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Holding the High Watch
 Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
  Septmeber 4, 2022

 All Rights Reserved


Have you ever looked back on your life to find a moment when your life began to change for the better? Perhaps, at the time you couldn’t see it. It was too subtle. But now you’ve moved forward, maybe years and as you look back, you can see that moment. On the other hand, maybe you look back at your life and say, “No, that hasn’t happened to me yet.” Some of you are still so young that you don’t have a need to make a huge change because you haven’t gotten way off course yet. But it happened for me, and my life turned around in a wonderful way. You might be surprised to hear that for me it wasn’t when I found Unity, and the great people who go to Unity.  The turning point for me was when I learned a new way to pray.  

As a child I was taught a form of prayer that involved begging, pleading, and bargaining with God, or even bellowing at God and buying prayers. I remember kneeling at the cross in my church and reading that I would get 500 years of indulgences for saying the prayer written on that plaque, and I said that prayer a lot, just in case I needed those indulgences later in my life. But this kind of prayer just didn’t work for me. Praying in this manner felt more like making a wish before blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. It's more wishes than true prayer. When his followers asked why these usual human methods of praying didn’t work, Jesus said, “You ask wrongly.” Ok, so when we ask for the wrong thing or ask in the wrong way and our prayer doesn’t seem to work, we can get angry with God decide that God must be angry with us. We conclude, prayer doesn’t work, and we end up turning away from God.  

Jesus said, “You ask wrongly.”  What does this mean? Knowing the answer is the key to answered prayer. Jesus taught that we are more than just physical being and bodies. We also are spiritual beings with Spiritual Bodies. When we pray from the awareness that we are created in the image and likeness of God and spiritual beings our prayer is no longer an attempt to fix something broken in a body or some lack in our physical life. True prayer is a Journey into the SILENCE where we become one with the one and take on more of the qualities of the one and that is what heals the body or fills the lack. Spirit creates matter.

Have you ever gone on a retreat where there is a day or more of complete Silence? At first you are liable to be uncomfortable but as you enter the experience you reach a point where you don’t want the Silence to end. You discover that there is a profound sacredness in SILENCE. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, the Co-founders of Unity, used the term ‘The SILENCE’ to refer to Prayer in Unity. This term doesn’t refer to a prayer that is talking, listening, or even communing with God. ‘The Silence’ describes an actual experience of the Presence of God that happens in Prayer and Meditation, which typically lasts only an instant, but in that instant your whole life direction is changed.

For example, a man named Frank told me a story about finding the Silence. He said, “I was driving home from work, distraught and crying. Tears were filling my eyes so fast that I couldn’t see so I pulled over to the side of the road. I put my arms on the wheel, put my head down on my arms and just wept.” In his weeping there was a total release of his own Personal Will and what he wanted in his life. In an instant of silent emptiness and total surrender, he said, two words poured into his mind and ran through his entire being. Those words were “STOP STRUGGLING.” Frank said, “As soon as I heard those two words, I felt a release and my whole body was flooded with peace.”  Now, as a Minister or Psychologist, I could have told Frank to stop struggling but it wouldn’t have had the same effect. The fact that those two words, “Stop Struggling” came out of the Silence is what changed him and his life forever.

Unity Minister, Author and my friend, Reverend Jim Rosemergy writes, “When you make contact with Spirit in the Silence, Spirit begins to stream forth images, thoughts, and feelings that a mere human being couldn’t come up with. Only a Spiritual Being is capable of such experiences. After such an instant in the Silence, you see everything differently. You don’t react the way you used to. You are more creative and able to get along with people better so a promotion or new job comes. It all streams from that instant of contact with Spirit in the Silence.” The more consistent the contact, the purer, the river of thought, feeling and experience that flows through you and the more you crave that experience.

Unity is a Metaphysical Movement. In Unity, we begin changing how we pray by learning to use Denials, Affirmations, and imaging. In this way, we impress upon the ‘subconscious or memory mind,’ certain things like a healed body, a new job, or loving relationships. This method of prayer is based on the Spiritual Law of Mind Action, “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.” We practice holding the mind on a steady course with the repetition of Truth statements. We learn to I.D. ourselves with Spirit rather than just with the body.  What we say over and over and believe will express itself in the outer.

