In Allen’s article, “Tips on Practice,” he mentions the value of really praying the prayers in Part II of the Workbook. I have found this to be one of the most rewarding elements of Workbook practice. I highly recommend doing this, speaking these prayers (silently or aloud) directly to God as deeply-felt personal communications, as a kind of “love speech” between the created and the Creator. For that is exactly how these prayers read.
To encourage this practice I want to focus on the prayer for Lesson 232, which is probably my favorite prayer in the entire Course. I have used this prayer countless times. If I am driving some distance I will sometimes spend the time praying it over and over. Over time each line has come to feel permeated with a beautiful meaning. I would like to share that meaning now, by going through the prayer, line-by-line, commenting on each line as I go.
I would strongly encourage you to go beyond merely reading the following material and actually pray the prayer with me as I go through it. To do so, I suggest the following form: Preferably do it in the morning, since, as you will see, the prayer assumes that. Read the line from the prayer and then read my commentary on that line. Then go back to the line I am commenting on and spend some time really speaking it to God. If you can, spend a full minute or two with it, dwelling on it, going over and over it, perhaps adding your own elaborations, until it really sinks in and registers in your feelings. Hopefully, my commentary will have enriched this experience, but see what new meanings come out of your time spent with that line. Then go on to the next line and its commentary, repeating the same process.
Be in my mind, my Father, when I wake, and shine on me throughout the day today. Let every minute be a time in which I dwell with You. And let me not forget my hourly thanksgiving that You have remained with me, and always will be there to hear my call to You and answer me. As evening comes, let all my thoughts be still of You and of Your Love. And let me sleep sure of my safety, certain of Your care, and happily aware I am Your Son.
“Be in my mind, my Father, when I wake,”
Notice what a personal communication this opening line is. You are asking someone to be inside of your mind. In a way this is more intimate than asking someone to be in your bed when you wake. And you are asking it of “my Father.” This is not the same as saying “God.” It makes this God yours. Being yours, you don’t really have to ask that He be in your mind. “Be in my mind” is not a question. There is nothing timid about it. There is no “please would you perhaps be in my mind, Your Greatness?” In saying this line you are assuming you have the right to walk up to God, address Him as your Father, and simply say, “Be in my mind.” You can even give Him a time–”when I wake.” You are not a servant in the fields, but a son in the household, with every right to his father’s presence.
How wonderful it would be to wake up in this state, to open our eyes in the morning feeling God’s Presence in our mind. Because we are not so alert when we awake, we usually have only the most basic and immediate things on our mind–making coffee, getting to the bathroom, being ready for an appointment. What if, instead, God was the most basic and immediate thing to us? What if, as soon as we came out of sleep, He was the foremost thing on our mind, and we felt Him within us? Perhaps we wouldn’t greet the new day with our customary sense of burden, our urge to turn off the alarm clock and pull the sheets over our head. Maybe we wouldn’t even be so groggy. Perhaps we would feel something like what the following passage says. It is talking about forgiveness, but we could also apply to God: “[He] sparkles in your eyes as you awake, and gives you joy with which to meet the day” (W-122.2:2).
“and shine on me throughout the day today.”
This line calls to mind an image of God as the perfect warm sun that feels just right, not too hot and not too remote. Like the sun, He rises on you in the morning and shines on you all through the day. Also like the sun, His shining is completely impartial. He shines without let-up, whether you are peaceful or angry, kind or cruel. He just shines. Yet what He shines is not physical light. For what is shining here is not a physical object like the sun. What does it mean for a person to shine on you? It means for that person to radiate on you the warmth of his love and approval. For God to shine on you, then, is for God to smile on you, as another one of the Workbook prayers says:
I am he on whom You smile in love and tenderness so deep and dear and still the universe smiles back on You and shares Your holiness. How pure, how safe, how sacred, then, are we, abiding in Your smile, with all Your love bestowed upon us. (W-341.1.2:3)
So, if you will, just imagine yourself basking in His sun, abiding in His smile, “throughout the day today”–at noon, at three, at five, as you sit at your desk, as you drive in your car. And imagine that happening today. As I said above, it helps to fill in the day of the week and the date.
“Let every minute be a time in which I dwell with You.”
