Allan Kardec

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The quality of prayers. - The efficacy of prayer. - The action of prayer. Transmission of thought.- Intelligible prayers. -Prayer for the dead and for suffering Spirits. - INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS: The way in which to pray. - Happiness proportioned by prayer.


1. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corner of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their rewards. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him (Matthew, 6: 5-8).

2. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark, 11:25 & 26).

3. And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself God, I thank ye, that lam not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers or even as this publican. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful unto me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke, 18: 9-14).

4. Jesus clearly defined the quality of prayer. He said that when you pray you should not make yourself conspicuous, but rather pray in secret. Do not prolong your prayers because it is not by the multiplicity of the words that you will be heard, but by their sincerity. Before praying, if you have anything against another, forgive them, seeing that prayer is not pleasing to God if it does not come from a heart cleansed of all sentiments which are contrary to charity. Finally, pray with humility, as did the Publican, and not with pride as did the Pharisee. Look at your defects, not at your qualities, and if you compare yourself to others, look for what is bad in yourself (See chapter 10, items 7 & 8).

5. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them (Mark 11: 24).

6. There are those who contest the effectiveness of prayer on the grounds that, as God knows all our needs, it is useless to enumerate them to Him. Those who think this, then add that seeing that everything in the Universe is linked together by eternal laws, then our petitions cannot change God's decrees.

Beyond all doubt there are natural and immutable laws which cannot be annulled at the caprice of each individual; but from this fact to the belief that all circumstances in life are submitted to fatality is a long step indeed. If it were like that, then Man would be a passive instrument without free-will or initiative. In this hypothesis it would only remain for Man to bow down his head in submission before all occurrences, without making any effort to avoid them, and should not try to ward off dangers. God did not grant reason and intelligence for Man not to use them, willpower for him not to desire things, nor activity for him to remain inactive. As Man is free to act one way or the other, for himself and towards others, the consequences depend on what he does or does not do. By his initiative there are events which forcibly escape fatality and yet do not destroy the harmony of the universal laws, just as the quickening or slowing down of the pendulum of a clock does not annul the law of movement upon which the mechanism is based. God then can accede to certain petitions without destroying the immunity of those laws which govern the whole, as consent is always dependant on His Will.

7. From the maxim: "Whatever you ask for through prayer will be granted," it would be illogical to conclude that one can receive just by asking, and unjust to accuse Providence if a request made is not conceded, because it is known what is best for our own good. This is what happens to a prudent father who refuses to give his son certain things which would be against his own interests. Generally, Man only sees the present moment. Meanwhile if the suffering is useful to our future happiness, then God will let us suffer, just as a surgeon allows the patient to suffer an operation which will cure him.

What God will concede if we direct ourselves to Him with confidence is courage, patience and resignation. What He will also concede are the means of resolving situations with the help of ideas suggested to us by good Spirits at God's instigation, whereby we retain the merit for the decisions taken. God helps all those who help themselves according to the maxim: "Help yourself and the Heavens will come to your aid." But He does not help those who, without using their own faculties, wait for outside assistance. Nevertheless in most cases what Man desires is to be helped by miracles, without using any effort of his own (See chapter 25, No. 1 and following items).

8. Let us take an example. A man finds himself lost in the desert. Thirst is torturing him terribly. Fainting, he falls to the ground. He asks God to help him and waits. No angels will come to give him water. However, what does happen is that a good Spirit suggests the idea of picking himself up and taking one of the paths that are before him. By pure mechanical movement, uniting what is left of his strength, he gets up, walks and discovers not far away a brook. On sighting this he gains courage. If he has faith he exclaims: "Thank you dear God, for the idea you inspired and for the strength you gave me." If he is without faith he will say: "What a good ideal had. How lucky I was to take the right-hand path and not the one on the left! Chance sometimes serves one admirably! I must congratulate myself for my courage and for not being defeated!"

But you may ask why the Spirit did not say clearly: "Follow that path and you will find what you need"? Why did the Spirit not show himself, guide him and sustain him in his disanimation? In that way the man would have been convinced of the intervention of Providence. Firstly, so as to teach him that each person must help themself and make use of their strength. Secondly, because the man doubted His existence God put the confidence he had in Him to the test, as well as testing his submission to His will. The man was in the situation of the child who falls down and because someone is with him starts to cry and waits to be picked up. If the same child saw no one he would make the effort and get up by himself. If the angel which accompanied Tobias had said: "I am sent by God to guide you on your journey and preserve you from all danger," then Tobias could claim no merit. In entrusting himself to his companion he would not even have had to think. This is why the angel only made himself known after the return.


