Guiding Light: The secret of prayer

-- Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai

The purpose of prayer

A disciple asked his Guru, ‘Do prayers reach God?’ The Guru replied, ‘You have not understood the purpose of prayer. A prayer is meant for you to reach God, not for your prayer to reach God. When a flower blossoms it spreads its fragrance. Does the fragrance reach someone? This question is futile, for the purpose of the flower is to bloom, not to ensure that the fragrance reaches someone.’

Why did this question arise? It is because the prayer was not an earnest feeling; it was merely a demand. Hence, there was an eagerness to find out whether the demand would be fulfilled or not. A prayer weighed down with demands is not a prayer at all. The sanctity of the prayer lies in desirelessness.

True prayer

Jalaluddin Rumi tells the Lord, “I am weak, O Lord! If I ever ask for something from You, please don’t listen to me. And even if You do, please don’t act upon it. Let Your will alone be fulfilled. My happiness lies in what pleases You. I don’t even understand what is good for me! Whatever You do is right, even if I don’t understand it.”

Is prayer meant to change the will of God or to change you? A true prayer begins as a request to change oneself and culminates in a tranquil, silent and thoughtless state of mind. On the other hand, any request to change circumstances cannot be called a prayer. That would be sheer begging.

Is prayer enough?

Another question that may arise is, whether prayer alone, is enough. The answer is - If a prayer is a prayer, it is enough. But the real question is, has your prayer come from the heart, or is it borrowed? Is it something you have learnt or read, or has it come from within? If it has come from the depths of your heart, then it is certainly enough.

How can reading or verbalising someone else’s emotions be called a prayer? That which is borrowed cannot be a prayer. No matter how many times you repeat the words, if your heart is not moved or your dormant existence does not start dancing, believing that such a prayer will be beneficial is a mere illusion. Only the soft emotions of love emerging from your heart can transform you, not the borrowed words.

Cannot be taught

Prayer expresses itself in different ways, in the form of tears or as dance. It has nothing to do with the vocabulary. Words may or may not be present. Only that heartfelt emotional state is necessary. Therefore, a prayer can neither be taught nor learnt. Prayer does not mean memorising certain words and then reproducing them. Prayer is not a specific set of words learnt and reproduced, as you may do at the time of examinations - write what has been memorised without having understood anything. Prayer must be from your heart. To say something that has been memorised is like replaying a tape. Whatever is borrowed, memorised or prepared in advance is not a prayer. That which is yours, spontaneous, and not rehearsed, is a prayer. The more prepared you are, the more superficial you and your prayer will be. For a prayer, there is no routine method.

A prayer is meant for you to meet God. It is different for everybody. Everyone’s way is different because everyone’s expression of love is different. Everyone’s prayer may be different but the inner state from where prayers emerge, is the same. Prayer is an inner dance, an expression of joy, a content state of being.

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