Chapter 7.4 from "Study Circles for Divinity"
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7.4  PRAYER

WISE SAYINGS FROM DIFFERENT FAITHS

"Great indeed is the efficacy of prayer. It opens the gate of one's inner temple to let Ahura Mazda in."    Zarathushtra

"Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; 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."    Jesus Christ

"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."    Jesus Christ

"And 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, those who consider that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to God."    Mohammed



FROM DISCOURSES OF SAI BABA

WHAT IS PRAYER?

What is prayer?  What is the purpose of prayers?

Prayer is the breath of religion; its purpose is to bring man and God together. Prayer involves asking the Lord for whatever you desire. You must always be careful about your thoughts, your unspoken prayers, because God, who is the ruler of all destiny, will give you what you ask for if you ask sincerely. But take great care. Only ask Him for that which is truly beneficial. "Whatever you ask for in prayer you shall receive..." Matt 21:22 Prayer for wealth may eventually make you rich, but how many millionaires find true happiness?

WHEN TO PRAY

Hislop:  Is not praying to God the same as begging?
Sai:    To beg from an equal puts you down and him up. But when you ask God, you rise up to His level. You must ask God. To ask God is perfectly alright. It is not begging.
Hislop:    But I had thought that since God knows each problem, that if it was appropriate to remedy the trouble, God would do so without being asked.
Sai:    Important answer! No. It is your duty to ask God. Words must be said, and the words must correspond to the thought. The thought must be put into a true word. It is true enough that the Divinity knows all. But He requires that the true word be said. The mother may know that, to maintain life, the child requires food. But milk is given when the child asks for it.
Hislop:    It is not clear when one should ask God and when one should not. For example, there is a headache that doctors seem unable to cure. I do not ask Swami to cure the headache; I do not pray for a cure. However, in a letter, Swami wrote: "How is your health? Do not worry about that. Your God is always with you, in you, around you."
Sai:    That is right. What Baba said is enough. For you, body identification is weakening. You have a headache today, a stomach pain tomorrow. Let it go. Don't worry about it. You are not the body. Once Baba has told you not to worry, there is no need to ask Him about it. Don't identify.
Hislop:    Does Swami mean that for those persons still fully identified with the body, a continuous headache might be a proper subject for prayer?
Sai:    Yes, but why bother Swami about a mere headache? You may tell others the same.
Hislop:    Then, it is really alright to ask God?
Sai:    When there is a real need, God should be asked to provide. A child asks parents for peppermint candy, and the parents give it. When older, it asks the parents for property, and receives it. It is by right that the child asks, and it is by right that it receives. A child may ask a stranger for peppermint once or twice and expect to receive it. But even if he asks for it, he may not expect to receive property from a stranger. God is not bothered by a multitude of small requests, and He will certainly give property (things of great value). Therefore, one should always ask God to meet needs. It is the individual's right to ask. There  is no question of begging.
Hislop:    Swami said that in praying to God, the petitioner raises himself to the level of God. In order to make such a prayer, in what state or condition should one first put himself?
Sai:    It is not necessary to put oneself into any particular state of meditation.
Hislop:    Usually, the idea is that one should go to a quiet place and be in a quiet mood when he wishes to pray.
Sai:    Whenever and wherever you put yourself in touch with God, that is the state of meditation. You may feel that 1pm in California is not a good time to call Me, for I may be asleep in India and I should not be disturbed. I know you have felt like that once or twice. But, I am omnipresent; I have no such limitations. I never sleep. In the middle of the night, I turn off the light and rest in bed, because if the light is on, devotees will gather. I have no need of sleep. But you need at least four hours of sleep.
Hislop:    If I am walking in the street with people around and my mind is engaged with things I must do, is that a good time for prayer?
Sai:    At the beginning, one might need some special set of circumstances for clearing the mind for concentration on God. But after a while, if one finds that God is omnipresent and becomes aware of Him and one's thoughts are centred on God, then no matter where you are it is the same. Prayers may be addressed to God and the prayer will reach Him. (CSSB 42)

MORNING AND EVENING PRAYERS

A person may boast of the vast treasures in the vaults of his bank, but he will get credit only for that which he has actually earned and deposited therein. Do not fritter away the time allotted to you; offer it to Krishna, who is the Embodiment of Time. Know that waking from sleep is but birth and going into sleep is death. On waking, pray every morning of your life:

"Oh Lord, I am born now from the womb of sleep.
I am determined to carry out all tasks this day as offerings to Thee, with Thee ever present before my mind's eye.
Make my words, thoughts and deeds sacred and pure;
Let me not inflict pain on anyone;
Let no one inflict pain on me;
Direct me, guide me this day."

And when you enter the portals of sleep at night, pray:

"Oh Lord!
The tasks of this day, whose burden I placed on you this morning, are over.
It was You who made me walk, talk, think and act;
I therefore place at Thy Feet all my words, thoughts and deeds.
My task is done.
Receive me, I am coming back to You."

