This is the kingdom we must acknowledge and for whose coming we must pray. To do this implies much more than is generally supposed. It stands in direct contrast and opposition to the kingdom to which we belong by natural inheritance. The natural degree of the mind which we inherit from our parents, and which is first established in us, is a kingdom of evil affections and false principles. They are organized in the natural mind. It is called the kingdom of this world, the kingdom of Satan, our kingdom. This kingdom must be destroyed, or brought into subjection to the kingdom of heaven. Both cannot exist together in active power in the same mind at the same time. “No man can serve two masters.” The Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of order; Satan’s is a kingdom of confusion; the one is a kingdom of harmony, the other of discords; the one is a kingdom of light, the other of darkness. Evil is the embodiment of all that is impure, low, vile, corrupt, and destructive; goodness and truth are the substance and form of all that is innocent, lovely, elevating, noble, and pure. Evil is the kingdom of death; the Lord’s kingdom is the form and embodiment of life. It is a state of peace. In it “all things celestial and spiritual are as it were in their morning, their spring-tide flower, that is, in their essential happiness.”

We can see from this contrast the logical sequence of our text, “Deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom.” The acknowledgment that the kingdom is the Lord’s implies an entire change in the organization of our minds. It is properly called being born again; it is the creation of new heavens and a new earth within us. It is the entire reversal of our motives and ends of life. “Thine is the kingdom.” It is easy enough to repeat the words, but difficult to comprehend the full force of their meaning, and still more difficult to utter them from the heart. It is denying ourselves; it is abdicating our kingdom; it is forsaking all we have; it is laying down our natural, evil life; it is praying, struggling, working to be delivered from evil, and to be introduced into the kingdom of order, truth, and love. “Thine is the kingdom” falls from the lips in a moment, without effort, and too often without thought or comprehension of its meaning. How difficult to say it with the understanding, and to adopt it as the sincere desire of our hearts and the aspiration of our lives! Can you conceive of a higher or nobler aim in life than to become an embodiment of the Lord’s kingdom; to have all your intellectual faculties fashioned into the perfect similitude of the order and beauty of the Divine original; to have all the affections imbued with the Divine love and move in accord with the harmonies of the Divine order? We are all striving to gain something which we call good; we are all seeking to attain an ideal, if it is no higher than that of a brute. What is our aim? We can tell what we desire to obtain and possess. Have we any clearly formed and definite idea of what we desire to become? Reflect upon it. By the knowledge we gain, the affections we exercise, and the deeds we do, we are becoming a kingdom, a kingdom of evil with all its discords, malignities, darkness, deformities, vileness, conflicts, hopeless sorrow and endless agonies, or a kingdom of truth, order, light, harmony, peace, joy, constant attainment, and ever-increasing happiness. Let us set these two kingdoms distinctly before us. It may help us to pray with our hearts as well as with our lips, “Deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom.”

Having considered what a kingdom really is, we have gained the true point of view to understand what we ask when we say thine is “the power.” Every human being loves power. We love to possess it, we love to exercise it. This affection manifests itself in infancy and childhood, it increases with age, “grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength.” Yes, we all love power and the Lord loves to have us possess it and exercise it. He created us for this purpose. Scientists resolve all material substances in their last analysis into force. We may go still further, and resolve all human beings into the same substance. What is a man or a woman but an organized force? We call the various modes of motion of the mind and body faculties. What is a faculty? It is organized power. The eye is the faculty or power of seeing, the ear is the power of hearing, the lungs of breathing, the brain of thinking. Every organic form in the body is a faculty or power. The whole material body is a series and congeries, a kingdom of faculties, and when any one ceases to perform its functions we feel its loss.

The mind is organized in the same way as the body. The mind is a spiritual body, organized to live in a spiritual world, and to become the embodiment of spiritual power. It corresponds to the material body, organ to organ, in the least and in the largest forms. Every intellectual faculty is an organ. It would be as impossible to gain ideas, to think, to know, to compare, to reason, and to understand, to exercise any affection, or to be the subject of any pleasurable or painful emotion without spiritual organs, as it is to see without eyes, to hear without ears, to breathe without lungs, or to perform any physical act without the organ devoted to that use. Man is an organized power in every plane of his being, spiritual as well as material.

