Learning to Pray      

By Rev. Kurt Horigan Asplundh

The Word is full of prayers that we can read and use to help us express our heartfelt states. They have a special power to open our minds to influx from heaven and to give us strength against evils and falsities.

"The Word in its literal sense, or the natural, is in its fullness, and also in its power; and by means of it man is in conjunction with the heavens" (The Word 5)

This power becomes effective when the Word is read or recited reverently by people on earth (Divine Providence 256, Apocalypse Explained 1066[4]).

Through prayers from the Word the Lord literally can "give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways" (Psalm 91:11).

Here are some examples from the Word, of prayers for personal strength:

"Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me,
Redeem me from the oppression of man,
That I may keep Your precepts.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant,
And teach me Your statutes." (Psalm 119:133-135)

"Lord, help me stop worrying anxiously about tomorrow, and give me strength to face the troubles of this day." (Adapted from Matthew 6:3-4)

"I am a little child O Lord, I do not know how to go out or come in.... Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil." (1 Kings 3:7, 9)

Of course, there are many more. Here are just a few more references that you can look up:

Prayers for troubled states: Psalm 4:1, Psalm 7:1, Psalm 42:1, Psalm 86:6-7.

Prayers for mercy and forgiveness: 2 Samuel 24:10, Psalm 25:7, 11, Psalm 130:1-5, Luke 18:13.

Prayers of personal commitment: Mark 12:30, Psalm 37:5.

Prayers of comfort: Psalm 90:1-2.

In so many instances, these prayers have great spiritual power and beauty - not just because of their natural language, but also because, when we read them, we open our minds to the Lord's influx. He says,

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

When we pray, we are hearing His voice, and opening the door.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you, Lord, are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)

(References: The Word 15)

From Swedenborg's Works


De Verbo (The Word) #5

De Verbo (Chadwick translation)      

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5. V. The spiritual sense of the Word and its natural sense.

I have sometimes talked with spirits who were unwilling to know anything about the spiritual sense of the Word, saying that its natural sense is the only meaning the Word has, and this is holy because it comes from God. They asserted that if a spiritual sense were to be accepted, the literal form of the Word would be worthless. Many of them insisted on this, but they received a reply from heaven, that the Word without a spiritual sense in it would not be Divine, and because the spiritual sense is its soul, it is consequently Divine, in fact alive; for without this the literal sense would be as if dead. The real holiness of the Word consists in this. Thus the Word can be compared to the Divine Man, who is the Lord; in Him there is not only a natural Divine, but also a spiritual Divine and a celestial Divine. This is why the Lord calls Himself the Word. It was also said that the real holiness of the Word lies in its literal sense, and that this is more holy than the others, the internal senses, because it is the wrapping and container of the others, and it is like the body which is made alive by the soul. So the Word in its literal or natural sense possesses its fullness and also its power; and by its means a person is linked with the heavens, which would be separated from mankind but for the literal sense. Everyone knows and acknowledges that the Word is in its depths spiritual, but up to now it has been obscure where this spirituality was hidden.

(References: Revelation 6:1, 12:1, 13:1)

[2] But since the spirits who took a stand on behalf of the literal sense alone were unwilling to be convinced by these arguments, there was produced countless passages from the natural sense, which could never be understood without the spiritual sense. For instance there are in the Prophets lists of nothing but names; many kinds of animals are named, such as lions, bears, oxen, calves, dogs, wolves, owls, ojim, 1 dragons; also mountains and forests, and many other things besides, which would mean nothing without a spiritual sense.

For instance, what might be the meaning of a dragon described as red with seven heads and seven diadems on its heads, pulling down with its tail a third of the stars of heaven, and wanting to swallow the baby to which the woman was about to give birth; the woman being given the two wings of the great eagle to fly into the desert, where the dragon ejected water from its mouth after her like a river? Again, without the spiritual sense it would not be known what was the meaning of the dragon's two beasts; by the one which came up out of the sea, resembling a leopard, with feet like a bear's and a mouth like a lion's; and by its other beast which came up out of the ground, as described in Revelation Chapters 12 and 13. Again, what is the meaning there of the Lamb opening the seal of the book, horses coming out, first a white one, then a red, then a black and then a pale one, described in Revelation 6, as well as the other things in that book? Again, in Zechariah, what is the meaning of the four horns and the four smiths (Chapter 1:18-21); the lamp-stand and the two olive trees next to it (Chapter 4); the four chariots coming out between the two mountains, attached to which were horses, red, black, white and dappled (Chapter 6)? Again, the ram and the he-goat and their horns, with which they fought each other in Daniel (Chapter 8); and the four beasts coming up out of the sea (Chapter 7); not to mention vast quantities of similar things? To convince them further it was cited what the Lord said to the disciples in Matthew (Chapter 24) about the ending of the age and His coming again, which no one could understand without the spiritual sense.

(References: Zechariah 2:1)

[3] The existence of a spiritual sense in every detail of the Word can also be confirmed by some of the Lord's sayings, which could not be grasped unless understood spiritually. For instance, no one would be allowed to call his father on earth father', nor teacher' or master', because they have one Father, Teacher and Master (Matthew 23:7-10); or that they should not judge for fear of being judged (Matthew 7:1-2); or that a husband and wife are not two, but one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6), although they are not one flesh in the natural sense. Nor is there any prohibition of judging one's companion or neighbour as regards his natural life, for this is in society's interest; but the prohibition is on judging him as regards his spiritual life, for this is known to none but the Lord. Again, the Lord did not forbid calling one's father father', nor a teacher teacher', nor a master master' in the natural sense, but He did in the spiritual sense. In this there is only one Father, Teacher and Master. And the same is true in other cases.

(References: Matthew 24:1)

[4] They were convinced by this that there is a spiritual sense contained in the natural sense of the Word, and that still the real holiness of the Word resides in its literal sense, because all the inner meanings of the Word are fully present in it. In addition it was proved that the literal sense also exhibits clearly everything which teaches the way to salvation, and so how to live and what to believe. Also, every teaching of the church is to be drawn from the literal sense of the Word, and proved by it; not purely by the spiritual sense, since this does not permit linking with heaven and through heaven with the Lord, but this must take place by means of the literal sense. For the Lord's Divine influence coming through the Word extends from first to last.


1. Possibly to be emended to ochim, which are mentioned along with ziim and ijim, apparently nocturnal birds: see Isaiah 13:21-22. -Translator


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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.