Adopt these as your daily prayers. The best thing is to have your own Self as the source of light, as the guru. The inner intelligence, the inner guru, will reveal the truth. This prayerful attitude will so educate your impulses that the inner intelligence will be fully revealed. (270761)

NEED FOR PRAYER

Of what avail is prayer? Will the Lord gratify all that we ask for in our prayers? He can give us only 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.

If the devotee has dedicated his all, body, mind and existence, to the Lord, He will Himself look after everything, for He will always be with him. Under such conditions, there is no need for prayer. But, have you so dedicated yourself and surrendered everything to the Lord? No. When losses occur, or calamities come, or plans go awry, the devotee blames the Lord. Some, on the other hand, pray to Him to save them. Avoiding both these, as well as the reliance on others, if complete faith is placed on the Lord at all times, why should He deny you His Grace? Why should He desist from helping you? Men do not rely fully and unswervingly on the Lord; therefore, though you have to be the agent and the instrument doing everything, keep on praying with devotion and faith. Faith is the product of peace, not of haste and hurry.

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 deserved the Grace of the Lord, through her righteousness and her peace. Though her husbands were mighty heroes, and far-famed monarchs, she sought refuge in Lord Krishna, feeling that all others are of no use. But Prahlada did not seek refuge under similar circumstances. He had 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 the 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; he who did not know that He punished? For all such God-intoxicated and dedicated souls, prayer is unnecessary.

But until that stage is reached, prayer in an attitude of peace is essential for aspirants. Prayer of this type will promote equanimity. The Lord can be prayed to by means of contemplation on God, repetition of the Name, meditation or devotional singing. In every one of these, the chief item is the Divine Name. That is why Krishna spoke in the Gita of the discipline of offering the Name. When repetition of the Name is done, it is better to recite aloud, and make it a spiritual song. This will inspire the gathering. If spiritual songs are sung in a sweet voice, people will be drawn towards the Lord. Gradually, it will develop into the Love for God, and his Grace will follow in due course. One should patiently wait for that Grace. (Prasanthi V 16)

PRAYER MUST BE UNITED WITH PRACTICE

Certain others declare that prayer can bring about world peace and they ask people to pray. Of course, it is good to pray; but, peace can never be gained by that alone. Prayer must be united with practice. You should not pray for one thing and practise another. Such prayer is only a means of deception. The words you utter, the deeds you do, the prayers you make must all be directed along the same path. While repeating prayers for world peace, if you cannot patiently put up with others, if you slander others and look down upon them, you yourself will have no peace; you will have turmoil instead! And with the turmoil, all the attendant sorrow and pain!

Through world peace, individual peace too can be cultivated. When food is taken by the hand to the mouth, chewed and swallowed, the essence spreads to every part of the body. So also if the hands are engaged in acts promoting peace and the tongue engaged in prayers for peace. By these two means, the essence of peace will spread into all parts of the world, which is but the body of the Lord. The peace of the world is the basis for genuine peace. (Prasanthi V 40)

PRAY WITH LOVE

Christmas means the Mass that is held on the birthday of Christ. It is fundamentally a sacred religious rite. To deal with it as if it is a festival for drinking and dancing or only for recalling Jesus to memory is very wrong. The day must be spent in prayer; not merely this day, but cultivate the spiritual practice of prayer as a normal way of life. Prayers for worldly ends do not reach God. They will reach only those deities who deal with such restricted spheres. But all prayers arising from pure love, unselfish eagerness to render service and from hearts that are all inclusive will reach God. For God is the very Embodiment of Love. We know that we have to see the moon only through moonlight. So too God who is love can be realised only through love. Love is God; live in love. That is the message I give you. (241280)

Jesus announced, "Ask, it shall be given. Call, I shall answer. Knock, the door will be opened." Of course you are asking, calling and knocking. But, what are you asking for? Trivial glittering trash is what you prefer; not everlasting delight. When what you ask for is not given, do not condemn the mother as cruel. She does not feed a sick child the delicacies it demands. Her affection dictates that apparent cruelty. So too, God's mercy is patent in His refusal to give what you ask for.

You are calling out but you are not answered often. Why? You address someone other than God. The call does not arise from your heart. The yearning is not total. The motive is selfish and impure. You are knocking the door and complaining that it is not opened. God is residing in your own heart but you have locked that heart so that love cannot enter. So, He is silent and unresponsive. The door need not be opened for you to become aware of the God within. It is ever open for love. Knocking is unnecessary. Love will automatically make the heart bright with light and delight. When the One is known, there is no more asking. (211082)

PRAY FOR GOD'S GRACE

The moral of this story is that although God is present before you, playing with you and talking with you, you do not know what to ask, when to ask and where to ask. Not knowing what we should ask, we ask him for something while really we want something else. In this process, we are getting ourselves into difficulties. God is always ready to give you all that you want but you do not seem to know what is good for you and what you really want. Since you do not know what you should want and under what circumstances, it is better and easier to surrender yourself completely to God and simply ask for His Grace. (SSB 73,134)

 
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