The Essentials of Prayer
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?(20) CHRISTA PRAYER never goes in vain. A cry from the heart is always heard and attended to; but how, and in what manner, depends on the Will of God.
A prayer of a devotee never goes in vain?(21)In the Sikh scriptures it is mentioned that the Father God, ordained that He would freely give whatsoever His children may ask of Him:
Whatever a devotee asks of Him, that cannot but happen. (22)
He doth grant whatever is asked of Him,
O Nanak! the words of a devotee prove true here and hereafter. (23)
The Ever-kind Father has pledged to fulfill what His children may desire.(24)The Holy Koran likewise vouchsafes this very idea when it states:
God has said, call upon Me, and I shall accept thy call.And again:
O Rasul! whenever any person enquires of Me, tell him that I reside in him and I listen to his prayers whatever the same may be.In the Gospel of St. Matthew we have:
Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find;In actual experience, however, we find that most of our prayers do not bear any fruit. We have, therefore, to study the question critically as to what type of prayer is acceptable to God, and how that prayer is offered, and why all prayers are not accepted. For success in prayers there are certain essential prerequisites:
knock and it shall be opened unto you:
For everyone that asketh receiveth;
and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened?(25)
(i) Faith in God is the root cause of success. We may deceive ourselves and those around us, but we cannot deceive the inner power--God. In offering prayers, we run a great handicap race. We are not true in our thoughts, words and deeds. There is, in fact, no harmony among the three. We depend too much on our own cunning, maneuvering and scheming. We have no confidence in God and His powers. Our prayers do not arise from the depths of our soul. Far from being an anguished cry, we mechanically utter a few words of hurried prayer. It is just doing a lip service to God which is not even skin deep. No wonder then, that these perfunctory and ceremonial prayers for form's sake go in vain and are not heard. We must realize that God is great and that He knows our inmost thoughts and the very working of our mind, and have faith in His munificence, for:
He knows what lies within the folds of our mind,(ii) Surrender to God. With faith in God, the next step automatically is to surrender one's all at the feet of God. When the little self loses itself in the greater Self, the latter works and acts for and on behalf of the former. In such a case there hardly remains the need of actual prayer.
And is fully aware of the afflictions of all: the virtuous and the vile.
GURU GOBIND SINGH
O mind! be acceptable to thy Lord,(iii) Love for God is another prerequisite for successful prayers. We ought to be grateful to Him for what He has done for us without our asking, before we ask Him for further boons. We must love and respect His commandments and strictly follow them. We bow down a thousand times before Him but we do not, unfortunately, take His words seriously. Little do we realize that He is not apart from His words.
Be ye all humble and lowly unto Him?(26)
If ye love me, keep my commandments.(27)
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will,
and it shall be done unto you.(28)
Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give the desires of thine heart.(29)
(iv) Right attitude is another essential for expecting favors of God. Right attitude may be considered in relation both to God and to man. "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.Again, if we want God to forgive our trespasses, we must be prepared to forgive freely the trespasses ot others.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors ....
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses.(30) CHRIST
(v) Fear of God. We do not live in fear of the Lord. He is the very soul of our souls but we shamelessly do things in secret as if He knows them not. We feel ashamed to do a sinful act in the presence of a toddler of tender years, but have not even that much regard for the King of kings enthroned within us and looking not only to all our deeds but even reading our thoughts and knowing the drift of our instincts and propensities lying in the limbo of our subconscious mind. His fear alone can make us fearless of the world, but unfortunately we live in a state of perpetual fear of all and sundry and go about cringing petty favors here and there.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. (31)(vi) Purification. Purity of body, mind and soul is the most important factor in winning the love of the Lord. It may be considered in three different stages---Repentance, Forgiveness and Abstention.
Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (32)
(a) REPENTANCE. Nothing under heaven is perfect and each one of us has his own weaknesses. Sin has come to man as a heritage from Adam. Mind in man is the agent of the Negative Power, and it misses no Opportunity to tempt man against God. In daily life we slip at every step. Our best resolves turn into airy nothings when temptations assail us. Unaided we cannot possibly escape from the cunning wiles, subtle snares and wild clutches of Kal or the Lord of Time, i.e., the mind. It is only the saving arm of the Master that can protect us and rid us of its terrible onslaughts. But every time that we fall a prey to temptations we must realize our weakness and Sincerely repent for what we have done.
(b) FORGIVENESS. Repentance, though good in itself, cannot alter the past. Each act of omission or commission leaves its indelible impress upon the mind and singles us out for its reaction or fruit. In this way countless Karmic impressions go on accumulating day in and day out, making additions to our Sanchit Karmas (a vast storehouse of unfructified actions). Nobody can escape from this tremendous load which has a far-reaching effect, extending sometimes to hundreds of lives and over. Is there no remedy then, to burn away the powder magazine before it blows us up? The saints tell us that there is a way and a sure one indeed. Prayer for forgiveness is a positive weapon in the hands of a sinner. There is hope for everybody including the sinners. Saints come into the world to save the sinners and the lost. An association with a Master-soul goes a long way in liquidating the Karmic account. While He forgives in His Saving Grace our daily lapses, He at the same time enjoins abstention from repetition of the same. "So far and no further," is their admonition. "Go and sin no more," was the usual advice with Christ and Master Sawan Singh too, who used to advise his disciples to make a halt wherever they were and to sin no more. The past actions can be washed off, provided we refrain from sowing any more of the dragon's teeth.
(c) ABSTENTION. While repentance and forgiveness help us in escaping the effect of Kriyaman or day-to-day acts, we have yet to guard against future repetitions. No purificatory process can help us through unless we put a stop to the incessant round of the Karmic wheel, which gains momentum from our every act.
At times a magistrate may award a lesser penalty for a crime but that may not ennoble the criminal. In the dispensation of the Master, there is always the stern admonition which is so necessary an element in keeping a person on his guard. He has to wash a sinner clean so as to fit him for his journey Homeward. Like a Master-sculptor, he has to chisel hard to bring shape and form out of a formless piece of stone.
In brief, it is necessary that we must first of all mould our life according to the instructions of the Master, and feel a genuine delight in thinking of Him. Secondly, we must understand His Will and pray for those things that are to His liking; and thirdly, we must learn to accept smilingly His decrees whatever they be.
Last but not least, love is the soil on which life thrives the most. Lover gives and never takes favors. If one tries to live a godly life, all God's favors automatically flow down to him. One who loves God need not ask for any favor. It is enough for us to dedicate our very life to Him and become His bound slaves. It is up to Him to treat us as He wishes. To live in His Holy Presence is its own reward and there can be no reward greater and richer than this.
Downright heresy it is to pray,
To ask God to take the calamity away.
Thy frowns are fairer far
Than the smiles of many maidens are.
There is exhilarating sweetness
Even in thy frowns, O Master.(38)