This is an important step of the Spiritual Journey and a rite of passage into the ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’  It cannot be skipped. You must prove the existence of God and power of prayer to your own Ego mind. However, Jesus also warned his disciples about the pointlessness of vain repetition. Question: Why? What does this mean regarding to how we pray?  Do you think your whole purpose for being alive is to get stuff for yourself or to have your human experience enhanced? Is that why you’re here? Is that your purpose? Is that the purpose of a Spiritual Being? If we were only human just getting stuff would be fine. But we aren’t only physical beings. We are simultaneously Eternal Spiritual Beings.

This means that what we really want when we pray whether we call it stuff or God is the Freedom of Spirit, which is the experience of God as wholeness in all ways and the freedom to be who and what we were created to be and experience. In Unity, an important step of the Spiritual Journey is learning to use Denials and Affirmations for the purpose of getting our share of stuff thus proving, Thoughts held in mind do produce after their kind. But if you only do that it becomes vain repetition because Denials and Affirmations also serve a higher purpose of keeping us on the path to true freedom. “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” We are learning to hold thoughts and ideas in mind that produce true freedom. Jesus gave us a glimpse of what life is like when he said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and everything else shall be added to you.” So, to paraphrase this “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and you’ll get your share of stuff too because it is all God.”  Whatever you are seeking is already seeking you.  At some point we must stop trying to put something IN through directed thought and become still to allow something to emerge OUT. The Bible says, “Rest in the Lord. Wait patiently on Him and He will give you your hearts’ desire.”

The use of Affirmations and Denials serve a dual purpose.

1. They condition the subconscious or memory mind to trust God.

2. As we use them to focus our Ego mind, we make ourselves more available to Spirit. They lift us up from Human Mind to Divine Mind. Unity refers to this as “putting on your wings.”  

For just a moment, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine a cliff with strong winds blowing against it and large birds in the sky. They flap their wings and expend their own effort to fly. But when they come into that unseen draft of air, they feel that unseen presence, the wind, rising up. In that moment they cease their effort to fly and just stretch out their wings. They ‘let go and let God’ and ‘let the wind beneath their wings’ lift them. And what happens?  Without any effort, they rise even higher. So, it is with Affirmations and Denials. We diligently use them to reach a certain height in Ego mind and then like birds, when we come into that unseen updraft of air and feel that unseen presence, we stretch forth our spiritual wings, enter into the SILENCE and wait to be lifted higher, ultimately into the Kingdom of Heaven.   

I am told that when you climb a mountain, you often come to a lovely high meadow with grass and wildflowers. From there you can look back down the mountain and see things you’ve never seen before. Metaphysically, this represents an elevated state of human consciousness.  It feels good and you think, “I’ve arrived! I can see life like I’ve never seen it before.” Except you’re at the high meadow and when it comes to mountain climbing, that’s not what it’s all about. It’s not about getting to the high meadow and saying, “I’ve arrived.’’ Just like it’s not about getting stuff and saying, “I've arrived.” Mountain climbing is about getting to the top of the mountain! Nothing short of that will do. Mountain climbers also say that in the high meadow, the summit is often shrouded in dense clouds so that you can’t see it or the trail that goes the rest of the way up to the top.

Likewise, faithfully using Denials and Affirmations, will lift you to a positive place, the high meadow.  But you can’t get to the Kingdom, the Summit on your own efforts. You’ve done all you can humanly do to get there, and no human being, Ego or Human mind has ever done it.  What you must do now is WAIT.

Wait in the Silence and a woman (a feminine energy) will come down out of the midst and mystery.  Her name is GRACE. She is not a real woman but an image and a feeling. You can’t get into a state of Grace by a force of human will and just human effort. Your work is to get to the high meadow and to mentally put on your wings and wait and watch. It feels good there but don’t stop there and say amen! Which is what most people do when they pray or meditate. They think, “I feel so good, wow I must be there” and the end their prayer or end their meditation time just before making contact.

Yes, it feels good there, but your life doesn’t change at depth there. Anyone It can climb there. No miracle has happened there because nothing has poured forth from the Silence. Up to that point you have poured in effort. So, now you must stop your effort, stretch forth your wings and wait to be lifted.

If you really want to spiritualize your life, you must learn to wait. “They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they will mount up on wings, like the eagle. They shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint, teach me, oh Lord, teach me to wait.” (Isa. 40:31).

