In a couple of past articles for A Better Way , I have shared my love for the prayers in Part II of the Workbook. They are a wonderful way to prepare one’s mind to enter into quiet communion with God, which is exactly what the Workbook says they are for (I make this claim based on a careful examination of the Introduction to Part II, especially 3:3 and 4:6). To encourage their actual use for this purpose, I would like to comment on the prayer for Lesson 317, “I follow in the way appointed me”:
Father, Your way is what I choose today. Where it would lead me do I choose to go; what it would have me do I choose to do. Your way is certain, and the end secure. The memory of You awaits me there. And all my sorrows end in Your embrace, which You have promised to Your Son, who thought mistakenly that he had wandered from the sure protection of Your loving Arms.
My comments take the form of suggestions for how one might pray this prayer, and so I suggest that you may want to do just that. One way to do this is to read a line from the prayer and my commentary on it, and then pause and spend a minute or two focusing on that line, actually praying it, before going on to reading the next part.
Father, Your way is what I choose today.
This prayer opens (as do more than half of the prayers in Part II of the Workbook) by having you address God as “Father.” Rather than speaking into empty space, or beseeching some remote and fearful deity, you begin this prayer by speaking directly to your Father. The word “Father” here is meant to call upon our image of the ideal father, the perfect dad. What is the perfect dad like? He is near, available, accessible. He is a source of safety and protection, a place of refuge. He provides for all your needs, making sure you are not lacking. All he wants is your happiness. He regards you as a part of himself, a continuation of his line, an extension of his very identity. And so he gives you all of his love and plans to pass on to you all that he has, including his name, his station in life and his fortune. In addressing God as “Father,” try to hold this image of fatherhood in mind. And try to make it a personal address, so that you are really speaking directly to your Father. Expect Him to hear you.
This first sentence makes a powerful declaration. You are telling God that His way is what you are choosing today. What is His way? You might try filling in things you associate with God’s way. You might say, “Your way of forgiveness (or peace, or love, or salvation) is what I choose today.” You might even have specific things that choosing God’s way today will entail. It may come to your mind that choosing His way means forgiving your co-worker or giving up some fear you are hanging onto.
But to make this prayer meaningful, you have to mean it. As much as you can, endeavor to genuinely view today as a day in which you choose God’s way. This may mean reflecting on some questions: How much have you chosen His way as yours? How much are you still holding out, so that His way is only one option among many for you? How much do you still see your happiness as coming from your ability to control external events and situations and people? Based on your experience thus far, which way seems to promise you more: yours or His? To the extent that you can honestly answer “His,” then put that feeling into the saying of this line. See this day as one you will look back on and say to yourself, “That was the day when I chose God’s way.” To make this more real, when you come to the word “today,” you might even want to fill in the day of the week and the date.
Where it would lead me do I choose to go;
When you enlist in God’s way you are agreeing to all that goes with it, which includes going wherever He sends you. You are placing no limits on this agreement. It is a blanket commitment, covering all possibilities. This not because you have some sense of blind allegiance or slavish duty, but because you trust that God knows better than you what will make you happy. So as you speak this line try to evoke a feeling of trust, knowing that your Father would not lead you to your doom. You might even add, “because I trust You.”
You might also want to think of some of the places where His way might lead you. “Where” in this line specifically refers to places in this world you would go as part of fulfilling your special function; this lesson begins by saying, “I have a special place to fill; a role for me alone.” Yet it can also refer to more abstract “places” like peace or salvation or Heaven. Try taking whatever places come to mind in terms of where His way might lead you and then add them onto the end of the above line: “to my in-laws’ house, to move to Maine, to peace, to Heaven.”
what it would have me do I choose to do.
This line is, of course, very much like the previous one. Again, you may want to remind yourself that you can trust your Father’s way to lead you to peace, not death. You also might want to listen for things He specifically wants you to do today. Perhaps you can sense that He wants you to call someone, do a favor for someone, or take care of something you have been putting off.
You have now said three times in different ways that you are choosing His way. This is no trivial statement. Remember the power your choosing has. What the Course says about your learning power also applies to your power of choice: “There is no greater power in the world. The world was made by it, and even now depends on nothing else” (T-31.I.3:2-3). If you say, “Your way is what I choose today” and mean it, your whole life could change.
Your way is certain, and the end secure.
Once again the word “way” is used. In addition to being the focus of every line of the prayer so far, it also crops up in the lesson’s title (“I follow in the way appointed me”) and in the paragraph before the prayer (“when I willingly and gladly go the way my Father’s plan appointed me to go”). These two references tell us something about this way. This is a way we can “follow in” and a way we can “go.” Clearly, this way is a sort of roadway, pathway or highway. It is a path that one travels on.
What does it mean, then, to say that this “way is certain”? For this, we can turn to clues in nearby lessons. Lesson 321 tells us that God’s way is the certain way to finding our freedom . Lesson 331 tells us that it is the certain way to our release . So, “Your way is certain” means, “Your way will work. It will take me where it promises. It will lead me to freedom, to release, to my home.” Try to say this with real conviction. To gather this conviction, you may want to reflect on where your way has led you. Has it worked? A recurrent theme in the Course is that our roads, though they promise to lead us to freedom, end up leading us nowhere. Only God’s road brings us to the destination we truly desire.
