By Swami Shivananda
The kitten mews and the mother cat runs and carries it away. Even so, the devotee cries and the Lord comes to his rescue.
Prayer is depending on God for help in distress. Prayer is giving an opportunity to God to comfort the devotee. Prayer lightens the heaviness of your heart by opening it to God. Prayer is expecting God to decide what is best for you when you are in a dilemma. Man learns to pray through despair.
A mystic state.
Prayer is not asking, but a communion with God through single-minded devotion. Prayer is nearness to God. It is tuning of the mind with God. It is fixing the mind on God and meditating on Him. Prayer is surrendering oneself to God completely, and melting the mind and ego in silence, in God. Prayer represents a mystic state when the individual consciousness is absorbed in God. It is an uplifting of the soul to God, an act of love and adoration to Him. It is worship and glorification of God. It is thanksgiving to God for all His blessings.
Prayer is an invocation, a calling forth of spiritual forces ever flowing through the human heart, mind, and soul. It is a great spiritual force that is as real as force of gravity or attraction. It is the very soul and essence of religion, the very core of man’s life. No man can live without prayer.
All can pray.
The blind, the deaf, the lame, the armless, the puny, the ignorant and the debased, the lowliest and the forlorn -- all can pray to God; for prayer belongs to the heart and its feeling, and not to the body.
Prayer does not demand high intelligence or eloquence. God wants your heart when you pray. Even a few words from a humble, pure soul, though illiterate, will appeal to the Lord more than the eloquent flowing words of an orator or a learned man.
The child does not know grammar and pronunciation. It utters some sounds, but the mother understands! When a mother understands the language of the heart, what to say of the inner witness? He knows what you wish to say. Even if you make mistakes in your prayer to Him, even if there are mistakes in the Mantras you recite, if you are sincere, if the prayer comes from your heart, He listens to it, because He understands the language of your heart.
Whose prayer is heard? Prayer should spring from the heart and should not be mere lip-homage. Empty prayer is like sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. Prayer that comes from a sincere, pure heart is at once heard by the Lord. The prayer of a cunning, crooked, wicked man is never heard.
God ever responds to the appeal of His sincere devotees. It is only the insincere man who says that God is deaf. He is ever watchful of the distress signals of His children. Open your heart to Him without reservation and the response will be instantaneous.
The practice of prayer.
Breath has been given to you by the Lord to be spent in prayer. Kneel down and pray, but let it not cease when you rise. Prayer should be lifelong; your life should be one long prayer.
There are no problems that cannot be solved by prayer, no suffering that cannot be allayed by prayer, no difficulties that cannot be surmounted by prayer, and no evil that cannot be overcome by prayer. Prayer is common with God, the miracle by which God’s power flows into human veins. Therefore kneel down and pray.
When the storms of lust and anger, vanity and viciousness rage within your bosom, kneel down and pray. For the Lord, and He alone, has the power over the elements. In thy supplication is thy strength, shielded by His mercy, and spurred on the path of righteousness by His Divine Will.
Kneel down and pray.
Pray not for earthly goods or for heavenly pleasures, but pray for His grace. "Thy will be done, my Lord! I want nothing for myself." This shall be thy prayer. For you know not what is good for you; you may be asking for trouble, and praying for perdition. Pray for Grace and that His righteousness might descend on the soul.
Greet the dawn of the day and bid adieu to the setting sun with a prayer of thankfulness -- firstly for a fresh day granted, and lastly for His Grace received. Thus shall your life be blessed and thus will you radiate His blessings to all around you.
Benefits of prayer.
Prayer is a mighty spiritual force. It is spiritual food for the soul, a spiritual tonic. Prayer is a powerful spiritual current. There is nothing so purifying as prayer. If you pray regularly, your life will be gradually changed and molded. Prayer must become habitual, then you will feel as if you cannot live without it. It lightens the heart and fills the mind with peace, strength, and purity. When the mind becomes pure through the power of prayer, the intellect becomes sharp and keen. Prayer elevates the mind. When you link yourself with the inexhaustible cosmic powerhouse of energy you draw power, light, and strength from Him.