But whence comes the power? How does it originate? What are the conditions of its possession and exercise? Man does not create himself. He did not form the wonderful series of organs which constitute the human body. He can destroy the eye, but he cannot make one. It is impossible, in the nature of things, for any being or thing to create itself. We see this when we look at the works of our own hands. Show a child a watch and tell it that the watch made itself, and it would see the absurdity of the statement in a moment. The supposition that any faculty of the human mind or body originates its own power is just as absurd. The organ does not create the power; nor does the power of which it is the form and instrument originate in it. The power of seeing does not originate in the eye. The eye of itself cannot see. The same is true of every faculty of the material and of the spiritual body. The organ is in itself merely a form for the reception of power. We talk of the power of an engine; when we do it, we speak according to the appearance, and not with scientific accuracy. The absolute truth is that the largest engine has no more power than the smallest, and that is none at all. It is made to receive and distribute power. So it is with man in the spiritual as truly as in the material plane of his being. He is organized to receive power in manifold and miraculous ways, but not one particle of it originates in himself. It is a constant gift to him by the Lord; but it is so given that it seems to be man's own. So far as our consciousness is concerned, it is our own. We cannot feel its currents flowing into us. It seems to spring up spontaneously within and to make us independent beings.

The distinction between this seeming and the genuine truth is a most important one. It is the ground and possibility of all evil. All error and sin originate in mistaking the appearance for genuine truth and acting upon it. Man’s fall from his original innocence was caused by this fatal mistake. Every evil originates in claiming that as our own which belongs to another, and this is the essential evil from which we should pray to be delivered. We ought not to attribute either good or evil to ourselves. Power in itself is neither good nor evil. It gets its quality from the use we make of it. All power originates in the Lord. He is omnipotent; that is, He has all power, and there is no other power but His. All the forces of nature and of human beings, are the Lord’s power working in and by means of the forms He has created, and these forces are constantly given. This is a truth we are slow to acknowledge. We talk of the forces of nature, of the power of an engine, of the strength of materials, of intellectual and moral power, as though all these varied forms of force were inherent in the forms which manifest them. We attribute to the instrument the power of the principal; to the vessel the precious substances which it contains. We forget the Creator in our admiration of His works. We claim for our own the power which is His constant gift. Do you not see the terrible danger that lies in this illusion? Do you not see how it begets pride, vanity, arrogance, self-love, the lust of dominion? Do you not see how it arrays man against man, and causes suspicion, strife, hatred, and revenge? When we claim any intellectual or moral quality as our own, we desire to have our claim recognized, to have our merits acknowledged and appreciated. If they are not, we feel injured, wronged; angry and resentful feelings arise in our minds. Why will not others respect me? Why will they not accord me the place to which my talents, my wealth, my skill, my ancestry, my personal qualities or possessions entitle me? Does not this principle lie at the heart of all the antagonisms and conflicts, all the pain and misery of life? Look into your own hearts, and watch the movements of your own affections, and you will see.

Suppose, on the other hand, you saw and acknowledged that every capacity of every kind you possess was the gift of the Lord, would it not reverse all your ways of thinking of yourself and of Him? You may be beautiful in person; instead of being vain of it you would be thankful to the Lord for it. You may possess some peculiar talent in which you excel many others. Did you create it? Did you endow yourself with it? No; it is the Lord’s gift, and if you recognized His hand in it, instead of claiming superiority for yourself, you would be humble and grateful to the Lord for it. But the multitude will say we have no special gifts of excellence or superiority over others. How does the principle apply to us? In this way. Every power you possess is the Lord’s free gift to you: it is His power constantly operating in you. Take the lowest form of His gifts, which multitudes regard as the highest. You can enjoy a good dinner. Who gave you the power of taste? Did you originate it? You can see and hear. Who formed the eye and the ear and constantly gives them the power to perform their functions? You are a mother and love your child. Did you endow yourself with this power? You are a mechanic. Who gives you the power to make a shoe or to build a ship or an engine? You are a merchant. Who gives you the power to buy and sell? You are an artist. Whence comes your skill? You are a student. Who gives you the ability to learn, to remember, to know, to understand? The Lord, the Lord, and He alone. It makes no difference through what channels the gift comes, it is the Lord’s. The smallest, the commonest, as well as the largest and the rarest, is the gift of our Heavenly Father. Suppose we kept this grand and living truth before us, and our hearts were sensitive and quick to respond in every activity, in every enjoyment, in every acquirement, “Thine is the power”! Would it not keep us near to the Lord? Would it not fill our hearts with gratitude and draw us closer to Him? Would it not keep us under the shadow of His protecting wings where He could guard us against all harm? Think of it as you go the round of your daily duties. Think of it in the quiet joys of home. Think of it in social and public life. Think of it in all you suffer or enjoy, “Thine is the power.”

