What we term self-effort and divine grace supplement each other. We cannot have the one without the other. Without intense and unremitting striving on our part, we can never experience divine grace. Mere prayer without corresponding effort will not bear fruit. It will be just like the man who, finding his house on fire, started praying for rain instead of trying to put the fire out through means available then and there. The proper thing is to do all we can and also to pray.
A little girl’s brother used to set a trap to catch birds. Thinking this was wrong and cruel, she became very sad and wept. After some time, the mother found her happy and cheerful and was curious to know how such a change had come about. “Mommy,” the girl explained, “First I prayed that my brother may be a better boy, then I prayed that no more birds may fall into the trap, and then . . .” she added triumphantly, “I went out and kicked the old trap to pieces.” So prayer is to be combined with self-effort to break old unethical habits and form new good ones.
Blinded by their own narrow ideas, theologians make too much of a mystery about divine grace, which they say can be attained only by following their own pet doctrines and dogmas. But the enlightened ones speak in a different language. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” says Christ in the greatest beatitude uttered by him. This is also the ancient teaching of the sages of India: “The resplendent and pure Self, whom pure and sinless souls, free from evil or impurities, have realized as residing in the body, can be attained by truthfulness, concentration, true knowledge, and perfect chastity.”