PRAYERS: PATHWAY TO GOD
1. Does Prayer Really Work?
Yes, prayer works -but not always in the manner we intend. We may not receive a particular benefit that we seek, but prayer still draws us closer to God. It establishes a line of communication with the Lord and builds his presence in our minds. And yes, many times our specific prayers are granted -although not always as we expect.
Prayer is a key, which opens many doors. Whether we are giving thanks or seeking help for others or ourselves we are working to understand our relationship with the Lord. Some prayers are praises to God, some are affirmations of his glory, some are petitions for help, and some are prayers of thanksgiving, but in all prayers we seek to draw closer to God. Prayer is one of the most basic and most ancient elements of every religion --- a model of positive thinking.
Prayer is the very breath of religion, for it brings man and God together and with every sigh, nearer and nearer.
Sathya Sai Speaks 7
2. How Do We Start?
When we begin our new spiritual life, our desires are like a runaway train. It is impossible to stop them immediately. We can only redirect them along channels, which reduce the risk to others and ourselves. If we switch the train to an uphill track, it will gradually lose its momentum and we can regain control. Prayer is the uphill track for our runaway desires. Until we direct our aspirations along proper lines, it is best to steer them to God. The Lord knows what is best for us; he will help us to direct our efforts along the right lines.
From the very outset it is necessary for us to practice the habit of regular prayer. A regular time and place for prayer help us to quickly concentrate and reach a state of calm. Regular prayer makes us aware of God's omnipresence and attracts his grace, for God is as close to us as we are to him.
At the beginning, one might need some special set of circumstances for clearing the mind for concentration of God. But after a while, if one finds that God is omnipresent and becomes aware of him and one's thoughts are centered on God, then no matter where one is it is the same. Prayers may be addressed to God and the prayers will reach him.
God knows what we seek, but it is up to us to ask. In asking we make a conscious choice of what path we wish to follow. We ask for specific results and thereby accept the consequences of those results.
It is your duty to ask God. Words must be said, and the words must correspond to the thought. The thought must be put into a true word. It is true enough that the divinity knows all, but he requires that the true word be said. The mother may know that to maintain life the child requires food, but milk is given when the child asks for it.
We must ask for what we want, but our actions should not contradict our words. If we pray for greater love, we cannot continue to harbor hate. If we long for humility, we cannot continue to strut about in pride. When we pray, we must also do our part to fulfill the request. We cannot receive grace before we have made our own best effort to secure our objective. Our thoughts, words, and deeds must all support our prayer.
Prayer must be united with practice. You should not pray for one thing and practice another. Such prayer is only a means of deception. The words you utter, the deeds you do, and the prayers you make must all be directed along the same path.
No one can instruct another when or how that person should pray. All of us have different needs and attitudes. What is appropriate at one time may not be at another time. The values and languages of different cultures also vary. It is not possible for us to evaluate the worth of another person's prayer, for all speak to god in their own ways. It is not the words we use or the form of God we address that gives prayer its power: it is the devotion in our hearts.
The stamp of bhakti (devotion) is what makes the prayer reach the destination, God; not the festoons, the fanfare, the heap of flowers, or the festive nature of the feast -offerings. The simple, sincere heart is the stamp that makes the prayer travel fast.
Sathya Sai Speaks 7
Prayers are not always answered immediately. Many of us wish for one thing today and for another thing tomorrow. We must show that our prayer is a heartfelt need. It must be sincere and pure to reach the Lord.
Prayers for worldly ends do not reach God. They will reach only those deities who deal with such restricted spheres. But all prayers arising from pure love, unselfish eagerness to render service, and from hearts that are all-inclusive will reach God.
Sathya Sai Speaks 7
3. What should we Pray for?
In prayer we need not request anything at all. Prayers may be best used simply to draw us closer to god --- to bring God into our lives and attract his grace. Prayer can then enable us to experience the joy and bliss, which God confers.
Our devotion and prayer to God should not be for the sole purpose of obtaining something or fulfilling some desire of ours. This should be for the sake of atma (the inner divinity) and for the sake of becoming one with the Lord and for the sake of getting the bliss that one can get by being close to the Lord.
Summer Showers 1974 It is best to pray for results, which reduce desires and promote peace, love, and understanding. These are the proper objects of prayer; they are the special gifts of God, which are not available in any shop. Perhaps the wisest object of prayer is for the removal of the obstacles, which block our spiritual progress. Persistence may be required for us to obtain our goal, but tenacious effort builds spiritual strength. The difficulty of our journey sometimes grants us added fortitude, as the strongest steel is forged in fire. If we listen to our loving hearts, not to the rationalizations of our minds, we will concentrate on proper goals. The heart is a wiser guide and is the source of true prayer and communion with God.
Prayers must emanate from the heart, where God resides, and not from the head, where doctrines and doubts clash.
Sathya Sai Speaks 7
It is important to pray for benefits which further spiritual progress. When we experience difficulty in fulfilling our wishes, it may be that we need to examine and possibly change our attitude rather than present circumstances. Many times the things for which we pray are obstacles to our spiritual progress. In fact, it may be best for us that most of our prayers are not granted. It is not always possible for us to determine the consequences of our desires. The following story illustrates this point.