Who would you say this kind of a thing to? Imagine walking up to a friend and saying, “Let every minute be a time in which I dwell with you.” If this person really thought you meant it, you might get slapped with a restraining order. To say this to someone you must not only have an all-consuming desire to be with that person, but you must have an extraordinary permission that removes the normal boundaries of politeness and courtesy.
Not only am I stating my desire to be with God every minute, being with Him seems to be what primarily characterizes each minute. Each one is not a time in which I am mainly doing other things, but am also somewhat cognizant of God. Each minute is entitled, “a time in which I dwell with You.” That is what defines it; that is what it is, even if other activities occur on its periphery. And what engrossing things am I doing with God as He and I pass the minutes away? Just dwelling. Just being together. Just resting our heads against each other. That’s all.
And so I ask you again, who would you say this to? It would have to be someone you wanted to be with so much that it would be completely satisfying to be together every minute, without diversions or other activities, doing nothing else but “dwelling” in each other’s presence. And it would have to be someone whom you knew would not reject you, but wanted to dwell with you just as constantly.
“And let me not forget my hourly thanksgiving that You have remained with me,”
Imagine a relationship that was so precious, so irreplaceable, that you wanted to sit down every single hour of every single day and thank that person just for remaining with you. Imagine doing this not because it was your duty and not because otherwise he would leave. Of your own free will you wanted to “not forget [your] hourly thanksgiving,” simply to experience the sweetness of your gratitude. If we had such a relationship, words could not capture the treasure it would be in our life. Little do we realize that we already do have such a relationship, and always have had it.
When I say this part of the prayer to God, my mind often spontaneously adds, “in spite of it all.” God has remained with me in spite of it all. We each have our own versions of what “it all” is. Yet all those versions come down to one thing: We left Him. We dumped Him for other lovers. Even while we drove away, however, He climbed in the back seat. Though we left Him, He remained with us. Therefore, we really didn’t succeed in leaving Him at all. And that is cause for endless gratitude. Thanking Him every hour of every day hardly begins to capture it.
“and always will be there to hear my call to You and answer me.”
Here are more reasons to thank God every single hour. If you are lucky, there have been certain people in your life who have always been there for you. What greater gift can one have in this world? How can you ever tell these people the depth of your gratitude? This line portrays God as a kind of perfect, omnipresent version of these people. So sure are you of His fidelity that you are thanking Him in advance. You just finished thanking Him for remaining with you up until now. Now you thank Him because you trust He “always will” remain with you.
Yet more than just remain, He will always “be there” for you. He will hear your every call and answer every one. What are these calls? They are not just confined to your intentional prayers. According to the Course, every thought and feeling, every bit of pain or pleasure, everything you experience or do, is a call to your Father, a call for His Love. This line, then, anticipates that He will truly hear every single call and will answer every one with His Love.
A great example of this is found in Lesson 267: “Each heartbeat calls His Name, and every one is answered by His Voice, assuring me I am at home in Him” (W-267.1:7). What a wonderful image. Each heartbeat, this says, calls on God’s Name. You are calling to Him 60, maybe 90 times a minute. And what is the call of your heart? Is it not to be loved, to belong, to have a home? Thus, for every single heartbeat, God answers you, assuring you that you are loved by Him, that you have a home in Him.
Of course, most of us do not really trust that God is hearing every call, and especially do not trust that He is answering. Yet imagine for a moment that the Course is right, and He has always been there, never leaving, never disapproving, infinitely patient, silently hearing every plea and instantly responding with all His Love? What if this is going on all the time and you have just turned a profoundly deaf ear to Him? Now imagine being in the position He is, being completely attentive to someone who rarely, if ever, noticed you were there. Could you have waited all this time in love, as He has done? Or would you instead have screamed at this person by now, or gotten bored and walked off? The fact that God has done neither is yet more cause to thank Him every hour.
“As evening comes, let all my thoughts be still of You and of Your Love.”
It is still going on. This dwelling with God has been going on all day, through every hour and every minute. And, “as evening comes,” it still goes on. The coming of evening we often associate with a peaceful time of rest. The day comes to an end and we can simply relax and enjoy that ending in peace, as we watch the sunset and the coming out of the stars. Evening can be a satisfying conclusion to a successful day, or a needed rest after a crazy day.