But this phrase in the Divine prayer does not stand alone: it is most intimately connected with what precedes and follows it. The Lord not only gives us all the power we possess but He desires to give us more. There is no limit to the power He desires to bestow upon us, but it can only be done according to the laws of His kingdom. His kingdom is the method He has provided to bestow His gifts upon man, and there is no other way in which they can be given or received. How can the Lord give us the faculty of sight except by means of the eye, which is one of the provinces of His kingdom? How can He give us the power of hearing except through the ear, which is the kingdom of harmony? How can He give us the power of knowing in any other way than by the intellectual faculties; by memory, thought, reason, perception? How can He confer upon us the power of loving, with all its joys and exquisite delights, without the kingdom of the affections? There is no other way. The Lord’s kingdom is the organized form and infinitely wise method by which He bestows His blessings upon man. Only, therefore, as we are inserted into this kingdom and become a part of it, can the Lord bestow His power upon us. “I am the vine,” He says, “ye are the branches, He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for severed from me ye can do nothing.” All power and life, all capacity for sensation, is as impossible to man when separated from the Lord’s kingdom as growth and the production of fruit to the branch when severed from the vine.

Evil is not power, it is weakness. Error is not power, ignorance is not power; they divert it, and destroy man's capacity for receiving it. We know that this is true in natural things, why can we not acknowledge it in spiritual things? We love power and desire to possess it. Why cannot we see that the only way to gain it and enjoy it is to put ourselves into orderly relations with the source of it? The most stupid mechanic knows that he must keep his wheels in connection with the motive-power or they cannot do his work. The child knows that it must open its eyes to see. Why should men and women, intelligent in many ways, be so foolish and stupid as to believe that the Lord can confer upon them the power of seeing heavenly truths, and the charm, the grace, the bliss of heavenly joys, when they close the gates of their minds against the currents of the Divine forces which carry these blessings in their bosom?

We have no adequate conception of our capacities to become the receptacles and embodiment of the Lord’s power. Our ideas of power are too material and physical. There is a popular maxim that knowledge is power; and so it is in one sense, and in another it is not. Knowledge does not create power; it only shows us where to find it and how to use it: how to adjust ourselves to its inflowing forces. Knowledge does not create the power of gravity, of steam, of electricity, of wind and wave. Herein we may find a solution of what seems to be a contradiction and an enigma. Our doctrines teach us that the more completely we confess that we have no power of any kind, that it all belongs to the Lord, the more powerful we shall become, because the Lord can give us more. Do you not see that this is the condition on which every step has been taken in utilizing what we call the forces of nature? The scientist and inventor do not claim any of the forces of nature as their own. They do not think of changing one of the laws of nature. On the contrary, they direct their efforts to discover what those laws are; how natural forces act; the paths they love to follow; their attractions and repulsions; and when they have discovered them, they adjust all their movements and mechanisms to their immutable laws. Their constant prayer is, “thine is the power,” and their constant desire is to bring themselves into such lawful and friendly relations to this power that it can become their own; and it does become their own just so far as they discover its secrets and adapt themselves to its laws.

