Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Twenty-eight

The Twenty-eighth Day            
(Tuesday, April 2, 2019)

The Choir of Heaven and Furniture of Earth

“Prayer is not subjective but objective if one means to ask whether any reality is reached by means of prayer which is greater than the personality itself. Prayer does reach such a reality. The growth of meaningful and mutually sustaining connections between activities is far wider and fuller than the single personality. Furthermore it is super-human. It is a doing which we ourselves cannot perform. Meaning and value grow in human life, when required conditions are met; but the growing is not construction of human labor. Therefore prayer is objective in the sense that is reaches a reality that is not only greater than the single personality, but is greater than humanity. The reality is a growth which weaves all manner of activities into a system of mutual support and meaning. This includes not only the activities of many personalities, but also the activities of the wind and sea and trees, and coal and machines, and much else of the choir of heaven and furniture of earth. It weaves them all into a meaningful system. . . . There is nothing which reaches a powerful good extending so far beyond human power as does prayer. In that sense prayer is objective. 

“Some of the conditions of effective prayer are the following. (1.) One must earn the right to pray (a) by facing the situation or problem squarely, formulating is as clearly and analyzing it as fully as possible; and (be) meeting all other conditions for its solution that one can . . One must get into the problem as far as one can, grapple with it until one has the true sense of it, before one is able to pray about it with any understanding of in such a way that God can help in the form of increased connections of mutual support.

“(2.) One must commit one’s wants to the transforming growth of meaning. When God answers prayer, God transforms personas, institutions and ideals into a higher unity of richer value . . . We who pray must commit ourselves and our wants to the transforming power of God. We must seek what is genuinely Is greatest good and not merely the specific things which will satisfy our present wants. . . . ‘Not my will but Thine be done.’

“(3.) One must have faith is prayer is to be effective. That means one must be alert, responsive, outreaching and anticipative toward the growth of good wherever and however it may appear. Therefore—the connections of mutual support and meaning can hardly form unless one is sensitive, responsive, outreaching and anticipative. One must have faith if growth is to work, weaving activities, new and old, into a higher order of value. God can do very little for and with anybody in any way unless such a one has faith after this manner.

“We must think differently about prayer from our forebears. But our manner of praying, if we pray aright, will not be much different from the praying of all the great saints. As they connected with God through prayer and were caught up in the growth of meaning and value along with the causes of persons for whom they prayed, so can we. Prayer is mightily effective with God when we meet the conditions. Without prayer, the growth of meaning and value in the world are disastrously crippled.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Prayer is not self-hypnosis. It is an exercise of the imagination by which we deliberately try to accord ourselves with that which made us and sustains us, the upthrusting order of the universe. It works when we let it change us so as to become more and more the image of its mutually reciprocal Being-Becoming. But often we don’t want to change. We are comfortable as we are. It is then we most need truly to pray. (Donald Szantho Harrington)


Abiding God, Ye pray for all our many needs and desires. Sort them out. Help us to separate the worthy from the unworthy, the creative from the uncreative, the constructive from the destructive, the uniting from the divisive.

Grant us the joy of feeling ourselves a part of Your Vast Magnificence, You’re all-Encompassing Love.  Amen.


At first I prayer for Light:
Could I but see the way,
How gladly, swiftly would I walk
To ever-lasting day!

And next I prayed for Strength,
That I might tread the road
With firm, unfaltering feet, and win
The heaven’s serene abode.

And then I asked for Faith:
Could I but trust my God,
I’d live enfolded in his peace,
Though fears were all abroad.

But now I pray for Love,
Love that encircles all,
A living love that will not fail,
However weak our call.

And Light and Strength and Faith
are opening everywhere!
God only waited for me till
I prayed the larger prayer.

—Edna Dow Cheney (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 275)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980.