It's Nature and Technique

Individual and Public Prayers

    INDIVIDUAL prayer, there is of course no need to utter words loudly. One has just to change the course of one's thoughts from one channel to another. In it, mental Simran [for a complete explanation of simran see "Simran: the Sweet Remembrance of God"] is quite enough.

What is there in the quest of God?
Transplant the mind and see Him in all.
                                                   SHAH INAYAT

In public prayers we generally lose sight of real personal emotions and in spite of ourselves drift into hyperbole. In a prayer like this, there is no harmony between the mind and the tongue. Divorced from personal feelings, we are thinking only of the public applause of the moment. All the time we try to play upon the feelings of the audience, so as to draw more offerings from their pockets or tears from their eyes or words of praise for our accomplishment. These are more or less ceremonial prayers, mostly offered on the occasion of Urs or anniversary of the birth or death of various saints. Both Qawwalis among the Muslims and Kirtans among the Hindus fall into this category.

    These set prayers are simply the outpourings of devotees in the past and not the spontaneous emotional out-bursts of those who recite them, and as such are not likely to be accepted, nor do they bear any appreciable fruit or make any lasting impression on the participants on such occasions, whether the singers or the hearers. An arrow that does not take its flight right from the archer's bow-string, strung well down to the chest, hardly hits the target. Similarly, mere oral prayers, not coming out of the depths of the soul, fail to reach the Godman, who is also the very soul of our soul and is already aware of our needs more than we ourselves are.

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