1. The Spirits have always said: "The form means nothing but the thought is everything. Say your prayers in accordance with your convictions and in the manner which is most agreeable to you since a good thought is worth more than numerous words which do not touch the heart."
The Spirits do not prescribe an absolute formula for prayers. When they do give us one it is merely to help us form our ideas and above all to call our attention to certain principles of the Spiritist Doctrine. Or perhaps to offer guidance to those who find it difficult to express their ideas, because there are some who believe they have not prayed properly if they have not been able to formulate their thoughts well.
The collection of prayers contained in this chapter are a selection of some that the Spirits have dictated on several occasions. They could beyond doubt have dictated other prayers, in different terms, appropriate to various ideas and special cases. But the style is of little importance if the thought is essentially the same. The object of prayer is to elevate our soul to God. The diversity of forms should not establish any difference between those who believe in Him and even less between the adepts of Spiritism, because God accepts all of them when they are sincere.
Therefore you should not think of this collection of prayers as an absolute formula, but rather as a varied selection of those received from the Spirits. It is a way of applying the moral principles as taught by Christ which have been developed in this book, a complement to their writings based on our duties before God and our neighbour, in which we are again reminded of all the principles of the doctrine.
Spiritism recognises the prayers of all cults as being good, as long as they come from the heart and not just from the lips. It does not impose them nor does it condemn them. God is far too great, according to Spiritism, to consider repelling a voice which implores Him or which sings His praises, just because it is not done in this or that manner. Anyone who wants to launch anathema against any prayers which are not within their own formulas will prove they know nothing of the greatness of God. To believe that God has some kind of attachment to a certain formula is to attribute to Him the smallness and the passions of humanity.
According to Saint Paul, one of the essential conditions of prayer (See chapter 27, item 16) is that it be understandable, so as to move our spirit. Nevertheless, for this it is not enough that it be said in ordinary language, since there are prayers which although they are couched in modern terms, say nothing more to our intelligence than an unknown foreign language does, and for this reason do not touch our hearts. The few ideas which they contain are usually suffocated by the over abundance of words and the mysticism of the language.
The principal quality of a prayer is clarity. It should be simple and concise, without useless phraseology or an excess of adjectives which are nothing more than decoration. Each word should be of value in expressing an idea and in touching a fibre of the soul. In short, it should cause you to reflect This is the only way in which it can reach its objective, since in any other manner it is nothing but a noise. However, in most cases it can be seen with what distraction and inconstancy they are said. We see lips which move, but by the expression on the faces, by the sound of the voices, we can verify that it is only mechanical, a solely exterior act, to which the soul remains indifferent.
The prayers in this collection are divided into five categories, as follows: 1) General Prayers. 2) Prayers for oneself. 3) Prayers for the living. 4) Prayers for the dead. 5) Special prayers for the sick and the obsessed.
With the objective of calling special attention to the aims of the various prayers and making their meaning more comprehensive, they are preceded by preliminary comments giving an explanation of the motives behind each one, entitled preface.