Prayer has no beginning and no end. It is a part of life. But it does change in form, and grows with learning until it reaches its formless state, and fuses into total communication with God. In its asking form it need not, and often does not, make appeal to God, or even involve belief in Him. At that level prayer is merely wanting, out of a sense of scarcity and lack.
The prayer, or asking-out-of-need, always involves feelings of weakness and inadequacy, and could never be made by a Son of God who knows Who he is. No-one, then, who is sure of his Identity could pray in this form. Yet it is also true that no-one who is uncertain of his Identity could avoid praying in this way. And prayer is as continual as life. Everyone prays without ceasing. Ask and you have received, for you have established what it is you want.
It is also possible to reach a higher form of asking-out-of-need, for in this world prayer must be used for reparation, and so it must entail levels of learning. Here, the asking may be addressed to God in honest belief, though not yet with understanding. A vague and usually unstable sense of identification has generally been reached, but it tends to be blurred by a deep-rooted sense of sin. It is possible at this level to continue to ask for things of this world in various forms, but it is also possible to ask for qualities such as honesty or goodness, and particularly for forgiveness for the many sources of guilt that inevitably underlie any prayer of need. Without guilt there is no scarcity. The sinless have no needs.
At this level also comes that curious contradiction in terms known as "praying for one's enemies." The contradiction lies not in the actual words, but in the way they are usually interpreted. While you believe you have enemies, you have limited prayer to the laws of this world, and limited your ability to receive and accept to the same narrow margins. And yet, if you have enemies you have need of prayer, and great need, too. What does the phrase really mean? Pray for yourself, that you may not seek to imprison Christ and thereby lose the recognition of your own Identity. Be traitor to no-one, or you will be treacherous to yourself. An enemy is the symbol for an imprisoned Christ. And who could He be except yourself?
The prayer for enemies thus becomes a prayer for your own freedom. Now it is no longer a contradiction in terms. Rather it is a statement of the unity of Christ and a recognition of His sinlessness. And now it has become holy, for it acknowledges the Son of God as he was created.
Let it never be forgotten that prayer at any level is always for yourself. If you unite with anyone in prayer, you make him part of you. The enemy is you, as is the Christ. Before it can become holy, then, prayer becomes a choice. You do not choose for another. You can but choose for yourself. Pray truly for your enemies, then, for herein lies your own salvation. Forgive them for your sins, and you will be forgiven indeed.
Prayer is a ladder reaching up to Heaven. At the top there is a transformation much like your own, for prayer is part of you. The things of earth are left behind, all unremembered. There is no asking, for there is no lack. Identity in Christ is fully recognized as set forever, beyond all change and incorruptible. The light no longer flickers, and will never go out.
Now, without needs of any kind, and clad forever in the pure sinlessness which is the gift of God to you, His Son, prayer can again become what it was meant to be. For now it rises as a song of thanks to your Creator, sung without words, or thoughts, or vain desires, unneedful now of anything at all. So it extends, as it was meant to do. And for this giving God Himself gives thanks.
God is the goal of every prayer, giving it timelessness instead of end. Nor has it a beginning, because the goal has never changed. Prayer in its earlier forms is an illusion, because there is no need for a ladder to reach what one has never left. Yet prayer is part of forgiveness as long as forgiveness, itself an illusion, remains unattained. Prayer is tied up with learning until the goal of learning has been reached. And then all things will be transformed together, and returned unblemished into the Mind of God.