Worship does not consist in prayers and in external devotion, but in a life of charity; prayers are only its externals, for they proceed from the man through his mouth, consequently men’s prayers are such as they themselves are in respect to life. It matters not that a man bears himself humbly, that he kneels and sighs when he prays; for these are externals, and unless externals proceed from internals they are only gestures and sounds without life.
In each thing that a man utters there is affection, and every man, spirit, and angel is his own affection, for their affection is their life; it is the affection itself that speaks, and not the man without it; therefore such as the affection is such is the praying.
Spiritual affection is what is called charity towards the neighbor; to be in that affection is true worship; praying is what proceeds. From this it can be seen that the essential of worship is the life of charity, and that its instrumental is gesture and praying; or that the primary of worship is a life of charity, and its secondary is praying. From this it is clear that those who place all Divine worship in oral piety, and not in practical piety, err greatly.
Practical piety is to act in every work and in every duty from sincerity and right, and from justice and equity, and this because it is commanded by the Lord in the Word; for thus man in his every work looks to heaven and to the Lord, and thus is conjoined with Him.
But to act sincerely and rightly, justly and equitably, solely from fear of the law, of the loss of fame or of honor and gain, and to think nothing of the Divine law, of the commandments of the Word, and of the Lord, and yet to pray devoutly in the churches, is external piety; however holy this may appear, it is not piety, but it is either hypocrisy, or something put on derived from habit, or a kind of persuasion from a false belief that Divine worship consists merely in this; for such a man does not look to heaven and to the Lord with the heart, but only with the eyes; the heart looking to self and to the world, and the mouth speaking from the habit of the body only and its memory; by this man is conjoined to the world and not to heaven, and to self and not to the Lord.
From this it can be seen what piety is, and what Divine worship is, and that practical piety is worship itself. …
Piety is to think and speak piously; to spend much time in prayer; to bear oneself humbly at such times; to frequent churches, and listen devoutly to discourses there; to observe the sacrament of the Supper frequently every year, and likewise the other services of worship according to the appointments of the church.
But a life of charity is to will well and do well to the neighbor; to act in every work from justice and equity, from good and truth, and also in every duty; in a word, the life of charity consists in performing uses.
Divine worship consists primarily in such a life, and secondarily in a life of piety; he, therefore, who separates the one from the other, that is, who lives a life of piety and not at the same time a life of charity, does not worship God.
For a life of piety is valuable so far as a life of charity is joined with it; for the life of charity is the primary thing, and such as this is, such is the life of piety (NJHD 124, 128).
The Lord insinuates heaven into man’s practical piety, but not into oral or external piety separate therefrom.
For I have seen many who placed all worship in oral and outward piety, while in their actual life they gave no thought to the Lord’s commandments in the Word, believing that what is sincere and right, just and equitable, must be done not from regard to religion, thus from a spiritual motive, but merely from regard to civil law and also to moral law, that they might appear sincere and just for the sake of reputation, and this for the sake of honor and gain, believing that this would take them into heaven before others. According to their belief, therefore, they were raised up into heaven; but when the angels perceived that they worshiped God with the mouth only, and not with the heart, and that their external piety did not proceed from practical piety, which is of the life, they cast them down; afterwards these became associated with those who were in a life like their own, and were there deprived of their piety and sanctity, since these were interiorly defiled by evils of life. From this also it was made clear, that
Divine worship consists primarily in a life of charity and secondarily in external piety.
As Divine worship itself consists primarily in the life, and not in prayers, the Lord said, that in praying there should not be much speaking and repetition, in the following words: In praying, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Do not make yourselves, therefore, like them (Matt. 6:7-8).
Now as Divine worship itself consists primarily in a life of charity, and secondarily in prayers, by “prayers,” in the spiritual sense of the Word, worship from spiritual good, that is, from the life of charity, is meant, for that which is primary is what is meant in the spiritual sense, while the sense of the letter consists of things secondary, which are effects, and which correspond.
Prayer, regarded in itself, is speech with God, and some internal view at the time of the matters of the prayer, to which there answers something like an influx into the perception or thought of the mind, so that there is a certain opening of the man’s interiors toward God; but this with a difference according to the man’s state, and according to the essence of the subject of the prayer. If the man prays from love and faith, and for only heavenly and spiritual things, there then comes forth in the prayer something like a revelation (which is manifested in the affection of him that prays) as to hope, consolation, or a certain inward joy.