Most of us are inspired to pray only at moments of emotional upheaval, when failure, success, or deep fears overwhelm us. At those times in our lives, says Swami Swahananda, "something is stirred up in man's heart; faith in a greater being or power is born, and prayer follows. Prayer is thus the deepest impulse of the soul of man."
Many know prayer only as a form of petition, a plea for a desired object or state, either for oneself or for someone else. But prayer can also take other forms, says Aldous Huxley, among others:
Prayer as adoration: an expression of love for God Prayer as contemplation: union with the Divine.
It is these higher forms of prayer that chasten us and mark a passage into higher states of consciousness. This kind of prayer brought to its culmination is a silent "standing before God," an unbroken state of union with the Higher. Prayer then is no longer the activity of a supplicant relative to a greater power, but is, instead, a state of being, one of total identification with the higher Reality.
The urge to live a more complete and harmonious life; the wish to free the mind from the weight of worldly cares; the yearning to soar high and discover a diviner existence-all these can be fulfilled through prayer. Prayer is the most direct path for spiritual seekers. It is immediately available to all students at any level of understanding. It opens up humble and honest self-examination and produces a perfect realignment of one's relationship to the world and to God.
Surprisingly, many spiritual seekers may doubt the validity of prayer. They may waste precious time by putting forth their efforts into secondary religious practices, such as doing charitable deeds, following a pure diet, or studying scriptures. They miss the goal of all practices-direct communion with the Highest.
Perhaps the word "prayer" has been misunderstood. An unfortunate connotation of prayer is supplication, which implies a form of beggary resorted to by the emotionally dependent. This is not true prayer, it is only a preying upon the Lord.
Those who practice prayer know its power and the sublime heights to which it can raise the mind. If you try it, the saints say, you will know its truth. You will experience for yourself how a mind that has become twisted and bruised by worry, heavy with despondence, can within a moment of sincere prayer be completely rejuvenated. In this rejuvenation self-doubts and recriminations wash away, the mind regains confidence in the ultimate good of itself and of life, and the energy that was hitherto trapped floods forth with vigor. This is the incredible power of prayer.
Having purified the mind, prayer can lift one to even greater contemplative heights. The divinity lying in one's heart begins to flower, and in that flowering the ego gets weakened. Prayer than leads the seeker from the dualistic experience of separation and limitation to the immediate apprehension of nondual union with God.
In the following chapters, masters of several religious traditions address the greatness of prayer. Swami Swahananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, presently serving in Los Angeles, speaks of the psychological benefits of prayer: Prayer has the capacity of transforming a man's character. It frees the mind from selfish ideas so that noble ideas can rush in. The desires of the mind are transformed as one becomes attuned to the Higher.
In "Prayer as Invocation," Swami Chinmayananda, a renowned Vedantic teacher, explains that success in life is not accidental-it can be invoked by a strong will imbued with confidence. In the same way, success in spiritual life must be invoked by faith in and identification with the Lord. Prayer can be defined as the method by which the divine qualities latent within us are manifested.
Aldous Huxley concludes Part One, "The Meaning of Prayer," with an analysis of four types of prayer, showing how each one evolves to the next in intensity and selflessness, until the highest type of prayer-contemplation and union with God-is reached.
Part Two, "Appreciating the Divine," focuses on prayer as praise and thanksgiving. Dr. Abraham J. Heschel, a world-known contemporary Hebrew scholar, addresses the need to appreciate the Divine. Awareness of the Divine beings with wonder, a deep wonder at the mysterious gift of life. When one looks at life and wonders, the wonder of being fills the heart. This is true worship.
Sri Daya Mata, the American-born disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, discusses coping with difficulties. She inspires the readers to live with faith, prayer, and surrender, mixing with the worldly yet never leaving the divine plane. We all search for peace and joy. Where can we discover it? Swami Ramdas, who inspired seekers of this century by his great devotion to Lord Rama, explains that we must tune our mind with the Lord through prayer and constant remembrance of God's qualities. As the intensity of longing for supreme bliss increases, we feel his nearness and begin to understand that all is ordained by him.
The highest form of prayer, which culminates in union with the Divine, is the theme of Part Three, "Joyous Communion." Swami Chinmayananda analyzes the different concepts of God that have evolved throughout the ages. We see in various traditions that the highest religious experience is the state of absorption in God. By refusing to worry, by seeing all events as the Lord's will, by serving in the world to exhaust one's inherent desires, one can invoke God and live a continuous devotional song of joyous oneness.
"Interior Prayer," from the very popular autobiography of a nineteenth century Russian pilgrim, quotes from a Catholic treatise on prayer. The message can be best summed up thus: "We think very little of God's presence and do not realize that we should be as rays of grace.... The method by which we can acquire this gift is constant awareness of God's presence. We should practice this until it warms our heart and enflames it to the unspeakable love for the Lord."
The final chapter is written by the highly respected present Sankaracarya of Kanchi in India. He cites Sanskrit verses that illustrate the nature of devotion. He ask: Why should we have devotion? In order to make the mind steady. "If you meditate on a thing with concentration, you acquire its qualities, and at last you become that itself."
When we understand prayer in terms of invocation, even the most rational seeker of Truth can understand the vital importance of prayer. The perfection and bliss of our inner Self can be ours when we surrender our sense of separation and attune our thoughts to the Divine. As we concentrate upon the higher possibilities, indeed they will start unfolding themselves.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend