The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Effects of Prayer

One of our subscribers writes from Lausanne:

“For over fifteen years I have dedicated to what your Spiritist Science teaches today. The study of your books does nothing but reinforces such a belief. Besides, it brings me great consolations, casting a new light onto something that was darkness to me. Although I was convinced that my existence had to be multiple, I did not understand what my spirit would be in the intervals.”

“Thank you, Sir, a thousand times, for having initiated me into those great mysteries; for having showed me the only path to follow to be granted a better place in the other world. You opened my heart to hope, doubling my courage to withstand the trials of this world. I then invite you to come to help me, Sir, to examine a great truth, in which I am highly interested.”

“I am a Protestant and as such we don’t pray for the dead in our church, since it is not taught in the Gospel. As you say, the spirits that you evoke frequently ask for the support of your prayers. Would they be under the influence of ideas acquired when alive, on Earth, or is it true that God takes into account the prayers by the living ones to alleviate the suffering of the dead?”

“Sir, this question is very important to me and to other comrades who married in the Catholic Church. To have a satisfactory answer I believe that it would be necessary to have the agreement of an enlightened protestant spirit, like that of one of our ministers, manifesting in your session, following one of your ecclesiastics.”
“The question is twofold: 1st – Is the prayer pleasing to the person it is directed? 2nd – Is it useful to them?” 
To begin with let us hear Re. Father Felix, in a remarkable introduction from a little book entitled “Les morts souffrants et delaisses”.
“The devotion to the dead is not only an expression of a dogma and a manifestation of a belief. It is a charm of life, a consolation to the heart. In fact, what can be kinder to the heart than this devout cult that bonds us to the memory and suffering of the dead? Believe in the efficacy of prayer and good deeds to alleviate those who we lost; believe that when we cry for them, our tears can still help them; finally, believe that even in that invisible world which they inhabit they can be visited by our love, benefiting them; what a sweet, kind belief! What a consolation in such a belief to those who saw death coming through their roofs, breaking their hearts! If such a belief did not exist, says the human heart through the voice of its noblest instincts, to all those who can understand, that it would be necessary to invent it, even if it were only to bring some kindness to death and charm to our funerals. In fact, nothing transforms or changes the love that prays over the tomb or cries in the funerals, with such a devotion to the memory and suffering of the dead. That mixture of religion and pain, prayer and love, has something simultaneous of delicate and touching. The crying sadness becomes an auxiliary to the praying, piety that in turn becomes the most delicious aroma to sadness. Faith, hope and charity can never conjugate better to honor God, consoling people and transforming the relief to the dead into consolation to the living ones!”
“This smooth charm that we find in our fraternal exchange with the dead becomes even smoother when we are persuaded that God, no doubt, would not let those beloved ones entirely oblivious of the good that we do towards them. Who has never wished for a deceased father or brother to be at their side listening, when praying for them, and that they could be there to see the votes made in their favor? Who would not have said, when wiping the tears at the funeral of a lost relative or friend: If he could just hear me! When with my tears love offers prayer and sacrifice, if I could be certain that he knows it and that his love always understands mine! Yes, if I could only believe that it is not only the relief I sent that gets to him but if I could also be persuaded that God assigns one of his angels to tell him that, carrying the benefit to him, and that the relief comes from me, oh! God, you who are good to those who cry, what a balm to my ulcer! What a consolation to my pain!”
“It is true that Church does not force the belief in that our deceased loved ones effectively know, in purgatory, what we do for them here on Earth, but it does not prohibit it either; Church insinuates it, seeming to persuade us through the scope of its cult and ceremonies, as respectable and serious men of the Church are not afraid of attesting it. As a matter of fact, if the dead don’t have the current and clear awareness of the prayers and the good deeds that we do in their names, it is certain that they feel their beneficial effects. Isn’t that firm belief enough to the love which wishes consolation to the pain through the benefit, fertilizing the tears through sacrifice?” 
What Father Felix admits as a hypothesis the Spiritist Science admits as an incontestable truth because it provides its patent proof. In fact, we know that the spiritual world is composed of those who left their corporeal envelopes or, in other words, the souls of those who lived on Earth. Those souls or spirits, which is the same thing, populate space. They are everywhere, by our side as in the most distant places. Disentangled form the heavy and troublesome burden which retained them on the surface of the soil, now having only one ethereal, semi material envelope, they move with the speed of thought. Experience demonstrates that they can attend our appeals, but they understandably come in a more or less good will, with more or less pleasure, according to our intention. The prayer is a thought, a link between them and us. It is an appeal, a true evocation. Well, as the prayer is always a benevolent thought, efficient or not, it cannot but be pleasing to whom they are addressed.
Is it useful to them? That is another question.
Those who dispute the efficacy of the prayer say: God’s designs are immutable and God does not break them under the request of humans.
