There is no religion which does not have
Prayer. Normally, we think of prayer in terms of requests
made to God, requests for favours that is. Many of the standard
prayers do have built into them requests for something or
the other. In fact, there are even special prayers for special
requests, like recovering lost articles, for example.
For many years, I used to think that making requests is what
prayers are all about. That is to say, one- we praise God,
and two- we slip in our special request - success in exams,
success in recruitment interview, and what have you. I remember
once watching the telecast of a closely-contested cricket
match between India and Pakistan, being played in Sharjah.
There was a big crowd watching the match since there are a
lot of expatriate Indians and Pakistanis in the Gulf. The
camera showed lots of Pakistanis fervently praying to Allah,
presumably for the victory of their team! I asked myself:
"Does Allah have no better business than getting mixed
up with a silly cricket match?"
What exactly is Prayer? How exactly ought we to pray? And
why should we pray? These are things I learnt only after coming
to Swami. First and foremost, Prayer is a conversation with
God. It is just like talking to one's mother, for example.
And just as one is used to asking mom for this and that, one
also asks God without inhibition for various things.
Some object to making requests to God. Concerning this, Baba
says that it is better to ask God directly, than begging humans
for all kinds of favours. Indeed this is true. But then does
one have to remember God only when there is a request to make?
This is the question one must ask oneself. In almost all traditions,
children are taught [if at all they are] prayers that involve
requests of one kind or the other. But is this what we must
do? Is this what prayers are all about?
Prayer ought to be an expression of Love for God, an expression
of gratitude for God and above all, an expression of our willingness
for God. We must remember God not when we are in distress
but when we are happy. That is the first step in developing
unselfish love for God. In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna
that He has four types of devotees: Those who want wealth
and prosperity, those who are in distress, those who are thirsting
for God, and those who have attained Wisdom. God loves all
no doubt but He has preferences too. This also has been spelt
out clearly by Krishna and reiterated times without number
by our Beloved Baba. I call particular attention to His Divine
Discourse delivered on 24th May, 2000, during the Summer Course
[see, Summer Showers in Brindavan, 2000, p. 201].
I have brought up the matter of prayer because prayer is
the simplest and easiest form of meditation. People think
that meditation involves the whole drill of sitting down calmly
in the prescribed pose, closing the eyes, and slowly going
through an entire procedure. Yes, that is FORMAL meditation.
Formal meditation is very difficult, and requires not only
years of patient and intense practice, but conditioning one's
entire life-style to suit doing meditation. The Rishis of
old did precisely this, and a famous one named Patanjali has
spelt out the prescription in detail. As Swami has told students
several times, meditation is not easy in this day and age.
Nor is it required really, contrary to the belief of many.
He asks: "What does meditation really mean? It simply
means thinking about the Lord." Vivekananda put it crisply.
He declared: "Meditation is the constant remembrance
of the Lord."
Now let me tie up prayer and 'meditation' into a format that
even a child would find easy to follow. Let us just talk to
Swami, as though He is directly before us. We can certainly
do this, say when we are alone, when we are travelling in
a plane, and so on. This way, Swami becomes a real Friend.
Time and again, Swami says, "You must regard God as your
friend; this is better that being His servant." Operationally,
it is my experience that it is safer to be play the role of
a servant when in the direct, physical presence of Swami!
But when having a heart to heart conversation along the lines
indicated above, we can take the liberty of being His Friend.
In fact, many great devotees have done precisely this.
Besides this we must also pray in the usual manner to Swami.
Our prayer must express gratitude for the numerous things
we receive, known and unknown. If we enjoy good health it
is not because we are controlling our diet or jogging regularly
etc. It is because of Swami's Grace. If we are successful
in business, it is because of Swami's Grace; so on it goes,
and we must not omit to express our gratitude for it. The
list of things for which we must be grateful is endless. Besides
expressing gratitude for the blessings and favours we have
personally received, we can and must pray for others. Swami
likes very much when we pray for OTHERS and do not ask anything
for ourselves. That is selflessness, and God loves to see
that quality in us.
In short, prayer can become a very pleasant experience, and
one that we can eagerly look forward to. Prayer makes us think
of God and this is something many office bearers in the Sai
Organisation tend to slip up on, pleading work load and the
like. Abstaining from prayer has no excuse; one can always
find time to talk to God. More than anything else, it leads
to internal cleansing. The longer we put off prayer, the more
is the 'dirt' that accumulates within. In the semiconductor
industry, the foundry where they make silicon chips [like
the Pentium chip, for example] is kept unbelievably clean.
They go to enormous effort to constantly purify the air; otherwise,
the yield of good chips would go down drastically. In the
same way, we too must find time to commune with Swami as frequently
If we give this a serious try, we would find
life becoming very different for us. I say this on the basis
of personal experience. What a sea change it brings! Let me
conclude by recalling a beautiful and absolutely wonderful
prayer due to St. Francis. It goes like this:
Make me an instrument
of Your Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love;
Where there is injury, Pardon;
Where there is discord, Unity;
Where there is doubt, Faith;
Where there is error, Truth;
Where there is despair, Hope;
Where there is sadness, Joy;
Where there is darkness, Light.
O Divine Master!
Grant that I may not seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.