[This is taken from Russell H. Conwell's Praying for Money.]
The prayerful soul must be sure that "God is," and that he heeds the call of his children. The religious soul must believe in a real Divine Being. One condition necessary to successful prayer is a fixed belief in the Maker of all things. The Christian should keep his brain supplied with "axioms." An axiom is a self-evident truth, an immovable, unchangeable fact. It is a fundamental principle of which all sane men are cognizant. It is a statement of truth which is below and above all argument—a truth which all men recognize as a part of their mental existence. An axiom is simply a reference to a necessary condition in the framework of the human constitution. Every living man acts on those conditions, whether he recognizes them or not. The man whose common sense recognizes those immovable principles builds his belief and action on them safely. Prayer, like all other religious things or conditions, needs to have a sure foundation. Therefore, axioms which are used as the basis of mathematical science are true everywhere, and the worshiper needs to recognize them as fully as the civil engineer. Here are presented some of the axioms on which the believer safely rests his faith. They cannot be proven, because they are vitally and essentially true. Their nonexistence is positively unthinkable. If these axioms are not essential to all mental action, then the world is a dreamy unreality.
"Two parallel lines will never run together or cross each other." All recognize the absolute truth of the statement, and yet no one ever went to the end of the lines to get local evidence of the fact. "Two halves are equal to the whole," states the college professor before his class. He would be an idiot if he tried to "prove it." He may illustrate the idea by cutting an apple into halves and putting them together again. But the essential truth of the proposition every mind had accepted before he mentioned it. "Two quantities or objects which are equal to a third quantity or object are equal to each other." A boy smiles at the waste of time in telling him such an axiomatic or self-evident fact. But the instructor is not attempting to inculcate a new principle, but rather to call attention emphatically to an immovable fact woven into the vital fabric of all human minds. The thinker who stands squarely on those fundamental facts can trust himself and can be trusted by all. A careful review of one thousand and twenty letters relating to established cases of successful prayer showed that the believer accepted as fundamentally true axiomatic facts of which the following is a partial list. We know only because the mental knowledge is an essential part of our intellectual existence. We therefore know:
That two and two make four.
That we exist.
That we are independent, thinking beings.
That there is moral obligation to do right.
That there is good and evil.
That our essential self is not the body.
That every effect has an adequate cause.
That all things made had a Maker.
That there must have been a First Cause.
That all things change.
That nothing can be annihilated.
That wickedness should be punished.
That goodness should be rewarded.
That all happiness depends on the state of mind.
That there is a permeating spirit moving on all the events about mankind.
That man must eat to live.
That when man has done his best, yet his success still depends on Providence—often called Good Fortune or Good Luck.
That prayer can influence external conditions.
That light is not darkness.
That love is not hate.
That up is not down.
That the future is not the past.
That all men must leave the body.
That mankind is sinful.
That somewhere justice must be done to clear up the inequalities of this life.
That men essentially evil would not be at home or welcomed in a heaven occupied only by the good.
That worshiping an ideal of perfect righteousness makes the worshiper like the ideal, as a perfect model makes a more perfect statue.
That some things have more intrinsic value than others.
That the highest satisfaction of soul is in the communion with God.
That the soul is indestructible and must live forever.
These axioms are unchangeably true, and all doubts or attempts to "prove" them bring only confusion and partial insanity. To doubt generally that we see or feel or smell or think is to undermine all knowledge and to make life a crazy jumble. Some things we do know; it is suicidal to doubt them. These are mankind's chief good. They constitute the world's greatest treasure, which is "everyday common sense." If common sense, unadulterated, be given any man he will worship God. The keenest scientist cannot safely leap off that one ship.
One of the testimonials wherein the author, who was never a student in the "school of doubt," tells why he came to feel the necessity of prayer relates to one day's experience. He had decided, after much thought, just how he would use his time before he left his little home in the morning. He had made up his mind to take a trolley car, but a heavy truck had fallen on the track, so he was compelled to change his plan and walk. He reached his small store one half hour late, and a customer that he had arranged to meet had called and gone. He intended to call on a salesman, of whom he was to purchase a new stock of goods, and the telephone was out of order, owing to the effects of the electricity of a distant thunderstorm. He sent for a cab for the purpose of visiting the salesman at the hotel in another part of the city, but the horse attached to the cab fell at the store door and broke necessary parts of the harness. The accident made his proposed trip useless, because of the delay. He ordered his lunch which he usually ate in the back store, but he did not get time to eat it, owing to a visit from a salesman from New York, who wished him to take a large bankrupt stock of a new line of goods. The coming profits seemed large and sure. He would have missed that trade had the car been on time or the telephone in order or had the horse not fallen. Even the lunch he had so confidently expected to eat was thrown away. He went home at night with an entire change in his plans, and entered on a new line of trade. His wife was absent, attending on a sick neighbor, and his evening paper was too torn to read. When he knelt at his bedside that night to pray the feeling of utter dependence on God's providence made him throw himself on the Lord as he had never done before. And after he was in bed he could hear his daughter entertaining her company in the parlor by singing, "I'll go where He wants me to go." That merchant was a man of great discernment and honest daily piety, and is said to have acted as agent for the government in the war time in the purchase of ninety millions' worth of his line of goods.
Another writer told of a young student for the ministry who came home on a visit to his village church and tried to prove that the world was not created by a personal God, that "evil and sickness are only delusions," and that "we do not exist." But an old farmer, noted for honesty, and whose common sense had caused the people to insist on his holding for years the office of mayor, arose after that leader of the meeting sat down, and remarked, "I still believe that, after all that has been said, my cows are real cows, and my wife is real, Christ is real, and my tax bills are real; and I believe that that young man will some day come to himself, and admit that he was a theological idiot." But that old farmer also testified that he did not feel the need of asking Christ for definite things, but declared that prayer was his daily recreation, and all things worked together for good.
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