9. Prayer is an invocation through which, by means of thought, Man enters into communication with the being to whom he directed himself. This may be for the purpose of asking for something, giving thanks or as a glorification. We may pray for ourselves or for others, for the living or for the dead. Prayers addressed to God are heard by those Spirits who are charged with the execution of His will. All those addressed to good Spirits are referred to God. When someone prays to beings other than God, these are serving as mediators or intercessors, because nothing can happen without God's wishes.

10. Spiritism makes the act of prayer understandable by explaining how thought is transmitted, either when the Spirit to whom we are praying comes to our help, or when our thoughts raise themselves up to this being. In order to understand what happens in this circumstance, it is necessary to consider all incarnate and discarnate beings as immersed in the Universal Cosmic Fluid which occupies space, as we on Earth are immersed in the atmosphere. This fluid receives an impulse from will-power, which is the vehicle of thought just as air is the vehicle for sound, with the difference that the vibrations of air are circumscribed, whereas those of the Universal Cosmic Fluid extend infinitely.

So when a thought is directed at someone either on Earth or in space, from an incarnate to a discarnate being, or vice-versa, a fluidic current is established between them which transmits the thought from one to the other, just as air transmits sound.

The energy contained in this current remains proportional to the force behind the thought and the desire. This is how the Spirits hear the prayers directed to them wherever they may be. It is also how Spirits communicate amongst themselves, how they transmit their inspirations to us and how contacts are established at a distance between incarnates.

This explanation has in mind especially those who do not understand the utility of completely mystical prayer. It is not meant to seemingly materialise prayer, but rather to make its effect intelligible by showing it can have direct and effective results. But this does not make it any the less subordinate to God's wishes; He being the Supreme Judge of all things, it is only through His wishes that the action of prayer may become effective.

11. It is through prayer that Man obtains the assistance of the good Spirits who come running to sustain him in his good resolutions and inspire wholesome ideas. In this manner he acquires the moral strength necessary to be able to surmount all difficulties, and come back to the straight and narrow path should he at any time stray from it. By these means he can also turn away from himself all the evil which he attracts through his faults. For example: a man loses his health due to his excesses and so leads a life of suffering till the termination of his days. Has he then the right to complain if he does not obtain the cure he so desires? No, because he could have found the strength to resist temptation through the act of prayer.

12. If we divided the evils of life into two parts, one being those which Man cannot avoid and the other those tribulations of which he himself is the principal cause, due to carelessness and excesses, (see chapter 5, item 4) we would see that the number in the second group far exceeds those in the first. So it is evident that Man is the author of the greater part of his afflictions and that they could be avoided if he always behaved with prudence and wisdom.

It is no less certain that these miseries are the result of our infractions against God's Law and that, if we duly observed these Laws, we would be completely happy. If we did not exceed the limit of what is necessary for the satisfaction of our needs, we would not have the sicknesses which are provoked as a consequence of these excesses; nor would we experience the vicissitudes which derive from them. If we put a limit on our ambitions we would not have to fear ruin; if we did not desire to raise ourselves higher than we are able, we would not have to be afraid of falling; if we were humble, we would not suffer the deception of hurt pride; if we practised the law of charity we would not be slanderers, jealous or envious, and so would avoid arguments and fights. If we did no evil to anyone we would not need to fear vengeance, etc.

Admitting that Man can do nothing with respect to other evils, and that prayer would be useless in ridding him of them; would it not mean a great deal to have the possibility of exempting ourselves from those ills which stem from our own behaviour? Here it is easy to conceive the action played by prayer, which aims at attracting wholesome inspirations from the good Spirits, and in asking them for strength to resist our bad thoughts, whose realisation could be disastrous to us. In this case, what the prayers do is not to remove the wrong from us, but turn us away from our bad thoughts which cause us harm. The prayers in no way prevent the fulfilling of God's laws, nor do they suspend the course of the laws of Nature. They stop us from infringing these laws by guiding our free will. Yet they act by default, in an imperceptible manner, so as not to subjugate our free- will. Man finds himself in the position of one who solicits good counsel and then puts it into action; but is always free to follow the advice or not. God desires it to be like this, so that Man can have responsibility for his actions, thereby leaving him the merit of the choice between good and evil. This is what Man can always be sure of obtaining if he asks fervently, and this is the kind of situation where, above all, the words "Ask and it shall be given" can be applied.

