The Rationale Behind Prayer
Sri Swami Chidananda
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh.
God, not only being transcendental, but also being immanent, not only being immanent but also being a specific indwelling divine principle within each and every body, why is there so much difficulty in attaining that which is nearer to us than anything else in all the universe?
Even if the most proximate thing is by your side, if you turn your head the other way and look in the opposite direction, you will not be able to see it. That is the trouble. That is the problem. There is nothing wrong with God, nothing wrong with His immanence, nothing wrong with His immediacy. What is wrong is that our gaze is elsewhere. So everything is wrong with the direction we have decided to turn our gaze to.
Therefore, all the saints and mystics have prayed, “O Lord, bless me and grant that I may constantly remember You. Let my mind be constantly thinking of You. Let my entire being look only in Your direction, and may I have no eyes for anything else, no ears for anything else. Having ears, let me hear nothing except Your name, Your description, Your glories, Your praise–from saints, scriptures, teachers, mystics, yogis. Having eyes, let me see nothing except things pertaining to You, things that will help me to move towards You. Having a mind, let it think of nothing, but think only of You.
In this way, through all our faculties, let us become only God-oriented. Let all our faculties move only in His direction. Let us make up our mind, our entire being, to refuse to focus upon anything else except the supreme, ultimate, almighty, universal Spirit Divine, our ultimate goal supreme. This then is the way.
Therefore, we pray to the Supreme Being every morning to bless us that we may have the ability and strength to so do. We pray to Him. This leads us into another quandary, another difficulty, another paradox. All religions, all scriptures, all prophets have declared that God is omniscient. Does He not know our predicament? When He is omniscient and He thus knows our situation, why should we pray? Does He not know? Can He not set it right?
A baby knows nothing; it cannot express itself. But the mother, through her love and care, intuitively grasps, “Oh, something is wrong with baby’s tummy. It’s feeling discomfort; therefore it is crying.” God is more than father and mother. He is everything to us, ten times more than any earthly mother that Brahma has ever created. That being so, where is the need to bring anything to His notice, as though He doesn’t know it? Does He need to be told? He is the eye of our eye, ear of our ear, heart of our heart, mind of our mind. So what is the purpose of prayer, the meaning of prayer? This is the paradox and question that faces us when we say, “Prayer can overcome all things.”
A cloth gets soiled. We wish to make it clean, white and shining once again. So we put it in a bucket of hot water and add soap powder. We clean it. The water is not in need of the cloth, nor is the soap. They can serve many other purposes, yet we bring them together. Why? Because the cloth is in need of water, it is in need of soap. Therefore, it goes into the proximity, into an active, dynamic contact with the water and soap. And it comes out clean, white, completely free from all dirt. It is restored to its original purity.
That is the logic behind prayer. Not because the Lord needs to be told, not because He does not know. He knows everything. It is because the one who prays is benefited, is blessed by the contact he creates through prayer. Prayer has gained an essential place in the context of the mystical aspects of all the living religions of the world. They all emphasis prayer. Not because we are telling Him something that He does not know, that He has to be told, but because the very act of telling Him elevates us, sanctifies us, blesses us. Therefore it is that we pray.
Even so, let us pray to revered and beloved Holy Master that by his blessings we will be enabled to constantly keep ourselves in a state of continuous contact and communion with the Supreme Being, for that is the greatest good of man. In that lies the highest welfare of the human individual. In that lies the fulfilment and success of the pilgrim soul upon earth, success in ultimately completing this journey of life by reaching the destination–not having to come back again to repeat this journey, but making it the final journey.
Supremely blessed are those who are thus graced by the almighty Spirit Divine and blessed by their spiritual master. May all of you who sit and hear this word be thus graced by God and guru. God bless you all!