This is the second in a series of articles dealing with the ultimate human experience. In this article, I wish to explore the central and critical role of prayer and especially worship in both our individual and collective lives.
In my last article, “The Ultimate Human Experience”, I highlighted the extraordinary, breath-taking, and mind-boggling fact that God, our Father, constantly seeks our intimate fellowship with him, via the agency of our personal, individual Thought Adjuster, that undiluted fragment of absolute deity that is (at least potentially) our everlasting companion and motivator leading us to the “portals of Paradise” and beyond into eternity:
The Father desires all his creatures to be in personal communion with him. [Paper 5:1.8, page 63.6]
Man is spiritually indwelt by a surviving Thought Adjuster. If such a human mind is sincerely and spiritually motivated, if such a human soul desires to know God and become like him, honestly wants to do the Father’s will, there exists no negative influence of mortal deprivation nor positive power of possible interference which can prevent such a divinely motivated soul from securely ascending to the portals of Paradise.[Paper 5:1.7, page 63.5]
All that is required for this destiny to materialise is our choice to participate, the consecration of our will to the doing of our Father’s will:
The affectionate dedication of the human will to the doing of the Father’s will is man’s choicest gift to God. [Paper 1:1.2, page 22.5]
If mortal man is wholeheartedly spiritually motivated, unreservedly consecrated to the doing of the Father’s will, then, since he is so certainly and so effectively spiritually endowed by the indwelling and divine Adjuster, there cannot fail to materialize in that individual’s experience the sublime consciousness of knowing God and the supernal assurance of surviving for the purpose of finding God by the progressive experience of becoming more and more like him. [Paper 5:1.6, page 63.4]
This superlative passage contains the two essential and complementary ingredients that make it possible for us to know God and to find God by becoming more and more like God, which is equivalent to our eternal salvation:
- Our unreserved, consecrated decision to do the Father’s will, and
- The spiritual endowment of our Thought Adjuster
Our loving Father has bridged the gap, the gaping chasm that lies between absolute Deity and us lowly, evolutionary, mortal beings. He has done the work; he has smoothed out the way; all he is waiting for is our wholehearted decision to cooperate.
So what is the Father’s will? And how do we do it?
The doing of the will of God is nothing more or less than an exhibition of creature willingness to share the inner life with God. [Paper 111:5.1, page 1221. 2]
Obedience to the will of the Father, yielding the fruits of the spirit in one’s personal life, is the law of the kingdom. [Paper 142:1.5, page 1596.7]
To do the will of God, therefore, is the progressive experience of becoming more and more like God, and God is the source and destiny of all that is good and beautiful and true. [Paper 130:2.7, page 1431.2]
Our Father has provided the mechanism for us to do his will; it is a circular process: God’s will is that we share our inner life with God, and by sharing our inner life with God, we are able to do God’s will!
And you’ll recall from the last article this extraordinarily clear and compelling statement:
Worship is the highest privilege and the first duty of all created intelligences. [Paper 27:7.1, page 303.5]
Did we grasp the magnitude of this point? God’s will is that we worship him… it is our “first duty”! And what is meant by worship?
The worship experience consists in the sublime attempt of the betrothed Adjuster to communicate to the divine Father the inexpressible longings and the unutterable aspirations of the human soul–the conjoint creation of the God-seeking mortal mind and the God-revealing immortal Adjuster. Worship is, therefore, the act of the material mind’s assenting to the attempt of its spiritualizing self, under the guidance of the associated spirit, to communicate with God as a faith son of the Universal Father. [Paper 5:3.8, page 66.4]
Worship is effortless attention, true and ideal soul rest, a form of restful spiritual exertion. Worship is the act of a part identifying itself with the Whole; the finite with the Infinite; the son with the Father; time in the act of striking step with eternity. Worship is the act of the son’s personal communion with the divine Father, the assumption of refreshing, creative, fraternal, and romantic attitudes by the human soul-spirit. [p.1616.9,10]
True religious worship is not a futile monologue of self-deception. Worship is a personal communion with that which is divinely real, with that which is the very source of reality. Man aspires by worship to be better and thereby eventually attains the best. [Paper 196:3.22, page 2095.6]
Worship, taught Jesus, makes one increasingly like the being who is worshiped. Worship is a transforming experience whereby the finite gradually approaches and ultimately attains the presence of the Infinite. [Paper 146:2.17, page 1641.1]
Ah, now here is the key: not only is worship our highest privilege and first duty, but it is also the mechanism, the process, the engine that enables us to become like our Maker… which is of course the will of God!