Could not the effects of prayer, even when reduced to these proportions, bring immense results? It has been reserved for Spiritism to prove its action through the revelation of the relationship existing between the physical and spiritual worlds. But its effects are not limited just to these results.

Prayer is recommended by all the Spirits. To renounce it is to ignore the benevolence of God; to reject for oneself His assistance and for others the good that we can do.

13. On attending to a request which has been addressed to Him, God desires to recompense the intention, the devotion and the faith of the one who prays. This is why the prayers of a good person have greater merit in God's eyes and are always more effective, because the corrupt and evil person cannot pray with the same fervour and confidence which comes only from a sentiment of true piety. From a selfish heart, the one who prays only from the lips, there can come only words, and never a charitable impulse which is what gives force to prayer. So clearly can this be understood, that on asking for the prayers of another person instinctively preference will be given to those whose conduct, it is felt, will be more agreeable to God because they will be more promptly heard.

14. As prayer exercises a type of magnetic action, it could be supposed that its effect would depend on fluidic power. However, this is not so. To be precise, Spirits exercise this action on Man so as to overcome any insufficiency in those who pray, either by direct influence in his name, or by giving him momentarily an exceptional force when they judge him deserving of this grace, or when it can be useful to him.

The person who does not consider themself sufficiently good as to exercise a wholesome influence, should not refrain from praying for the good of another because of a mistaken belief of being unworthy to be heard. The consciousness of their own inferiority constitutes a test in humility, which is always pleasing to God, Who then takes into account the charitable intention which animated their intention. Fervour and confidence in God are the first steps in the return to goodness, for which the good Spirits feel themselves blessed in being able to offer stimulation. Prayer is repelled only from the prideful who deposit faith in their own power and merits, believing it possible to superimpose themselves upon the Will of the eternal Father.

15. The power of prayer lies in the thought and does not depend on words, the place or the moment in which it is proffered. Therefore it is possible to pray in all places, at any time, alone or with others. The influence of a place or time is only felt according to the circumstances which favour the meditation. Communal prayer has a more powerful action when all who are praying join together in a heartfelt thought and envisage the same objective, since it is as if many beseeched together in one voice. But it will do no good for a large number of people to gather together for prayer if each one acts in isolation, on their own account. A hundred people can pray selfishly, whereas two or three joined by the same aspirations, praying like true brothers and sisters in Christ, will give more power to their prayer than would the hundred selfish persons (See chapter 28, items 4 & 5).


16. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. For if l pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified (I Corinthians, 14: 11, 14, 16 & 17).

17. The value of prayer comes from the thought to which it is united. So it is impossible to join any thought to something that is not understood, since what is not understood cannot touch the heart. For the great majority of human beings prayers that are said in an unknown language are nothing more than a conglomeration of words which say nothing to the Spirit. In order for prayer to touch one, it is necessary for each word to awaken an idea, and when the words are not comprehended they are unable to do this. It would be merely a simple formula, whose virtue depended on the greater or lesser number of times it was repeated. Many pray from duty, others from obedience to habit; this is why they judge themselves to be exonerated from their duty after having prayed a determined prayer a sufficient number of times, in a certain order. God reads what passes deep in our hearts. He scrutinizes our thought and our sincerity; therefore in judging Him to be more sensitive to the format rather than the depth is to discredit Him (See chapter 28, item 2).


18. Suffering Spirits ask for prayers and these are useful to them, because on recognising that someone thinks of them they feel comforted and less unhappy. However, prayer has a more direct action on them by reanimating them and instilling in them a desire to elevate themselves through repentance, by making amends, and can turn them away from bad thoughts. It is in this sense that prayers can not only alleviate, but can also shorten their suffering (See HEAVEN & HELL, second part - Examples).

