Since childhood days, one has been humming, singing and listening to numerous prayers. Consequently, we have developed some faith in prayers. Today, let us strengthen this faith even more, by gaining good understanding of, ‘what is the meaning of prayer? What are the benefits of prayer? How should we pray to God? To whom should we pray? What should we pray?’
This understanding will go a long way in helping us lead a good life and will also enhance our progress in our spiritual journey. Prayers, when performed with right understanding, have a tremendous impact on our well-being and spiritual progress.
So first and foremost, let’s understand what is the meaning of a prayer…
Prayer is a conversation with God!
It could be a conversation with the God within, or with the idols and pictures of Lords that we worship, or it could be with the divine beings we repose our faith in.
It is a wireless communication! Hence, prayers can be done anytime and anywhere!
Generally, our elders and Gurus recommend that prayers should be done early in the morning. The idea being, by doing our prayers first thing in the morning, we are giving it its deserved priority, before immersing ourselves in the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day life. However, in case we cannot manage doing it in the morning, there will be no harm even if one does it any time later during the day.
Prayer is an act of seeking from God
Param Pujya Dadashri says, ‘Prarthana’ (prayer) means to seek from God something extra, to aspire for that which is beyond!
Whenever we want something but are unable to get it or we are in need of help and guidance from someone but cannot procure it, we pray to God with immense faith, love and care in our heart. And our prayer gets answered!
We surely receive what we pray for, when our prayer is true.
At a vibrational level, prayers activate the energies of the divine beings that we seek assistance from. There are armies of divine celestial deities (Dev-Devis) who are eager to help anyone who is truly seeking their assistance. They have tremendous merit karma lying to their credit by virtue of their desire to help people find the right path. And since they are now in the celestial planes of existence, they have special powers to help the individuals seeking guidance and spiritual understanding to progress on the path of peace and permanent bliss. But we have to ask them for it! When we are lost, don’t we stop and ask someone the correct path to our destination?! Similar is the case with praying.
Prayer is a special request to God
Param Pujya Dada Bhagwan says, prayer means to ask God for a greater meaning! Prayer means asking for strength that we lack in order to reach our goal.
If our goal is to give happiness to others, every morning, we may heartily recite this prayer five times: "Oh God! May no living being in this world be caused slightest hurt through my mind, speech or body." And suppose someone misbehaves with us, we shall pray to Lord to grace that person. Instead of trying to change the person, it is better to have good intentions for them.
Prayers play an anchor role during one’s bad times
Sometimes, one resorts to prayers in an attempt to change one’s fate. For example, if we are suffering from illness or have had a misfortune, we pray to the Lord to cleanse our karmas.
So, do prayers help cleanse our bad karmas? Let’s understand…
There are different types of unfolding karmas. One type of karmas can be cleansed through prayers, the second type can be cleared away through real spiritual effort (purusharth), and the third type is such that no matter how much effort we put in, there is no alternative but to experience suffering. The third kind is very sticky.
In religious scriptures, these sticky or intense karmas are termed as ‘nikachit’ karmas, where one has to suffer the karma at all costs. However, at that time one can get some relief through prayers. Therefore, it is important to always pray. Prayers may not help dissolve the karma, but it brings relief to the person bearing that karma by rendering internal stability and peace to go through that phase.
Awareness arises when our karma gives us pain. That is when we pray to God that, ‘Oh God, save me from these karmas’. That is when awareness arises. God does not give awareness; it is by taking His name that awareness arises.
Param Pujya Dada Bhagwan suggests, “If there are a lot of external problems, there is a lot of restlessness, then bhajans are good. If there is immense restlessness, and one sings bhajans loudly, then things will calm down within. And for any other reason, there is nothing like a silent prayer.”
Prayer means surrendering our doubts and worries
Whenever we face any difficulty in life, we pray to God. This implies that prayer means surrendering all our doubts and worries, all our plans and entanglements into the lotus feet of God.
We daily pray, ‘I surrender to you, Oh Lord.’ Then why worry if we have taken refuge in the feet of Lord?
God has always said one should not worry. Worrying is the highest ego of all. Worries arise when there is a perpetual sense of, ‘I am the one who has to do.’ Lord Krishna has said, “Why do you worry, Krishna will do what is required.” Even Lord Mahavir has said, you cannot change the result of your previous life; not in the slightest degree.
Param Pujya Dada Bhagwan explains, “The person who does not have faith in God will worry. If you truly had faith in God, you would leave everything to him and sleep soundly. Who would worry like that? So, have faith in God. Wouldn’t God be listening to what you say?”
He further suggests, “Leave everything to God for one week and stop worrying. Then one day, come to me and I will help you realize God, so that your worries will be gone forever.”
Prayer is an instrument to elevate our being
Every parent must teach their children that every morning after they bathe, they should pray with a pure heart,
‘Oh God! Please grant me and to everyone in the world, the right intellect. Grant salvation to the world’.
If you, as a parent, do this, it would mean that you have succeeded in instilling good values in your children. At first, children may object, but after a while they will feel nice to say the prayers and they will respond positively.
A child generally learns the value of prayers right from an early age. This is when one develops firm faith that God listens to prayers because prayers said whole-heartedly definitely bear results. And in no time, God becomes the child’s best friend forever!
Prayer makes one humble
When one bows down and joins hands in prayer, one is acknowledging that one has yet to learn many things. So, when we pray, we are sublimating our ego and emptying the impurities within us. The lowering of one’s ego is in itself is a spiritually elevating process, a way to slowly dissolve our firm grip on our false sense of Self. When we pray for strength from God to dissolve our ego completely, we develop absolute humility.
Prayer gradually makes us one like Him
It’s a given rule that whoever praises the transcendent qualities that spiritually elevated beings have achieved; slowly that person begins to find himself effortlessly developing those qualities within him. It is a remarkable principle! When we pray, externally our attention is focused on the lofty qualities of the spiritually elevated beings to whom we are praying and internally there runs a hidden but strong aspiration to emulate these qualities.
Prayer helps us attain sweet and pleasant speech
The power of right conduct can be predicted through speech. Gnani, the Enlightened One’s speech is sweet and pleasant; it does not cause a negative reaction in anyone who listens to it.
To attain such speech, Param Pujya Dada Bhagwan suggests, “Every day you should ask with a hearty and prayerful intent, ‘Let no one be hurt through my speech, and let my speech be such that it helps and pleases the other person.’ One attains the right speech when one nurtures the causes of such speech.”