From ” Mining the Archives” – 6-0-6 March/April 1988
Some time ago , while experimenting with group worship with a few other readers, I was struck by an apparent incongruity in what we were attempting. We were taking turns in talking to God on behalf of the group and it was clear, that we were all asking God to do something, in the hope that he would thereby by influenced to do something He would not otherwise have done. For example, we asked God to give us the wisdom to understand a certain situation, expecting that this prayer would somehow cause him to ‘give’ us the sought-for wisdom- something He would not have done without our prayer, In other words, we were expecting God to be influenced by our prayer to depart from his normal habit and do something, He would not otherwise have done.
Now a reading of Paper 91, taken with Jesus’ statements about prayer makes it clear that God is not influenced by prayer.
Man should be unafraid to talk to God, but only a spiritual child would undertake to persuade, or presume to change, God. [Paper 91:8.7, page 1001.11]
Repeatedly throughout The Urantia Book we are informed by many authors that God does not change. He sees the end from the beginning and plans perfectly and thus has no need to change. His habits reflect His plans and need no correction. It is silly to think otherwise.
And yet we pray, asking him for help- and we are helped. We ask – and receive, what is happening?
The apparent contradiction is resolved by Jesus when he says:
Always remember that the Father knows what you need even before you ask him. [Paper 142:6.10, page 1577.5]
It is part of God’s activity to be constantly making available to us whatever we really need. He is already and ceaselessly, doing for us everything that can be done. He does not need to change, or be persuaded or influenced by our prayer in order to do this, it is part of his habit and normal functioning, whether we pray or not. The limiting factor has nothing to do with God. It is our capacity to receive Him which limits the influence of God, it is our inability to experience His influence which impedes us, not his refusal to make that influence available.
This is all made clear on page 1001:2. When we pray we are engaging in an ‘auto-suggestive’ process of ‘tuning-in’ our minds to the influence of God. Specific requests may or may not be part of our prayer. In any case, such requests will be answered according to our true needs not the particular transient desires which may preoccupy us at the time. The form of the prayer is irrelevant. ‘
God answers the souls’ attitude, not the words [Paper 91:8.12, page 1002.4]
And with private praying no difficulty is encountered with this.
But with group praying there is a problem, if group praying is to be something other than mediation in company, there needs to be some kind of outward form. If the activity is truly a group activity, the souls of the members of the group need to be stimulated into the required attitude in order for the minds of the group to be ‘tuned-in’ together. Some outward stimulus is needed: verbal, musical, poetic, artistic – something to stimulate the imaginations of group members into related channels at the same time.
This seems to contradict Jesus’ advice about not adopting formal prayers. But it is my experience, and also that of others with whom I’ve spoken, that free-form verbalising usually degenerates into trying to persuade God and is unsatisfactory from that point of view. Rarely does it seem to result in anything more than a superficial experience, and is sometimes even embarrassing.
I am very interested to hear if any other readers are concerned with this question. It seems to me that the object of group worship is for the members of the group to be communing with God together. Are there any groups who are doing this already or experimenting? What kinds of stimuli do they find effective in attracting the differing minds of group members into the attitude of communion with God?
We are informed that……
……confession, repentance and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of valorous achievement.
[Paper 91:5.2, page 998.5]
Surely it will help us to assist the entry of the URANTIA revelation into the world if we can develop effective forms of group worship. Our working groups will become more effective if they successfully engage in group worship. No doubt, different groups will prefer different stimuli – horses for courses, as it were – but there are bound to be common elements which groups can learn from one another.