19. There are some people who do not accept the offering of prayers for the dead, as according to their belief, the soul has only two alternatives to be saved or to be eternally condemned to suffering which would result in prayer being useless in either case. Without discussing the merits of this belief, let us admit for a moment the reality of eternal unpardonable penitence which our prayers are impotent to interrupt. We ask if, even in this hypothesis, it would be logical, charitable or Christian to refuse prayer for the reprobate. However impotent these might be in liberating them, would these prayers not be a demonstration of pity, capable of softening their suffering? On Earth, when a man is condemned to perpetual prison, even if there was not a minimum chance of obtaining a pardon, is it forbidden for a charitable person to help alleviate the weight of the sentence? When someone is attacked by an incurable disease, there being no hope of cure, should we abandon the person without offering some kind of relief? Remind yourselves that amongst the wicked you may find someone who has been dear to you, perhaps a friend, a father or mother, a son or daughter; and ask yourself if, because of your belief that there is no possibility of a pardon, you would refuse a glass of water to mitigate their thirst? Or a balsam which would heal their wounds? Would you not do for them what you would do for one condemned to the galleys? Would you not give them proof of your love and console them? No, this idea would not be Christian. A belief which hardens the heart cannot be allied to one of a God who puts the duty of loving one's neighbour in first place.

The non-existence of eternal punishment does not imply a denial of temporary penalty, given that it is not possible for God in His justice to confound good with evil. In this case to deny the efficiency of prayer would be to deny the efficacy of consolation, encouragement, and good advice. This would be equal to denying the strength we absorb from the moral assistance received from those who wish us well.

20. Others base their ideas on a more specific reason: that of the immutability of Divine decree. God, they say, cannot modify His decisions just when asked by one of His creatures, because if this were so then nothing on Earth would have stability. Therefore Man has nothing to ask of God; it only rests for him to submit and adore Him.

In this idea there is a false interpretation of the principle of the immutability of Divine Law or, better still, an ignorance of this law with regard to future penalties. This law is revealed by the Spirits of the Lord at this time, now that Man is sufficiently mature to understand what, within faith, conforms to or is contrary to the Divine attributes.

According to the doctrine of the absolute eternity of all punishment, the remorse and repentance of the culprit are not taken into account. All desire to better himself is useless, for he is condemned to remain eternally evil. However, if he were condemned for a determined period of time, then the punishment would cease when that time had expired. But who can say that by then he will have improved his sentiments? Who can say, as shown by many who have been condemned on Earth, that on leaving prison he will not be just as bad as before? In the first case, it would be keeping a man under the pain of punishment after he had become good; in the second, it would be the granting of amnesty to one who continues to be guilty. God's law is more provident than that; being always just, impartial and merciful, it places no fixed duration for punishment whatever the case may be. This law can be resumed in the following manner:

21. “Man always suffers the consequences of his errors. There is no infraction of God's laws which does not have its punishment.

“The severity of the penalty is proportional to the gravity of the offence.

“The duration of the penalty for an error is indeterminate, being subordinate to the repentance of the culprit and his return to goodness; the penalty lasts as long as the evil. It will be perpetual if the persistence in doing evil is also perpetual; it is of short duration if repentance comes quickly.

“From the moment the culprit cries for mercy God listens and sends hope. But the simple fact of remorse for the evil done is not enough; it is necessary that reparation be made. This then is why the guilty party is submitted to new tests wherein he can, by his own will, do good in reparation for the evil that was done.

“In this manner Man constantly chooses his own destiny. He may shorten his anguish, or prolong it indefinitely. His happiness or unhappiness depends on his will to do good.”

This is the law; the immutable law which conforms to the goodness and justice of God.

In this manner the guilty and unhappy Spirit can always save himself, because God's law establishes the condition by which this becomes possible. What the Spirit is lacking in most cases is the will-power, the strength and the courage. If by our prayers we can inspire this will-power; if we uphold the sufferer and encourage him; if by our counsel we give him the enlightenment he lacks, instead of asking God to annul His law, we turn ourselves into instruments for the execution of His law of love and charity in which He allows us to participate, so giving us proof of His charity (See HEAVEN & HELL, 1st part, chapters: 4, 7 & 8).



22. The first duty of all human beings, the first act which should mark the return to activity each day, is prayer. Most people pray, but only a very few really know how to pray! Of what importance to God are sentences which are mechanically linked together from habit, a duty to perform which weighs as heavily as any other duty?