That depends on the objective of the prayer, since God cannot infringe God’s laws to satisfy all inconsiderate requests that we address to Him. Let us face it only from the point of view of the relief brought to the suffering souls. To begin with we affirm that admitting that the effective duration of the sufferings cannot be abbreviated, commiseration and sympathy are mitigation to the suffering. If a prisoner is condemned to spend twenty years in jail, won’t he suffer a thousand times more if left alone, abandoned? However, if a charitable and compassionate soul comes to visit and encourage him, wouldn’t that have the effect of breaking the chains before the period is over? Who on Earth would not find in compassion a relief to their miseries?
Can the prayers abbreviate suffering?
Spiritism responds: Yes, and demonstrates it through reason and experience. Through experience because it is the suffering souls themselves who come to confirm it, revealing the change in their situation. Through reason considering the way Spiritism sees things.
The communications we have with the beings of beyond the grave show all degrees of suffering and happiness. We then see unhappy, terribly unhappy beings and if Spiritism, according to a large number of theologians, does not admit the fire but as figurative, like a symbol of most pains, in short, as a moral fire, we must agree that the situation of some is not much better than if they were in the material fire. The state of happiness or unhappiness after death is not then just a illusion or a true ghost. But Spiritism teaches that the duration of suffering depends, up to a certain point, on the will of the spirit who can abbreviate it through the efforts employed to improve. The prayer, the real prayer, from the heart, dictated by a true charity, entices the spirit to repent; return their good feelings; clarify them; help them understand the happiness of their superior spirits; encourage them to do good, to become useful for the spirits can do the good and evil things. Somehow it liberates them from the lack of courage in which they are benumbed, allowing them to see light. They can then leave their quagmire through their own efforts. That is how the protective hand that reaches out can help them, abbreviating their suffering.
Our subscriber asks if the spirit who request prayers would not be under the influence of worldly ideas. We respond to this by saying that among the spirits who communicate with us there are those who have professed all cults: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists. When asked: What can we do to help you? They answer: “Pray for me.” – A prayer according to the ritual that you professed would be more useful or pleasing to you? – The ritual is the form. The prayer from the heart has no ritual.”
Our readers certainly remember the evocation of the widow of Malabar, inserted in our December 1858 issue. When we said: “You ask us to pray for you but we are Christians. Would our prayers please you? She said: “There is only one God to all people.”
The suffering spirits connect to those who pray for them, like the appreciative person does to her benefactor. That same widow of Malabar came several times to our meetings, uninvited. She came to get instructed, as she said. She even followed us in the streets, as we attested through a clairvoyant medium. Lemaire, the assassin, whose evocation was published in our March 1858 series, an evocation which we say, in passing, has excited the mockery vein of some skeptical, that very unfortunate, abandoned murderer, found a compassionate heart in one of our readers, who felt sorry for him. He came to visit him a few times, trying to manifest through all means and modes up until that person, having the opportunity to learn about those manifestations, knew that it was Lemaire who wanted to demonstrate his appreciation. When it was finally possible for him to express his thoughts, he said: “Thank you charitable soul! I was alone, with the remorse of my past life and you felt sorry for me. I was abandoned and you thought of me. I was in the abyss and you reached out to me. Your prayers were like a soothing balm to me. I understood the enormity of my crimes and I ask God to give me the grace of reparation through a new existence, in which I can do as much good as the evil I have done. Thank you, once more. Thank you!
To finalize, here you have the opinion of the distinguished Protestant Priest Mr. Adolph Monod, deceased on April 1856, about the effects of prayer:
“Christ said: love one another. This recommendation contains all possible means of demonstrating affection to our fellow human beings, not entering into details, however, of how to achieve that objective. If it is certain that nothing can preclude the Creator from applying the law that God is the model Himself, it is no less certain that the prayer that you address to God, in favor of the person of your interest, is to the latter a testimony that she is missed. This can effectively contribute to console her and alleviate her suffering. She is helped as long as manifesting regret, and only then, but she will always know that a sympathetic soul has sent her good thoughts. Such thought entices regret, leaving the soul in the sweet persuasion that the intersection of that soul was useful. It necessarily results in appreciation and affection towards the person who has given proof of friendship or piety. As a consequence the love recommended by Christ to human beings has grown among them. Both obeyed the law of love and the union of all beings, God’s law, which must lead to unity, that it the objective of the spirit.”
• You don’t have anything else to add to these explanations?
• No. They contain everything.
• I thank you for bringing them.
• To me it is a reason for happiness to be able to contribute to the union of the souls, union that the good spirits endeavor to make prevail above all questions of dogma, which divide them.

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