Here in this line of the prayer, evening is not a resting at home after our frantic activity out in the world. Rather, evening is a continuing of a resting, a deepening of an experience of being home that has been going on all day. It is the satisfying conclusion to a day of peace. We have spent all day resting on the porch with our Love. And now, “as evening comes” and we sit with Him still, our rest grows even deeper.
“Let all my thoughts be still of You and of Your Love.” Again, what person would you say this to? In our normal experience, is there anything that we could devote all our thoughts to without dying of boredom? Nothing seems interesting enough. That is why our minds flit around so much, sucking tiny droplets from one shriveled flower after another. Think of what kind of love we would need to feel before we could really say, “Let all my thoughts be about you.” Think how profoundly loved we would have to feel in order to really say, “Let all my thoughts be of your love for me.”
Something in us longs to say these words to someone. Yet who in this world could we say them to with sincerity? At least for very long? The impression I get from this line and from the entire prayer is that God can answer a longing in our heart that nothing here can. There is a relationship that our whole being calls out for, but which we cannot find with anything in this world. Yet we can find it with God.
Imagine that this very day you will experience an evening like this. Imagine that after an entire day of basking in the sunshine of God’s Love, you will reach the peaceful glow of sunset, and find that all your thoughts are still of Him and of His Love. If this really happened, would any evening you have ever had be better?
“And let me sleep sure of my safety, certain of Your care, and happily aware I am Your Son.”
It still goes on, even as we reach bedtime and the prayer concludes. We carry our resting with God right into our sleep. I believe these lines speak to a deep need in us, a need for a kind of sleep we always want but perhaps never experience. We all want sleep to be something more than just physical rest. We want our minds to be able to truly drop all cares and drift into a state of pure peace. We want to rest in some thought that is totally certain and endlessly happy. We want to drop off in some glad awareness, with a smile on our face and our arm around our love. That would be rest for the mind and not just for the body.
Yet how often do we experience this kind of sleep? We usually haul our cares right into sleep with us. Our mental fists remain clenched even while our body is inert. We have no thought that we can totally rest in, no thought that is happy enough and certain enough to put a smile on our face and keep it there while we drift off. Imagine, then, sleeping in the manner that this last line of the prayer speaks of. Let’s take the three final phrases one at a time.
“Sure of my safety.” Sleep is a time of physical vulnerability. While we lay there and drool on our pillow, anything could be done to us. And so something in our minds feels insecure about totally letting go. If we were completely sure of our safety in God, if we knew that while we slept our Love had His Arms around us, how could we not let go?
“Certain of Your care.” In the same manner, something in our minds is reluctant to completely relinquish our cares. If we don’t worry about them, who will? Yet imagine going to sleep absolutely certain of God’s care. If we knew we were enveloped in His care, what need would there be to hang onto our cares?
“Happily aware I am Your Son.” Another thing that keeps our minds from true rest is a sense of not belonging, of being alone. We can feel alone even with our arm around a mate. If we truly believed that we were God’s Son, the apple of His Eye, the object of all His Love, the heir to all that is His, could there be a happier thought? Imagine dropping off to sleep in that happy awareness. Is that not the kind of rest we have always wanted?
I have been talking about holding these thoughts in mind while we doze off. Yet the prayer says something even stronger. It speaks of abiding in these thoughts while we sleep. Although we think of sleep as total unconsciousness, it is not. Sleep researchers have found that even when awakened from deepest sleep, subjects report trains of thought. Of course, the thoughts that pass through our minds during sleep are generally bizarre and incoherent. Yet thoughts are passing through. What would it be like, then, to sleep all night filled only with these thoughts, “sure of my safety, certain of Your care, and happily aware I am Your Son”?
Now the prayer has concluded and you have spent the entire day with God. He was the first thing in your mind as you awoke. In every minute of the day you dwelt with Him and basked in the sunshine of His Love. As every hour struck you expressed to Him your undying gratitude. As evening came, your rest went on, as all your thoughts were still of Him. And even while you slept, it still went on, all through the night. Having passed the night in this way, can you guess what would be in your mind as you awoke the next morning? And what the next day would be like? It would still go on.
And that is how it should be, says the line immediately following the prayer: “This is as every day should be.”
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