Unpublished papers from the Nekbakht Foundation Archives
8 May 1921 and 15 May 1921
A few words upon the effect that prayer has upon man's soul from different points of view.
From the religious point of view the main thing in religion is prayer. All the moral principles, the ethics and traditions take the second place. And morally prayer is the greatest virtue and the only way of being free from all sin, because in prayer one reaches that spirit of God which is all-powerful and which is ever-forgiving, and it is by the power of prayer that man opens the doors of the heart, in which God the Merciful abides.
There are many different feelings which have an influence upon us, and which give a feeling of joy, of exaltation, but there is no sentiment greater or more effective than the feeling of bringing one's faults and weaknesses before God to ask for His pardon. To become conscious of one's shortcomings, to be sorry for them, to repent of them, and to ask His forgiveness in all humility, no ethics, no philosophy can give a greater joy than this. It is the sincere devotee of God who knows best what feeling it is to humble oneself before God. The proud one, ignorant of the greatness of God, of His all-sufficient power, does not know what is this exaltation that raises the soul from earth to heaven. To be really sorry for one's errors is like opening the gates of heaven. They say that John the Baptist spoke that word on the coming of Christ: "Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." But this word is as living and fresh as ever, at all times it answers the question of your soul.
Man is limited in his thought, in his speech, in his action. Therefore naturally he is liable to follies and errors, and his progress through life can only be made as a little child learns to walk. The child falls a thousand times before he can stand, and so many times he falls again when he begins to walk. We human beings are not more than the child before God. If we take this attitude in life, not considering that if yesterday we failed today we shall fail, and if we always hope that some day we shall walk aright, that hour will come. Imagine if the child thought that as he had fallen so often perhaps he would never walk! That would make a mental impression on his soul, and he would never be able to walk. But there is the natural impulse, with the hope, "Next time I shall walk", that makes him walk. So with us. Our follies, shortcomings, errors, are natural, but when we defend ourselves, hiding our errors from others and making virtues out of our shortcomings, it is then we make a mistake. It is just like nurturing our errors and wanting to err more. We must always develop the sense of justice, and that sense can never be developed if we judge others. The only way of developing that sense is to judge ourselves continually and see where we are in fault, and then in prayer to ask pardon and to ask for right guidance. It is the most desirable way of living.
Prayer is a great virtue and is the only way of being free from all sin. In prayer a man reaches the Spirit of God which is all-powerful and ever-forgiving; and the power of prayer opens the doors of the heart in which God, the All-Merciful resides.
There are many different feelings which have their influence upon men, and give joy and exaltation; but there is none greater and more exalting than that of offering our faults and weaknesses before God and asking His pardon with true repentance and humility.
No ethics, no philosophy, can give greater joy than this, which is sincere devotion to God; and the deepest joy is his who knows best how to humble himself before God. The proud man, ignorant of greatness of God, and of His all-sufficient power, does not know this exaltation, which raises the soul from earth to Heaven. To be really sorry for one's errors is like opening the doors of heaven. Man is limited in his speech and actions, and thus is naturally subject to faults and error; his progress can only be made by the lesson of life.
As the little child learns to walk, falling a thousand times before he can stand; and after that falling again and again before he learns at last to walk, so are we no more than little children before God; we fail again and again, but if we feel that because we failed yesterday we shall do so again to-morrow, we shall never overcome. We must always look forward with faith to the day when we shall walk aright, and that day will surely come. If the child thought, "As I have fallen so often perhaps I shall never walk", that thought would make a mental image on his soul, and he would never walk. Our follies and errors are natural; but when we defend ourselves, making virtues of our shortcomings and trying to hide our errors, it is as if we nurtured our errors, trying to make them grow. The only real method of growth is to judge ourselves constantly and to see where we fail; then in prayer to ask for pardon and right guidance.
Man often thinks that, as God is the Knower of the heart there can be no need of any recital or gesture in prayer; but that it would surely be sufficient if he were to sit in the silence and think of God. But this is not so; it is according to the extent of a man's consciousness of prayer that this prayer reaches God. If your body is still and only your mind is working, it means that part of your being is in prayer and part not; for man has both mind and body, so that the complete being must be praying. In reality God is within man; man is the instrument of God and through him God experiences the external world.
Prayer is the way of conveying the God within to the God without; and thought, speech and gesture make the prayer complete.
Man asks another question as to why God, Who knows already what he wants and what is the need of his life, should require to be asked at all. For answer to this we have the words of Christ; "Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you." In other words, this means that though God knows your need it has to become clear and definite to yourself by prayer.
Then there is a third question which man asks, "Why does God need praise from me? Who am I that I should offer Him praise?"
True, we can never praise Him enough; never can our praise be sufficient, but our souls are blessed with the impression of the Glory of God whenever we praise Him. The soul could praise God every moment and yet wanting to praise Him yet more, it is constantly hungering and thirsting to find the Beauty and Perfection of God. By the praise of God the soul is filled with bliss; even to utter the name of God is a blessing that can fill the soul with light, joy and happiness as nothing else can do.
If we realized what joy comes after we have asked pardon from our fellowman when we know we have been in fault, a joy and bliss not to be imagined unless we have practiced it, then we might perhaps imagine what joy and peace must come from asking forgiveness of God, Whose Love is unlimited. Asking pardon is like purifying the heart and washing it white.
There is a beautiful story told of the King Akbar that when he was grieving with an almost ungovernable grief over the death of his mother, his ministers and friends tried to comfort him by influence and power. Akbar replied, "Yes, that is true, and that only makes my grief greater; for while I have everyone to bow before me, to give way to me, to salute me and obey me, my mother was the one person before whom I could humble myself; and I cannot tell you how great a joy that was to me."
Think, then, of the far greater joy of humbling one's self before the Father-Mother God on Whose Love one can always depend. A spark only of love expresses itself in the human father and mother; the Whole of Love in God. In whatever manner a man humbles himself it can never be enough to express the humility of the limited self before Limitless Perfection. Self-denial is not renouncing of things, it is denying the self and the first lesson of self-denial is humility.
Then also men should unite in prayer, for the blessing which can be received through prayer becomes a thousandfold greater when received even by a few who are united in the same desire and are praying together.
From the Nekbakht Foundation Archives, courtesy of Sharif Munawwir Graham
Note: The sentence "Self-denial is not renouncing of things, it is denying the self and the first lesson of self-denial is humility." was missing from the typewritten copy of the lecture but is reported in Original Texts: Sayings Part II, p73 and also appears in Religious Gatheka 8.
Comments by Sharif Munawwir:
"there are two 'lectures' in it, not one, and both are marked to indicate that Murshid himself said they were inaccurate. ... apparently one of these is a record of the 'remarks' Murshid made on the occasion of the first Universal Worship service, which took place in London, the first Cheraga, Murshida Green, celebrating (after her ordination).