The heart or secret of true prayer isn’t repeating words or sitting in silence until your bottom goes numb. It is learning to wait for ‘Grace’ to happen. Words have no impact on Spirit. We use them to lift the Ego or Human Mind up to where you make yourself available to Divine Mind and what the Gospel of John calls the ‘wind’ and you ‘wait’ for it ‘to blow.’
But guess what happens when you sit and wait? You begin to think about the darnedest things--the roast in the oven, things that need done and events that happened years ago. All of it just pours in on your mind and you begin to move back down the mountain. The human tendency is to condemn yourself for this saying, “I can’t do this. Something's wrong or it’s not working.”

Every human being that ever walked the path of Prayer and came to live a spiritual life dealt with a roving mind and it never ends.  Why? Because you are simultaneously human and divine and so the roving mind is always in there with you. You aren’t going to escape it. You learn to accept and deal with it. So, let’s talk about how to do that. So, you’re up in the high meadow, your Human Mind focused on the idea: “God is love and love is my nature, and I am one with love.” You’re affirming that and then your mind starts drifting to someone you haven’t forgiven or something that happened at work that upset you.  So, what do you do? The answer is in this story.

You are a parent making supper and your little one comes in and says, “I want a cookie.” You say, “I won’t give you one because it will spoil your supper. I’ll give you one after supper.” Now think about it. Would one cookie really spoil supper? Kids don’t buy it. We keep saying it, but no one believes it. But we think the kid buys it and go off to finish cooking. Then we hear the lid of the cookie jar and realize something is happening. Now, don’t storm in and yell. Just come to the doorway and look. And there is your little one up on the counter with the lid off the cookie jar; one cookie already in the mouth and a hand reaching for another. Now, this isn’t an innocent kid. Guilt is written all over his or her face. So, what are you going to do now? Are you going to yell and say, “Stop! I told you couldn't have that!” No, because there is a more effective method. You just stand there and watch. This is called ‘Unconditional Observation.’ Just stand and watch and as the little one feels the weight of your gaze, she will look at you and put the second cookie back.

1. When your human mind begins drifting off, you watch it and give it ‘Unconditional Observation’, without condemnation. When it feels the weight of your awareness it will stop. It may take 5 minutes before you realize your mind is drifting or before you want to bring it back but when it does, return to the simple truth: “God is love and love is my nature, and I am one with Love.”

2. Come back to center and wait again. Now, what do you think happens? Your mind drifts back down to the valley again. So, you watch it unconditionally and it stops, and you bring it back again and then you wait again.  That’s the essence of the Prayer of a Spiritual Being. You aren’t the first person to have this drifting challenge.  Everyone who has ever stepped on the Spiritual Path has had it. But now, you know this is a natural part of the journey and you know what to do.

3. At some point, maybe in a week or a month, you’ll begin to make Direct Contact with the Divine. As time goes on, there will be consistency to your contact and your life will begin to dramatically change for the better.
Things just get easier.   

4. In addition, you will develop a reservoir of spiritual energy that is vital to have because you don’t always have time or the opportunity to stop and pray/meditate and ask God for guidance in a situation.   

For Example: You're driving down a residential street.  Children are playing ball and the ball bounces into the street. Without looking a child runs after it. What do you do?  Do you say, “I have a decision to make?  I must pray and meditate? You don’t have time for that! Hopefully, you will have built up a reservoir of experience and energy so you can avert tragedy.  

In Unity we called this, being prayed up. To us as human beings is like having money deposited in a bank. We can make a withdrawal because we’ve made deposits. But if all we want to do is make withdrawals without making any deposits what happens?

This is what happens in our relationship with Spirit, when we have a problem, and we go to Spirit and ask for something in prayer and wonder why nothing is happening. If we haven't built up a reservoir of Spiritual consciousness and haven’t made any deposits but still want stuff, we aren’t going for the right reason.  We aren’t going with the deep yearning that says, “I am willing to journey to the top of the mountain.”

In the Bible it says, “Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you.” If nothing happens, Jesus’ says it is because, “We ask amiss or we knock at the wrong door.” Spirit doesn’t open it because that’s the door where we’re trying to get our stuff. We are asking on the wrong level of mind. But when you knock on the door and ask, not for stuff, but ask to make a deposit, ask for a relationship with Spirit, that is when your life will change because what Spirit has to give you is NOT STUFF.

When we ask for this and that we are saying, “No God, I don’t want you, I want this or that.” All that Spirit has to give is the fullness of itself and that is what comes to you from within the silence.  Wholeness is what always comes out of the silence.

How do we say “God, what I want is you and only you.”  We say this not with words but by being willing to wait. The answers to our prayers will come, not with the words we speak, but by learning how to wait upon the Lord in the Silence.

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