The kitten mews, and the cat runs to it and carries it away. Even so, the devotee cries, and the Lord comes to his rescue. Prayer is a mighty spiritual force, as real as the force of gravity or attraction. It is depending on God for help in distress and giving an opportunity to God to comfort the devotee.
Prayer is expecting God to decide what is best for you when you are in dilemma. From despair, one learns to pray. However, prayer is not asking or demanding. It is communion with God through single-minded devotion. Prayer is nearness to God. It is melting the mind and ego in silence in God; it is complete surrender. Prayer represents a mystic state when the individual consciousness is absorbed in God. It is an uplifting of the soul to the higher spirit, an act of love and adoration, and thanksgiving for all the blessings. Prayer is an invocation, a calling forth of spiritual forces ever flowing through the universe.
The blind, the deaf and the lame, the ignorant, the lowliest and the forlorn all can pray to God, for prayer belongs to the heart and its feeling. Prayer does not demand high intelligence or eloquence. God wants your heart when you pray. Even a few words from a humble, pure soul, though illiterate, will appeal to the Lord more than the eloquent words of an orator.
The child does not know grammar and pronunciation; he merely utters some sounds, but the mother understands. When others can understand the language of the heart, what to say of antaryamin, inner ruler? He knows what you wish to say. Even if you make mistakes in your prayers to Him, even if there are mistakes in the mantras that you chant, if you are sincere, if the prayer comes from the heart, He listens to it because He understands the language of your heart.
Sometimes the main objective of prayer is selfish, grossly earthly, unreasonable and irrational. We crave for fulfilment of our material desires. At times we even venture to pray to meet an inappropriate wish. It is here that we experience its negative consequences. Prayer should be selfless as far as possible. We should first pray for the good of others, for welfare and peace of the world and then for our own spiritual evolution; we should pray for the eradication of our negative qualities, for wisdom and knowledge, for goodness and saintliness.
The different types of prayer are illustrated in a simple parable of the good-natured millionaire who lived in a small town. Three beggars thought of approaching him for help. The first man went to the millionaire and said, O master! I want five rupees. Please give me five rupees. The millionaire was taken aback at the mans impudence. What! You demand five rupees from me as though I owe you the money! How dare you? How can I afford to give five rupees to a single beggar? Here, take these two rupees and get away, he said.
The man went away with the two rupees. The next beggar went to the millionaire and said, Maharaj! I have not taken a square meal for the past ten days. Please help me. How much do you want? asked the millionaire. Whatever you wish to give me, Maharaj, replied the beggar. The millionaire told the beggar, Here, take this ten-rupee note. You can have nice food for at least three days. The beggar walked away with the ten-rupee note.
The third beggar came. Maharaj, said the beggar, I have heard about your noble qualities. Therefore, I have come to have your darshan. Men of such charitable disposition are verily the manifestations of God on earth. Please sit down, said the millionaire. You appear to be tired. Please take this food, he said, and offered food to the beggar. Now please tell me what I can do for you. Maharaj, replied the beggar, I merely came to have the darshan of the noble personage that you are. You have given me this rich food already. What more need I get from you? You have already shown extraordinary kindness towards me. May God bless you! But the millionaire, struck by the beggars spirit, begged of the beggar to remain with him, built a decent house for him in his own compound, and looked after him for the rest of his life.
God is like the good millionaire. Three classes of people approach Him, with three different desires and prayers. There is the greedy man full of vanity, full of arrogance, full of desires. He demands the objects of worldly enjoyment from God. Since this man, whatever be his desires, has had the good sense to approach God, He grants him some part of the desired objects (even these very soon pass away, just as the two rupees the first beggar got are spent before nightfall). The other type of devotee prays to the Lord for relief from the sufferings of the world, but is better than the first one, inasmuch as he is ready to abide by His will. To him the Lord grants full relief from suffering, and bestows on him much wealth and property.
The third type is the bhakta; he knows the nature of God. He merely prays to the Lord, O Lord, you are satchidananda; you are existence-absolute, knowledge-absolute, bliss-absolute. What does he want? Nothing. But the Lord is highly pleased with his spirit of renunciation, desirelessness and self-surrender. Therefore, He makes him eat His own food by granting him supreme devotion. For ever after, this jnani bhakta dwells in the Lords abode as a liberated sage.