This leads right into the second part of the above line, for it too refers to the destination of this way or path. We now affirm that the end, the goal, the destination of God’s way, is secure. This means that we will get there for sure. We will reach the destination, for God has guaranteed it.
So when you say this line, “Your way is certain, and the end secure,” try to envision your own journey home. You have walked down many dead-end roads in the past, roads which started with high hopes, yet got increasingly bumpy and futile the further you travelled. Yet when you truly set your feet on God’s way, you will be walking on a smooth road straight to your destination. It may seem thorny and twisted at first, but this is only because you will frequently leave His road in search of your old pathways. Yet the further you travel on God’s way, the more committed to it you will be, and so the easier it will become, until the day comes when you reach its very end. And that day will come for you.
The memory of You awaits me there.
Now the prayer directly speaks of the end of the road. We have been journeying since time immemorial, through countless experiences and untold difficulties. What has it all been for? What wondrous destination awaits us at the end of the journey? “The memory of You”–the memory of God. To appreciate what this memory is, we must first discuss the pre-separation state. Before the separation, we lived in a state of knowledge. We knew God face-to-face. This knowing was so immediate, so total, that there was no separation between our knowing of God and God Himself. The two were one and the same. God was directly present in our minds, and this Presence was our knowing of Him. He was our Love, and knowing Him was our whole existence and unending joy.
This is the knowledge we forgot in the separation, leaving us in a state of chronic lack and loneliness. This is what we have been blindly searching for through all our wandering. This is what we head straight toward as we follow in God’s way. This is the sweet reward that awaits us at the end of the road. Our Love Himself awaits us with Open Arms. There, we will remember Him, the One Who was everything to us, the One we loved with our whole being, the One we have searched for through all the ages.
Choosing God’s way means that you see this one event as what your journey is for. You see your entire passage through time as an arrow shot at this one event. You see every day, every hour, every situation, every relationship, every event, every lifetime as having a single purpose–to bring you to the event which infinitely dwarfs the entire journey and everything in it: the memory of your Love.
And all my sorrows end in Your embrace,
What a beautiful line! Our Love has been waiting for us with Open Arms, and now that we reach the end of the road, now that we remember Him, He wraps us in His embrace. In the total love of this embrace, nothing else matters. All the pain of the journey vanishes. All the sorrows of the human condition, the sorrows we have carried since the world began, are gone. The sorrows were of the journey, and both they and the journey end together, here in His embrace. Why? Because at the root of each sorrow was the feeling of being separated from Him. Now that we are with Him, as the Course says, “where is sorrow now?” (M-15.1:12)
This poignant line reminds me of two other lines from the Course that express the exact same sentiment:
The graciousness of God will take them gently in, and cover all their sense of pain and loss with the immortal assurance of their Father’s Love (T-14.IX.4:3).
I need but turn to Him, and every sorrow melts away, as I accept His boundless Love for me (W-pI.rVI.207.1:3).
I suggest that you really spend some time with the above line. To help make it more meaningful to you, you may think of a particular person’s embrace that was so loving it made your sorrows melt away. Then imagine that embrace being multiplied an infinite number of times. And you also might want to detail some of your sorrows. List all of the sorrows you can think of, all those sorrows that will one day end in His embrace.
which You have promised to Your Son,
Can you ascertain exactly what God has promised to His Son, according to this line? It is His embrace. God’s promise to you is that, after all your journeying, you will end up in His embrace forever. How sure do you think a promise from God is? You might even imagine that you have an actual promissory note from Him, for is this not what A Course in Miracles is? In fact, you might try this: Take the Course in your hands and while looking at it, think of its origins, how it says it comes from God’s Own Voice through Jesus to you. Then dwell on this line: “This is the promissory note You sent to me, Your Son, promising that I will end up in Your embrace forever.”
who thought mistakenly that he had wandered from the sure protection of Your loving Arms.
Up until now the prayer has said that God’s embrace waits for us at the end of the journey and that God has promised us this embrace. Now the conclusion of the prayer puts a whole new spin on things. Do you see what that spin is? It is that we never left His embrace. We are still there. That is why the end is so secure. That is why He can promise that we will end up in His Arms. We are there right now and always have been.
Imagine the following scenario: You are within the sure protection of God’s loving Arms. In these Arms, you fall asleep and start to dream. And in this dream you “wake up” and leave His embrace. You wander off, and as you wander, a growing sense of lack and loneliness opens up within you. Yet this just provokes more wandering, for now you must find the special thing out there that will fill this gnawing hole in you. By the time you suspect that only God can fill this hole, it is too late; He is out of sight and you are not sure that you can ever get back. And this brings us more or less to where you are right now in the dream of your life, as you read this sentence of this article. For this story is no metaphor. It is the literal story of your existence. But remember: You never woke up. You are still dreaming. And so you are still lying asleep in the sure protection of His loving Arms. You are still in the safety of His fatherly embrace, merely dreaming that you are on a journey that is soaked with the sorrow of being separate from Him.
Let this idea into your mind as deeply as you can while praying this line. You might want to use this version, “I, Your Son, thought that I had wandered from the sure protection of Your Loving Arms. But I am still there. I am still there. I am still there.”