Sathya Sai Baba – How To Pray – How Not To Pray

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba

Great indeed is the efficacy of prayer. It opens the gate of one’s inner temple to let Ahura Mazda in. ~Zarathustra

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s answers to Dr. Hislop’s question on prayer are revealing:

“When you ask God, you rise to His level. You must ask God. To ask God is perfectly all right. It is your duty to ask God. Words must be said and, the thoughts must correspond to the words. It is true enough that the Divinity knows all. But He requires that true words be said. The mother may know that, to maintain life, the child requires food. But milk is given only when the child asks for it.”

Swami stresses that when there is real need, God should be asked to provide. But there are several doubting Thomases among us, who ask, “You mean prayers work? He can only give us what, according to Him, we need or what we deserve. Is it not? Will the Lord like to give us all that we ask for, in our prayers to Him? Under such circumstances what is the use of prayer?” Of course, all these doubts can be resolved.

So what then is “Prayer” all about? Prayer is the subtlest and most sublime thread that links the human soul with the Divine Spirit. It establishes a relationship between the individual and the Infinite Supreme. It is the winged arrow of human feeling that coalesces with the Divine Love of God.

All religions expound the glory of prayer. Every saint took recourse to prayer in his spiritual growth. There is no great man upon earth who did not offer prayers at the recognition of the Divine Hand guiding him. To many, however, prayer becomes merely a repetition of hymns or words. Heart-felt sincerity is lacking. Most often, if we are honest enough to admit it, we pray to impress others. Real prayer does not depend upon how many beautiful words you have selected to repeat or whether you have a good accent or not. Prayer depends upon the purity of your feeling and the intensity of your yearning.

Therefore prayer requires the possession of a feeling that is free from egocentricities, a feeling that is not corrupted or tarnished by greed, anger, hatred, pride and other gross sentiments. It is true that every religion has definite prayers that are revealed by the great sages and saints, encompassing in them lofty ideas and thoughts. However, if you repeat them mechanically without entering into the beauty and grandeur of the meaning and the feeling that are encompassed by those words, you are merely depleting the energy of your speech.

Swami has been saying this all along. For the acquisition of the Grace of the Lord and the resulting Awareness of the Reality, the quality of peace is the prime need. Every aspirant is aware how Draupadi received the Grace of the Lord, through her righteousness and her piety. Though her husbands were mighty heroes and famous monarchs, she sought refuge in Lord Krishna, feeling that all others are of no use. Prahlada sought refuge under different circumstances. He surrendered all at birth to the Lord; he knew that the Lord was ever by his side and that he was ever by the side of his Lord; so he had no need to call out to him for protection. Prahlada was unaware of anything except the Lord; he could not distinguish between one function of the Lord and another. So how could he pray for protection? For all such God-intoxicated and dedicated souls, prayer is unnecessary. But for a majority of people prayer is necessary to keep us on the right path, the path that leads straight to God.

The Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) has said, “Be constant in prayer, and give charity and worship with the worshipful. And seek help with patience and prayer, though it is indeed hard except for the humble.”

Swami even guides us to the extent of laying down the track that we are to follow. He says, regular prayers twice a day will give the devotee strength and courage. He adds, the Grace of God can confer mental peace and so good sleep and rest for the mind.

“Feel that you are a hundred per cent dependent on God; He will look after you and save you from harm and injury. When you go to bed, offer thankful homage to Him for guiding and guarding you throughout the day. Activity must be dedicated to God, the highest good. Then it will provide health of body and mind.”

Swami in one of His conversations with Dr John Hislop, has said, “Whenever and wherever you put yourself in touch with God, that is the state of meditation.” Swami goes on to say that prayer must be united with practice. “You should not pray for one thing and practice another. The words you utter, the deeds you do, the prayers you utter, must all be along the same path.”

One-pointedness is all-important. Prayer first needs honesty, the acceptance of what one really is, of sincerely acknowledging that one is in need of Divine help. There has been enough documented evidence of the power of prayer. Recently doctors across the United States, in several hospitals recommended prayer as a part of the treatment of the ill. The doctors too sit and pray along with the patients. And it has been proved that the rate of recovery of those praying patients who have undergone even major surgeries, to be much faster than those who did not pray. — J. Prasad

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