When prayer is of an emotional and dramatic nature, rather than a truly sincere voice from the heart, it becomes ineffective. It is here that we do not receive direct response from God. Prayer has its consequences. The nature of its response mainly depends on the inner nature of the person who prays, his temperament, objective, requirements, faith and sincerity.
Prayer should spring from the heart. It should not be lip-homage. Empty prayer is like a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. Prayer that comes from a sincere, pure heart is at once heard by the Lord, but the prayer of a cunning, crooked and wicked person is never heard. However, at times even sincere prayer is not responded to. This should not be allowed to mar the faith or sincerity, or discourage and depress. It should be considered as a necessity to test ones sincerity, serenity and faith in God.
At times this lack of response becomes repetitive. Now the devotee gets bewildered, begins to lose his faith, and sometimes is even diverted from the path. But it is here that he must prove his patience and steadfastness. Often God tests us with the severest of trials. But does it mean that He is unkind, that He does not wish to pay heed to our prayers? Obviously not. It is only a test, which the aspirant must pass through. His faith may not be strong enough; the dross of his mind might not have been cleaned yet.
How can the faith be strengthened? How can the dross of the mind be cleansed and the heart purified? It is only through tests, trials and tribulations that this is achieved. Just as gold is purified by passing it through the crucible several times, so also the heart must become pure, the faith must become unflinching, by passing through the crucible of trials again and again. Ultimately, all prayers are fulfilled and gratified. Therefore, when we pray to God or wish to receive grace, we must be prepared to joyfully accept His unresponsiveness and tests.
Attune your heart with the Lord by praying fervently and sincerely every day. Lay bare your heart to Him. Do not keep any secrets. Talk to Him like a child. Be humble and simple. Implore to Him with a contrite heart to forgive your faults. Beseech Him to bestow His grace. Do not depend on human help. Rely on God and God alone. You will get everything. You will get His vision.
Do not pray for the attainment of selfish ends or mundane gifts, nor for heavenly pleasures, but only for His grace. Thy will be done! I want nothing should be your prayer. For you do not know what is good for you, and you may be asking for trouble and praying for perdition. Pray that His righteousness might descend on the soul of all beings. Pray for light, purity and guidance.
Twine yourself around God for support. You will be free from the injuries of life. If you cry for Him, He will avert all calamities. None in this world can save you. It is God who likes you the most. Call on Him. He will run to you. Seek His guidance. When the storms of lust and anger, vanity and selfishness rage within your bosom, say a prayer. For the Lord alone has power over the elements.
When you pray, mentally visualize the form of the Lord, repeat His name and mantra and chant stotras or hymns. Repetition of stotras will elevate your mind and inspire you. This will keep your mind in tune with the cosmic power.
Greet the dawn of the day and bid adieu to the setting sun with a prayer of thankfulness; first for a fresh day granted, and last for His grace received. Thus your life will be blessed, and you will radiate His blessings to all around you.
There are no problems that cannot be dissolved by prayer, no sufferings that cannot be allayed by prayer, no difficulties that cannot be surmounted by prayer, and no negativity that cannot be overcome by prayer. Prayer is the miracle by which Gods power flows into human veins.
Prayer produces tremendous influence on the body and mind. It lightens the heart and fills the mind with peace, strength and purity. It purifies the mind, invigorates and sharpens the intellect and generates beneficial and healthy spiritual currents in the body and mind. When the mind becomes pure and sattwic through the power of prayer, the intellect becomes sharp and keen. Prayer develops the power of understanding. When you pray, you link yourself with the inexhaustible cosmic powerhouse of energy hiranyagarbha and thus draw power, energy, light and strength from the very source.
Only the sincere devotee can realize the usefulness and splendour of prayer, for it can reach a realm where reason does not dare to enter. It can work miracles. Even incurable diseases are cured through true prayer. When the medical board has pronounced a case to be hopeless, prayer comes to the rescue, and the patient is miraculously cured. There have been many instances of this kind.
Do not argue about the efficacy of prayer. You will be deluded. Intellect is a finite and frail instrument. Remove the darkness of ignorance through the divine light of prayer. The power of prayer is indescribable.