The Steering Wheel
The dictionary defines prayer as a solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to God. Regardless of one’s faith, human beings consider prayer to be a channel of communication between man and his Creator. A prayer can be silent, spoken, written, a mental conversation, or even a song. It can be a petition to fulfill our wishes or an expression of gratitude. Many people also turn to prayer to find hope, peace and solace.
Some people pray daily and some pray in times of need. Some pray for themselves and some pray for their loved ones. So why do we pray? Do we pray to praise the Lord, to remember him, to thank him, or to ask him to fulfill our desires?
Often, we ask the Lord to take away our troubles and sorrows. We ask for material things that give us temporary happiness. But if we believe that the Lord is omniscient and omnipotent, then why do we feel the need to ask for anything at all? We acknowledge that he is all-knowing, yet we ask him to give us what we think we need. Perhaps this is why the Masters often remind us that if the Lord has the power to give, shouldn’t he also have the power to know what we need?
While it is every child’s prerogative to knock on the Father’s door, mystics enlighten us when they explain that while such prayers bring us comfort, they cannot change the events of life. What they do is give us the strength and willpower to face those situations. They remind us that happiness does not lie in changing the events of our life but in being able to adjust to them.
All remember God in times of trouble
But few remember him in days of prosperity.
Were they to remember him
In days of happiness,
They would never see days of sorrow.
Kabir, The Great Mystic
So as students of spirituality, do we use prayer to dictate to the Lord based on the desires of our mind or do we explain to the mind to stay in the will of the Lord?
Sant Mat teaches us that when we put worldly desires between us and the Father, we create a barrier that hinders our receptivity to his grace. Prayer is not a venue for the submission of our desires. What is required in prayer is submission of the self.
But prayer is often considered a spare wheel – something to turn to in times of need. But what if we could make it our steering wheel? Something we could use to steer us in the direction of faith and love? Faith helps us to understand that whatever the Lord gives us is best for us, and love makes us appreciate all the blessings that are constantly being bestowed upon us.
Mystics tell us that meditation is such a prayer. It is our steering wheel. It strengthens our love, faith, and devotion. It shifts our attention from the external illusory world to the reality that lies within. It teaches us to develop an attitude of submission. It gives us a perspective of gratitude, and there is no prayer greater than a grateful heart.
You, O benevolent Giver, are the paragon of generosity;
I beg for your grace, O Lord,
that I may praise no one but You
and never indulge in trading spirituality for worldly gain.
Saint Tukaram, in The Voice of the Heart
Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh defines prayer as real love and devotion – the yearning of the soul to go back to its own source.
He explains that meditation is nothing but a prayer. It is knocking at the door of the Giver. It is begging the Father for his grace, for his forgiveness, for what stands between us and the Father. In prayer there should be nothing between the soul and the Father.
No set words, no specific ritual, language or place is required for true worship. There are no social conventions and no mandatory rules for prayer. There is only one requirement – love. Love is the truest form of prayer. It is the life and spirit of all practices. True prayer rises from a sincere heart. True prayer is meditation, where we do not speak to the Lord, but when, in a state of submission, we listen to his divine voice and feel the intensity of his love.
The true mosque is inside the beloved and noble souls of God. That is the true and real place to worship God. The mosque of the lovers of God is in the heart. It is only the ignorant people who worship elsewhere. The beloved of the Lord remember Him by cleansing their minds and their hearts.
Maulana Rum (Rumi), in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II