How often have we tried… and tried… and tried… to be spiritual, to display the fruits of the spirit, to be more loving, more kind, more righteous, only to experience the frustration and despair of falling far short of our goal, of making what seems like painfully slow progress, only to slip back again to where we started from. This has been my experience… trying to achieve righteousness by ‘pulling myself up by my bootstraps’!! It can’t be done. God knows that, Jesus knows that, and that is why we have been told the above. The golden key that opens the vault containing “the highest experiential delight and the most exquisite pleasure known to created beings” [Paper 27:7.1, page 303.5] (p.) is worship… communion with our Father.
Now let us listen to this mild rebuke from a very advanced being of the superangelic order, a Solitary Messenger:
I cannot but observe that so many of you spend so much time and thought on mere trifles of living, while you almost wholly overlook the more essential realities of everlasting import, those very accomplishments which are concerned with the development of a more harmonious working agreement between you and your Adjusters. The great goal of human existence is to attune to the divinity of the indwelling Adjuster; the great achievement of mortal life is the attainment of a true and understanding consecration to the eternal aims of the divine spirit who waits and works within your mind. [Paper 110:3.4, page 1206.2]
And in a similar vein…
As prayer may be likened to recharging the spiritual batteries of the soul, so worship may be compared to the act of tuning in the soul to catch the universe broadcasts of the infinite spirit of the Universal Father. . [Paper 144:4.8, page 1621.7]
Let us take to heart these sayings and not gloss over them. Here is one of the critical keys to be found in the Urantia Papers, which potentially can unlock the power we need to rise above the primitive inertia of our material, mortal existence, to become more and more like God. “Attuning our minds to divinity” is just another way of saying “worship”!
Rodan of Alexandria, that zealous Greek philosopher who embraced Jesus’ gospel so ardently, used the Master’s life to illustrate to his apostles how they could mobilize the spiritual forces that lay dormant within them:
The effort toward maturity necessitates work, and work requires energy. Whence the power to accomplish all this? The physical things can be taken for granted, but the Master has well said, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” Granted the possession of a normal body and reasonably good health, we must next look for those lures which will act as a stimulus to call forth man’s slumbering spiritual forces. Jesus has taught us that God lives in man; then how can we induce man to release these soul-bound powers of divinity and infinity? How shall we induce men to let go of God that he may spring forth to the refreshment of our own souls while in transit outward and then to serve the purpose of enlightening, uplifting, and blessing countless other souls? How best can I awaken these latent powers for good which lie dormant in your souls? One thing I am sure of: Emotional excitement is not the ideal spiritual stimulus. Excitement does not augment energy; it rather exhausts the powers of both mind and body. Whence then comes the energy to do these great things? Look to your Master. Even now he is out in the hills taking in power while we are here giving out energy. The secret of all this problem is wrapped up in spiritual communion, in worship. From the human standpoint it is a question of combined meditation and relaxation. Meditation makes the contact of mind with spirit; relaxation determines the capacity for spiritual receptivity. And this interchange of strength for weakness, courage for fear, the will of God for the mind of self, constitutes worship. At least, that is the way the philosopher views it. [Paper 160:3.1, page 1777.2]
And Rodan adds this telling piece of advice, so pertinent to our modern, busy lives:
The more complex society becomes, and the more the lures of civilization multiply, the more urgent will become the necessity for God-knowing individuals to form such protective habitual practices designed to conserve and augment their spiritual energies. [Paper 160:3.2, page 1777.3]
Worship is a very personal experience; it is a personal communion with our Father. This, however, does not mean that when we gather together in groups, for example at readers conferences or in our local study groups, we are not able to worship together. To the contrary, the Papers make it very clear, that “…it is the purpose of group religious activities to dramatize the loyalties of religion; to magnify the lures of truth, beauty, and goodness; to foster the attractions of supreme values; to enhance the service of unselfish fellowship; to glorify the potentials of family life; to promote religious education; to provide wise counsel and spiritual guidance; and to encourage group worship.” [Paper 99:6.2, page 1092.2]
As an association of Urantia Book readers, perhaps we do not see ourselves as a religion per se; but who can deny that we engage in “group religious activities”? Much as we enjoy the social interaction that takes place at our gatherings, they are nevertheless religious rather than secular. Listen to how a Melchizedek describes the purpose and practice of a religious gathering and ask yourself to what extent our gatherings comport with this description:
The characteristic difference between a social occasion and a religious gathering is that in contrast with the secular the religious is pervaded by the atmosphere of communion. In this way human association generates a feeling of fellowship with the divine, and this is the beginning of group worship. Partaking of a common meal was the earliest type of social communion, and so did early religions provide that some portion of the ceremonial sacrifice should be eaten by the worshipers. Even in Christianity the Lord’s Supper retains this mode of communion. The atmosphere of the communion provides a refreshing and comforting period of truce in the conflict of the self-seeking ego with the altruistic urge of the indwelling spirit Monitor. And this is the prelude to true worship—the practice of the presence of God which eventuates in the emergence of the brotherhood of man. [Paper 103:4.1, page 1133.1]
The author of this passage deliberately chose the word “pervaded”, meaning “spread through” or “permeated”. Are our gatherings, local, national, and international, “pervaded by the atmosphere of communion”? Do they generate “a feeling of fellowship with the divine”?