The same principle rules in the spiritual realm of the Lord’s kingdom. All spiritual power is the Lord’s. All the power to know, to love, to enjoy, is the Lord’s, and can only be communicated to man according to the immutable laws of His kingdom. If we acknowledge this as the scientist and inventor do in their plane of action, we should become endowed with a spiritual power of which we now have but little conception. If the prayer, “thine is the power,” was as genuine, fervent, constant, and practical in the churches as it is in the halls of science, in the laboratory, and the workshop, they would become endowed with a spiritual power which would soon make “the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.” They would gain finer and higher qualities of power. But the love of self and the world will not say it. “Mine is the power” is their constant claim and the cause of all their weakness and their shame. Give up the claim; it is false. It is contrary to all the laws of the Lord and of His kingdom. Confess in heart and thought, in speech and deed, “thine is the power,” and just in the degree you confess it and desire that it should be so, will you become the embodiment of spiritual forces; of the power to know the finer qualities of the Divine character; to come into more intimate relations with the Source of all life; to become imbued with a keen perception of the Divine goodness, and a richer, larger, higher embodiment of Divine love and wisdom. In our cold and torpid affections and feeble understandings we get but the faintest and feeblest idea that there is infinite power at our service, power to overcome evil, to see the true, to enjoy the good, if we will but accept it. Here we stand poor, blind, dumb, torpid creatures, in the midst of an infinitude of riches offered for our acceptance; in a world of light if we will open our eyes to see it; in a universe of harmony if we will lend our ears to hear, and surrounded within and without by living forces for whose reception we have only to open our hearts. We will not go to the Lord that we may have life.

But we must pass on to a brief consideration of the next truth revealed in our text, For thine is the “glory.” What is glory? How can we ascribe glory to the Lord? By glory is meant Divine truth, because truth is spiritual light which fills the heavens with splendor. There is nothing of self-love, or of a desire to be honored and worshipped in the Divine nature. The Lord does not desire to be worshipped and to receive honor and praise from men for His own sake, but for man’s sake. When man is in humiliation he is denying himself, he is laying down his life, he is praying to be delivered from evil, he is opening his heart to the Lord. When he does this he puts himself in the Divine hands, and the Lord can fill his whole being with love and light. “Glory for the sake of self,” says Swedenborg, “is grounded in self-love, and heavenly love differs as much from self-love as heaven from hell, and infinitely more the Divine love.” Our Lord Himself says, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” To bear fruit is to bring love to the Lord and man down into actual life, and embody it in our words and deeds. Every man, however humble his position, however servile his work, is ascribing glory to the Lord if he acts from love to Him. Every woman, however obscure her position and apparently trivial her office, is praying “thine be the glory” in every phase of domestic and social life, if her heart is alive with love from the Lord which she is in the effort to transmit to others. A child honors its parents by learning their will and acting in obedience to them. So we honor and give glory to our Heavenly Father by learning His will and doing it. We give glory to the Lord by receiving the gifts of love and wisdom He is in the constant effort to bestow upon us. He desires to bless us, and when we allow Him to do it, we honor and glorify Him, just as we honor and praise a human being when we help him to effect his purposes. Therefore we offer this prayer when we receive the Divine truth into our wills and understandings. Divine truth is light itself; the more we receive of it the more luminous we become. The wisest angels are the embodiment of a glory which flows from them as light from the sun. This light is so intense and powerful that weak and inferior natures cannot bear it. Their faces shine with a glory surpassing our conception. We sometimes see men and women with luminous faces even in this world. The light of love shines in their eyes and flows from every feature even through the thick veil of the flesh. How dazzlingly brilliant must be the faces of those who have cast off the veil and who have become the embodiments of heavenly light. We get a hint of the possibilities of the regenerate spiritual body to receive and transmit the Divine glory from the description of the angel of the Lord who descended and rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulchre. “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.”

Such is the nature of the kingdom, and the power, and glory of the Lord, and such are the rewards of ascribing them to Him. It is not, as you see, an unmeaning act; it is not a mere motion of the lips; it is not merely the humiliation and denial of ourselves. That may be the appearance, but, in reality, it is becoming the kingdom; it is receiving the endowment of the Divine power; it is becoming the embodiment of the Divine light, and shining with it; and it is the attainment of all these blessings forever.

What are we to understand by that word, forever? Does it mean without end? Yes; it implies that, and much more. But, strictly speaking, it has no direct reference to time. There is no time in the spiritual world. What, then, does it mean? Through the ages,—that is, from age to age, from step to step, in our advancement through every phase of life in eternity. We are to ascribe the kingdom, the power, and the glory to the Lord, according to the state of our love and the measure of our knowledge. The more completely we can do this the more fully and perfectly we shall become His kingdom, be endowed with His power, and illuminated with His wisdom. Amen. We can say it easily with the lips. Can we say it with the heart? Can we say it with the understanding? Can we say it in our deeds? Our life, and not our lips, will give the true answer.

To Chapter 14