We said that prayer is always for yourself, and this is true. Why, then, should you pray for others at all? And if you should, how should you do it? Praying for others, if rightly understood, becomes a means for lifting your projections of guilt from your brother, and enabling you to recognize it is not he who is hurting you. The poisonous thought that he IS your enemy, your evil counterpart, your nemesis, must be relinquished before YOU can be saved from guilt. For this the means is prayer, of rising power and with ascending goals, until it reaches even up to God.
The earlier forms of prayer, at the bottom of the ladder, will not be free from envy and even malice. They call for vengeance, not for love. Nor do they come from one who understands that they are calls for death, made out of fear by those who cherish guilt. They call upon a vengeful god, and it is he who seems to answer them. Hell cannot be asked for another, and then escaped by him who asks for this. Only those who are in hell can ask for hell. Those who have been forgiven, and who have accepted their forgiveness, could never make a prayer like this.
At this level, then, the learning goal must be to recognize that prayer will bring an answer only in the form in which the prayer was made. This is enough. From here it will be an easy step to the next level. It begins with this:
"What I have asked for for my brother is not what I would have. Thus have I made of him my enemy."
It is apparent that this step cannot be reached by anyone who sees no value nor advantage to himself in setting others free. This may be long delayed, because this step may seem to be dangerous instead of merciful. To the guilty there seems indeed to be a real advantage in having enemies, and this imagined gain must go, if enemies are to be set free. Guilt must be given up, and not concealed. Nor can it be without some pain, and a glimpse of the merciful nature of this step may for some time be followed by a deep retreat into fear. For fear's defenses are fearful in themselves, and when they are recognized they bring their fear with them.
Yet what advantage has an illusion of escape ever brought a prisoner? His real escape from guilt can lie only in the recognition that the guilt has gone. And how can this be recognized as long as he hides it in another, and does not see it as his own? Fear of escape makes it difficult to welcome freedom, and to make a jailer of an enemy seems to be safety. How, then, can he be released without an insane fear for yourself? You have made of him your salvation and your escape from guilt. Your investment in this escape is heavy, and your fear of letting go is strong.
Stand still an instant, now, and think what you have done. Do not forget that it is you who did it, and who can therefore let it go. Hold out your hand; this enemy has come to bless you. Take his blessing and feel how your heart is lifted and your fear released. Do not hold on to it, nor onto him. He is a Son of God, along with you. He is no jailer, but a messenger of Christ. Be this to him, that you may see him thus.
It is not easy to realize that prayers for things, for status, for external "gifts" of any kind, are always made to set up jailers and to hide from guilt. Yet these things, too, are used for goals that substitute for God, and therefore distort the purpose of prayer. The desire for them IS the prayer. One need not ask explicitly. The goal of God is lost in the quest for lesser goals of any kind, and prayer becomes requests for enemies. The power of prayer can be quite clearly recognized even in this. No-one who wants an enemy will fail to find one. But just as surely will he lose the only true goal that is given him. Think of the cost, and understand it well. All other goals are at the cost of God.