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Problems of the Spiritual


IX. If Christians depart this life to be with Christ, how can our prayers benefit them? Does He not know exactly what to do for them without our intercessions on their behalf?

This question has been submitted to me again and again by correspondents. It is based upon two suppositions—first, that the departure of Christians from this life involves their immediate presence with Christ; and next, that their presence with Christ renders all prayer for them unnecessary.

But are these suppositions correct? Let us examine them.

Does the departure of Christians from this life involve their immediate presence with Christ? The idea which is commonly held on this point is, that all who die in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, however small may be their spiritual attainments, and however little their character may have been developed, pass at the time of death into the highest sphere of life, and enjoy the companionship of the Saviour. The words of St. Paul, spoken in regard to what he himself anticipated— "Absent from the body, and present with the Lord," "Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ"— are supposed to denote what will be the experiences of all Christians on leaving this world.

The assumption is not logical. It is a universal conclusion drawn from a particular premiss. Put into syllogistic form, it would stand thus: St. Paul, at dying, went to be with Christ; St. Paul was a Christian; therefore, all Christians, at dying, will also go to be with Christ. The reader will detect how inconsequent this reasoning is.

We admit that St. Paul did on leaving this world go to be with Jesus, and that every other Christian who departs this life with anything like the moral and spiritual attunement of that Apostle, will also go to be with Him; but that is a very different thing from supposing that all Christians pass at once from the earth-plane to the Christ-sphere. In the case of hundreds of thousands of Christians, their spiritual condition would render it impossible. The law of the Spiritual World is that a person must be morally and spiritually adjusted to the sphere in which he lives, moves, and has his being.

In the case of St. Paul, we have one whose moral and spiritual development while still in the flesh was such as equipped him for the highest experiences of spirit-life. He was a man in whom the Christ-qualities of love and unselfishness energized so magnificently, that years and years of his life were characterized by the endurance of all sorts of hardship and self-denial for the sake of others. No grander words, denoting the height of moral excellence to which he had attained, were ever written by him than those in which he said—"I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. ix. 3 v.). What a contrast is presented in the moral development of St. Paul and that of a once celebrated preacher, whose published sermon records the awful remark—that he believed one of the joys of the redeemed in Heaven would be to everlastingly contemplate the miseries of the damned! Again, St. Paul was a man who was absolutely in spiritual touch with Christ. He could write—"I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. ii. 20 v.); "For to me to live is Christ" (Phil. i. 21 v.). He was, moreover, one who, before he left this world, was so spiritually and psychically developed as to enable him to come into close association with the higher spheres of Spirit life. He was "caught up to the third Heaven, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for a man to utter " (See 2 Cor. xii. 1-4 v.).

That such an one should, at death, go at once to the Presence and companionship of the Saviour, appears to us to be the most reasonable of thoughts. The Apostle in whom was the Christ, when he was yet in the earth-life, would, of necessity, be in the Christ-sphere as soon as he had stepped into spirit-life.

But in regard to that great number of Christians who exhibit all sorts of moral defects, in whom, perchance, exists the spirit of selfishness and un-lovingness; who could not say—in spite of their belief in the Saviour—"For to me to live is Christ," can we really think that Death will usher such into the Christ-sphere—the Sphere of highest Spiritual experience?

Nay, we think not. Their faith in the Saviour will put them on the King's highway to that blissful experience; but there must be the ascension from sphere to sphere of higher moral and spiritual attainment before the goal will be reached. There may be vouchsafed to them at times a Vision of the Christ as they move onward and upward; but only, we believe, will they "be with Christ," in the sense in which St. Paul used the words, when they, by the grace of God, shall have become fitted for the Christ-sphere.

The Christian Church, therefore, in bidding us pray for the "Faithful Departed," is quite right. She implies thereby that Christians, when they go hence, do not at once attain such perfection as to place them in no need of our prayers for them.

But the supposition that there is no necessity to pray for those Departed ones who may enjoy the Presence of Christ, on the grounds that He knows exactly what to do for them, without our intercessions on their behalf—is a very unfounded one. If it had not been so often put forth as an argument against praying for departed Christians, we should have thought it impossible for any believer in Prayer of any kind to seriously advance it. The supposition proves too much; it amounts to an argument against praying for Christians who are in this life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, without our intercessions on their behalf, knows exactly what to do for Christians, whether they be here on earth, or have passed into the Spiritual World. Are we, therefore, not to pray for the Christians in this life? Let us be consistent.

If there be no need for us to pray for departed Christians, because Christ knows what to do for them without our telling Him, then, by the same reasoning, there is no need for Christians in this world to pray for one another. The supposition, as we have said, proves too much.

A conception of the true significance of Prayer— that it is no expedient for informing God of our wants, and no means of inducing Him to be gracious to us, but that it is a Divinely appointed method whereby the soul of the one who prays, or that of the one who is prayed for, may be made receptive of blessing— a conception of this—would sweep away the erroneous notion which is present in the mind of this Questioner.

We pray for Christians here and for Christians There, because Prayer is a Mind-impulse which, when touched by the Holy Spirit of God, can affect other minds, and move them towards growth and attunement with the Higher.

"Brethren, pray for me," wrote St. Paul in whom was the Christ. "Pray for us," say those saintly ones who have gone hence to be with Jesus, "we are amid the Alps of the Celestial, but there are still higher peaks on which the Master has bidden us meet Him. Every prayer you breathe for us sends a God-vibration to our advancing spirit; and from the heights above us, and from the earth-plane below us, we catch the impulse that constitutes the very inspiration of our being—' Excelsior.' "

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Man and the Spiritual World" (1903 UK Edition)
"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle

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