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GOD > Pathway to GOD > PART III : SPIRITUAL SADHANA > Prayer
(1) Nature of Prayer
The Divine Mind is unchangeable, but that Divinity is in everyone and everything — animate and inanimate. The meaning of prayer is that I want to invoke that Divinity in me. ... I beg it of myself, of my Higher Self, the Real Self, with which I have not yet achieved complete identification. You may, therefore, describe it as a continual longing to lose myself in the Divinity which comprises all.
Prayer really is complete meditation and melting into the Higher Self, though one occasionally does lapse into imploration like that of a child to his father. I would not call it lapse. It is more in the fitness of things to say that I pray to God who exists somewhere in the clouds and the more distant He is, the greater is my longing for Him and I find myself in His presence in thought. And thought, you know, has a greater velocity than light. Therefore, the distance between me and Him though so incalculably great, is obliterated. He is so far and yet so near.
(2) Source of Peace and Light
There is an eternal struggle raging in man's breast between the powers of Darkness and Light, and he who has the sheet-anchor of prayer to rely upon, will not be a victim to powers of Darkness. The man of prayer will be at peace with himself and with the whole world and the man who goes about the affairs of world without a prayerful heart will be miserable and will also make the world miserable.
It is a universal experience that every calamity brings a sensible man down on his knees. He thinks that it is God's answer to his sins and he must henceforth behave better. His sins have left him hopelessly weak and in his weakness he cries out God for help. Thus millions of human beings used their personal calamities for self-improvement.
Prayer is the only means of bringing about orderliness and peace and repose in our daily acts.
(3) The Essence and Power of Prayer
He who hungers for the awakening of the Divine in him, must fall back on prayer. . . . But it is not a repetition of an empty formula. ... It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without heart. It must be in clear response to the spirit which hungers for it. And even as a hungry man relishes a hearty meal, a hungry Soul will relish a heartfelt prayer. And I am giving you a bit of my experience and that of my companions when I say that he who has experienced the magic of prayer, may do without food for days together but not a single moment without prayer. For without prayer there is no peace.
Prayer is no flight of eloquence. It is no lip- homage. It springs from the heart. If, therefore, we achieve that purity of the heart, when it is emptied of all but love, if we keep all the chords in proper tune, they "trembling pass in music out of sight". Prayer needs no speech. I have not the slightest doubt that prayer is an unfailing means of cleansing the heart of passions. But it must be combined with utmost humility.
Our prayer is a heart-search. It is a reminder to ourselves that we are helpless without His support. No effort is complete without prayer, without a definite recognition that the best human endeavour is of no effect if it has not God's blessings behind it. Prayer is a call to humility. It is a call to self-purification.
(4) Patience Necessary for Success
Real prayer is an absolute shield and protection against . . . evils. Success does not always attend the very first effort at such a living prayer. We have to strive against ourselves, we have to believe in spite of ourselves, because months are as our years. We have, therefore, to cultivate illimitable patience if we will realize the efficacy of prayer. There will be darkness, disappointment and even worse; but we must have courage enough to battle against all these and not succumb to cowardice. There is no such thing as retreat for a man of prayer.
It may take time for the recitation to come from the heart, even as a seed sown has to be nurtured and bears fruit only in due season. If the desire to have God within us is there, progress, however slow, is bound to be. Man cannot be transformed from bad to good, overnight. God does not exercise magic. He too is within His own Law. His Law, however, is different from the law of the State. There may be mistakes in the latter but God cannot err. If He were to go beyond the limits of His Law, the world would be lost. He is changeless, unchanging, unequalled, the same yesterday, today and forever. His Law is written on the tablets of their hearts. They could become changed men and women, only if they had the desire of reform and if they were prepared for ceaseless endeavour.
(5) Period of Prayer
There can be no fixed rule laid down as to the time these devotional acts should take place. It depends upon individual temperaments. There are precious moments in one's daily life. The exercises are intended to sober and humble us and enable us to realize that nothing happens without His will and that we are but "clay in the hands of the Potter". These are moments when one reviews one's immediate past, confesses one's weaknesses, asks for forgiveness and strength to be and to do better. One minute may be enough for some, twenty-four hours would be too little for others. For those who are filled with the presence of God in them, to labour is to pray. The life is one continuous prayer or act of worship. For those who act only to sin, to indulge themselves and to live for self, no time is too much. If they had patience and faith and the will to be pure, they would pray till they feel the definite purifying presence of God within them. For us ordinary mortals there must be a middle path between these two extremes. We are not so exalted as to be able to say that all our acts are a dedication, nor perhaps are we so far gone, as to living purely for self. Hence have all religions set apart times for general devotion.
(6) Begin and Close the Day with Prayer
I believe that prayer is the very soul and essence of religion and therefore prayer must be the very core of the life of man. . .
Begin, therefore, your day with prayer and make it so soulful that it may remain with you until evening. Close the day with prayer so that you may have a peaceful night free from dreams and nightmares. Do not worry about the forms. Let it be any form; it should be such as can put us in communion with the Divine. Only let not the spirit wander while the words of prayer run on out of your mouth.