Can prayer be scientific? A very natural question, since science and prayer for so long have been looked upon as incongruous and even antagonistic. But the New Thought atmosphere, which is subtly diffusing itself far beyond the limits of its avowed adherents, is softening former prejudices and bringing reconciliation.
The primary meaning of science, as given by Webster, is: "Knowledge of principles and causes: ascertained truths or facts." There is no valid reason for confining the term to the domain of material things.
Whether in mind or matter, spirit or body, a knowledge of principles and causes, their sequences, relations, and expressions, is scientific. Wherever the action of exact law can be traced, and means intelligently employed to produce definite ends, there is science.
We only have to point out that prayer is in full accord with the human constitution and also potent in spiritual development and accomplishment. Since Drummond wrote his "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," there has been a rapidly growing apprehension of cause and effect, order and regularity, in the spiritual realm. It would be indeed a strange incongruity if the lower world of matter were responsive and amenable to regular and beneficent procedure, while in the world of spirit there were chaos and disorder. Such a contrast is unthinkable.
Are all kinds of prayer—so called—scientific? Here is the crucial question. Exactly defined, prayer is desire, communion, aspiration. While it may be expressed in words, these are by no means necessary. Let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind. So long as one finds a form of spoken words helpful and satisfying, he should use the same.
Scientific prayer is a means for the spiritual growth of man, and not a petition for a change on the part of a God who already is perfect. Can we suggest an improvement in his course to an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent deity "with whom can be no variation, neither shadow is cast by turning"?
The petition for things with the expectation of turning the divine order into our puny way of thinking—often selfish—is unscientific. The ideal prayer—"the prayer without ceasing"—is a life of earnest aspiration. This does not cheapen prayer, but uplifts and purifies that which is so easy to degenerate into a formality of verbal expression.
Communion, "in the silence," with the great fatherly Mind and Life, is the prayer which is most in accord with the New Thought. "Enter into thy inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." Companionship with the Universal Spirit and aspiration toward the expression of God-likeness come through inward states, whether or not words be employed.
Prayer needs to be redefined. In its essence it is soul hunger, a yearning after oneness with the Eternal. It is the breath of the spiritual nature, the native air of the soul. It is a vital law in man's nature that this highest faculty shall be exercised.
Every self-treatment for more life, love, health, and goodness is a prayer. It is not a begging for special bestowment, but rather a recognition that on the divine part everything already is perfect, and that we only need conformity. It is simply a conscious taking of what is already provided. Do children need to cry for bread while they are seated around an overloaded table? Prayer is an effort toward a realization in consciousness of what already is.
A treatment for health and harmony given to another is only a prayer telepathically deposited in his subconscious mind. It wells up in consciousness and becomes his own.
Prayer is "answered" when one recognizes his own divinity and spiritual potentiality. Every genuine good is already provided and waiting for us to bring it into manifestation.
Prayer is scientific because it is required by the very nature of every mind and soul. It is as natural for the spiritual selfhood as breathing is to the lungs. While "all things" are ours, our eyes are mainly set upon deficiency. It is this self-created leanness which makes us feel that God must be persuaded to change. The needed alteration is in our own consciousness. We must have a new vision from within, for it cannot be bestowed upon us from without.
"All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them." This passage (Mark xi. 24) states the principle already noted. Demand is the proof of supply already in store, but faith is the vital element which makes it consciously ours. Unscientific prayer is prayer misdirected. Most of our seeking is for the lower things. These are promised, but must be "added" in their order.
Healing through prayer is not the result of petition to God for a special favor from without, but of faith in the divine completeness already within. We imbue God's potential with the faith which makes it live for and in us.
Thomas Moore breathes the true devotional spirit in his lines:—
Sweet flowers are springing no mortal can see,
So deep in my soul the still prayer of devotion,
Unheard by the world, rises silent to thee.
While prayer is a constant attitude, concentrated prayer is subject to times and seasons. As the human mind is amenable to habit, system and regularity are of value.
The divine communion involves nothing effeminate or weak. It is reasonable, manly, and scientific. No man's nature can be fully rounded out without its constant exercise.