Who could not be moved by the amazing description of group worship on Paradise? For me, it rates as one of the most powerful, poignant, and revealing accounts in the entire Fifth Epochal Revelation. It is highly worth reading the entire account but allow me to present just one or two choice quotes:
While the Isle of paradise contains certain places of worship, it is more nearly one vast sanctuary of divine service. Worship is the first and dominant passion of all who climb to its blissful shores—the spontaneous ebullition of the beings who have learned enough of God to attain his presence. [Paper 27:7.2, page 303.6]
All the arts of all the beings of the entire universe which are capable of intensifying and exalting the abilities of self-expression and the conveyance of appreciation, are employed to their highest capacity in the worship of the paradise Deities. Worship is the highest joy of paradise existence; it is the refreshing play of paradise. What play does for your jaded minds on earth, worship will do for your perfected souls on paradise. The mode of worship on paradise is utterly beyond mortal comprehension, but the spirit of it you can begin to appreciate even down here on Urantia, for the spirits of the Gods even now indwell you, hover over you, and inspire you to true worship. [Paper 27:7.5, page 304.3]
Such is the pleasure and joy experienced by these group worshipers, that were it not for the primary supernaphim periodically dispersing these assemblages, they would go on forever! [Paper 27:7.3, page 304.1]
Wow! What insight can we gain from this sublime description of group worship at the highest level of reality? Let us come back to Urantia for a moment.
What were the Master’s disciples doing at one o’clock in the afternoon on the day of Pentecost, having just witnessed the ascension and disappearance of their Master from their presence? “…they were simply sitting there, having just been engaged in silent prayer.” [Paper 194:3.10, page 2064.2]
There is something profound that we need to learn from this quite touching account. Jesus’ disciples had just said farewell to their Master, the Fourth Epochal Revelation. They had been in disarray following the cruel and violent death of this Man that they had grown to love so much and for whom they had such high hopes. Now they were discouraged and fearful. What were they to do now? The Master had given them the keys of the kingdom, but they felt demoralised. So they decided to pray together for what the Master promised to send them – the Spirit of Truth – even though they had very little understanding of what they were praying for. I believe that today, we find ourselves in a parallel situation: we have been entrusted with an extraordinary legacy, the Fifth Epochal Revelation, and whilst we may not be in disarray, we nevertheless face the daunting prospect of presenting this vital message to a troubled and largely disinterested world. Hence the need to learn from our first century brothers’ experience! Consider the following:
Prayer did not bring the spirit on the day of Pentecost, but it did have much to do with determining the capacity of receptivity which characterized the individual believers. Prayer does not move the divine heart to liberality of bestowal, but it does so often dig out larger and deeper channels wherein the divine bestowals may flow to the hearts and souls of those who thus remember to maintain unbroken communion with their Maker through sincere prayer and true worship. [Paper 194:3.20, page 2065.8]
Here is the crux of the matter! We need to augment our “capacity for receptivity”, to “dig out larger and deeper channels” through individual and collective prayer, wherein “the divine bestowals may flow to [our] hearts and souls”. But this is only possible for those who “remember to maintain unbroken communion with their Maker through sincere prayer and true worship” – both individual and collective!
It is my contention that the Urantia Papers do not portray worship, either individual or group, as something that we add on to all our other activities – as a mere token. Rather, worship must become the very epicentre of our life and existence; it is the crucial key that unlocks everything else! The greatest example of this is our Master, Christ Michael:
The secret of his unparalleled religious life was this consciousness of the presence of God; and he attained it by intelligent prayer and sincere worship—unbroken communion with God—and not by leadings, voices, visions, or extraordinary religious practices. [Paper 196:0.11, page 2089.1]
Imagine what our gatherings would be like if they were characterised by “consciousness of the presence of God”, if they were permeated with “unbroken communion with God”!
In the final article of this series, I hope to portray what life would be like, both individually and collectively, if we were to maintain unbroken communion with our Father, if we truly lived life in the spirit.