A young man once had a simple wish: he prayed for a job so that he could leave his parents ' home. Next, he prayed for a wife to cook for him and provide a home for him. With the wife came children, so he prayed for a big house to put them in and a car to carry his family around town. Then he needed a better job to support all of his obligations. Finally the poor fellow was so burdened by his many responsibilities that he only wished to retire into the forest alone to meditate. Unfortunately his spiritual prayer could not be granted, because all of his previous prayers for material benefits had been granted.
God gives you whatever you pray for, so take care. Ask for the right things.
Sathya Sai Speaks 3
It is best to let the Lord decide what we should receive. He sees the past, the present, and the future of us all. The material objects that we pray for often increase our desires and make our lives more difficult. However, some material wishes may be granted so that we will appreciate God's benevolence. Swami says: " I give you what you want, so that you will learn to want what I have to give." Still, the wise course is to trust in the Lord to provide what is necessary for us.
Not knowing what we should ask, we are asking him for something when really we want something else. In this process, we are getting ourselves into difficulties. God is always ready to give you all that you want, but you do not seem to know what is good for you and what you really want. Since you do not know what you should want and under what circumstances, it is better and easier to surrender yourself completely to God and simply ask for his grace.
Summer Showers 1973
4. The Answer Will Come When the Time Is Right
It is beyond us to know how or why prayers are granted. So many factors are involved that we cannot hope to understand the process. Timing, karma, grace, the degree of personal effort --- all have a bearing on the situation.
There may be other reasons why our prayers are not answered. We may have karma to work out or lessons to learn. When we pray for a miraculous cure, we may not see the factors, which caused the illness. Some people receive cures, while others do not. If the lessons of that illness have not been learned, it would be cruel to relieve the illness, for it would only have to be repeated. But if the lessons have been learned and the debt paid, then a cure could endow the aspirant with new faith and determination.
It is always wisest for us to put our trust in the Lord. He takes care of our needs without being asked when we try to live a good life and dedicate our actions to him. God is our eternal parent; he cares for his children and tries to direct them in beneficial directions.
If a bhakta (devotee) has dedicated his all ---body, mind, and existence --- to the Lord, the Lord will himself look after everything, for he will always be with the bhakta. Under such conditions, there is no need for prayer. But have you so dedicated yourself and surrendered everything to the Lord?
It is easier for us to learn how to live in the world than to change it to meet our expectations. We can expect immediate fulfillment of our many desires. Through prayer we learn to accept that which we cannot change and to change what we can. However, some prayers do not even require an answer, while others may take a lifetime to realize.
Pray to the Lord for strength, wisdom, humility, detachment, light and Love. With each step in the pilgrimage of life approach Divinity steadily and surely.
Prayers, according to our tradition are essentially of two types -
1. Stuti and Stotra and
Both Stuti and Stotra are derived from the root word 'Stu' meaning 'praise' so stuti and stotras are adoration of god, his supreme power, and his splendor, his love and compassion for all beings. These hymns are a spontaneous overflow and outpouring of love and joy. They are also an expression of gratitude for all that the Lord has given us.
The second type of prayers are praarthanaas. This word has come from the word 'Praarth' which means to 'supplicate' to request for i.e. 'asking for something'. Thus praarthanaa means praying to god for succor, help, protection or for boons, either for material benefits or spiritual welfare and upliftment.
Prayers are thus a call with devotion, faith and confidence that He (God) will guide and charioteer us throughout our life and help us to cross the ocean of samsaara and attain the final goal of life i.e. Moksha or liberation.
In the Vedic literature prayers are called "Bruham". It is derived from the word 'bruh' means to rise high. Prayer therefore means that which rises unto heaven and reaches God. Prayers lift one's mind and soul to God.
Vedic prayers are addressed to different deities like Indra, Varuna, Agni etc. although prayers are addressed to different deities Vedas declare 'Ekam Sat Vipraah Bahudha vadanti' - meaning truth is one. The wise call it by different names. Vedic prayers like Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu are prayers for the welfare of the society as a whole.
Prayers, which are usually chanted, combine stuti, stotra and praarthanaa. Through prayers we invoke God and ask him to protect us and shower upon us his divine grace. As a cat responds when the kitten mews and picks it up similarly when we call out to God He too comes and comforts us. However one must remember that the call should be made with utmost sincerity and pure devotion. Draupadee's call for help was responded to by Lord Krishna. Similarly Lord Vishnu came down to rescue Gajendra when he was caught by a crocodile.
Just as food is necessary for the nourishment of the physical body, prayer is equally necessary for nourishment of the mind and soul. Even for physical well being and sound health, prayer is very much necessary. Whenever any action is done with an offering of prayer and by taking the name of god such an act gets transformed into an act of worship. Prayer helps us to control our senses, purify the heart and awaken the soul consciousness to establish a rapport with God.
Prayers according to traditions can be grouped as under namely:
1. Stotras and Vedic chantings
In order to supplement our poojas as per tradition we have different food as the food you eat gives you the thoughts so Sathwic food is eaten.