The prayers of a Christian, of a Spiritist, or of whatever cult, must be made as soon as the Spirit returns to the fleshly yoke; it should be raised up to the feet of the Divine Majesty with humility and profundity, in an impulse of gratitude for all the many benefits received till that day; for the night just past during which it was permitted, although without knowing, to get close to friends and guides so as to be able to absorb new strength and more perseverance through this contact. You should lift yourself up humbly to the feet of the Lord, so as to offer up your weaknesses, plead for help, indulgence and mercy. This prayer should be profound, because it is your soul that should raise itself up to the Creator, and in doing so, it should become transfigured, as was Jesus on the mount when He showed the radiant splendour of His hope and love.

Your prayer should include a request for His blessings for all those things you really need. Therefore it is useless to ask the Lord to shorten your tests and trials, or to give you happiness and riches.

Preferably ask for more precious items, such as patience, resignation and faith. Do not say, as many do, "It is not worth praying because God does not answer my prayers." In most cases what do your ask Him for? Have you ever remembered to ask Him to help you with your own moral betterment? Oh no! Seldom have you done this. What you most remember to ask for is success in all your Earthly projects and then you complain that God does not bother about anyone and that if He did there would not be so many injustices! How foolish! How ungrateful! If you searched deep into your conscience you would almost always find the motive for your suffering. So then, before all else ask that you may become a better person and you will see that you are showered with consolations and blessings (See chapter 5, item 4).

You should pray constantly without seeking your chapel or falling on your knees in public. Daily prayer is the fulfillment of your duty without any exception of any kind whatsoever. Is it not an act of love towards God when you help your brothers and sisters in any moral or physical need? It is an act of gratitude to lift up your thoughts to Him when something happy occurs, when you avoid an accident, or even when some simple triviality grazes our soul. So do not forget to say: Blessed be my Father in Heaven! Is it not an act of contrition to humble yourself before the Supreme Judge when you feel yourself weakening, even if only by means of a fleeting thought, so as to say:

Forgive me, Father, for l have sinned (from pride, selfishness or lack of charity); give me the strength not to fail again and courage to make reparation for my fault!

This is quite apart from regular morning and evening prayer and those for sacred days. As you see, prayer can be for all moments without interrupting your activities. On the contrary, in this manner it sanctifies them. You can be sure that just one of these thoughts, if sent from the heart, is listened to by our Celestial Father even more than those long repetitious prayers said out of habit and almost always without any determined motive behind them only because the habitual hour is calling mechanically - V. MONOD (Bordeaux, 1862).


23. Come hither all who wish to believe! The Celestial Spirits are come to announce great things! My children, God is opening up His treasures so as to distribute them for your benefit. 0 incredulous Man! If only you knew what a great benefit to our hearts is faith and how it induces the soul to repentance and prayer! Prayer! Ah!... How touching are the words which fall from the lips of one who prays! Prayer is the Divine Dew which lessens the excessive heat of our passions. Favourite daughter of faith, it leads us along the pathway which takes us to God. In moments of reclusion and solitude you will find yourselves together with the Lord. For you the mysteries disappear because He reveals them to you. Apostles of thought, life is meant for you. Your soul liberates itself from matter and launches itself into the infinite and etheric worlds which poor humanity does not know.

March forward! March forward along the path of prayer and you will hear the voices of the angels! What harmony! No longer the confused noises and strident sounds of the Earth; but the sound of the lyres of the archangels, the soft and gentle voices of the Seraphim, which are more delicate than the morning breeze when it plays among the foliage of the woodlands. Amongst what delights you will walk! Your earthly language cannot express such bliss, so quickly does it enter into all your pores, so alive and refreshing is the spring from which, through prayer, you are able to drink. Sweet voices and heady perfumes are what the soul hears and breathes when you launch yourself into prayer, into those unknown and inhabited spheres! All aspirations are divine when liberated from carnal desires. You too can pray, as did Jesus, while taking His Cross from Golgotha to Calvary. So take up your burden, and you will feel sweet emotions which will pass through your soul, even though you bear the weight of some infamous cross. He was going to die, but only in order to live the Celestial Life in the House of His Father. - SAINT AUGUSTIN (Paris, 1861).

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