Prayer is said to be an act of communication between yourself and the Divine. It can be expressed in words, feelings or actions. In particular, prayer usually involves requesting a certain boon. In one sense we are praying all the time, it is just that there are many different levels and types of prayer; we may not even class it as prayer, but just hold various wishes and desires that we would like to come true.
Prayer can vary from the purely selfish ‘O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedez-Benz’ to the lofty utterance of Christ ‘Not my will but thine be done’. Here are some different types of prayer from the lowest to the highest.
Bring Other People Down.
It is a sad fact of human nature that sometimes we are more concerned with bringing people down, and not concentrating on our own upliftment. This kind of prayer is usually motivated out of jealousy or insecurity. Here we wish to see others fail and remain unfulfilled. Usually we wouldn’t dignify this kind of wish with the term prayer, but it may be a belief we secretly hold.
Poor Me Prayer
Complaint is the largest tribute heaven receives and the sincerest part of our devotion.
Another type of prayer is to half wish for something, but have a strong feeling we don’t deserve to get it. For example, we may pray to have successful relationships with other people, but at the same time we hold thought patterns that are self-destructive for relationships. We pray for harmony in our dealing with others, but lack the self-belief and inner happiness to make it a reality. Here we would be better of praying to overcome the root cause and not merely a symptom. It also brings to mind the old Indian proverb
Call on God, but row away from the rocks
In other words, it is good to pray, but we also have to make sure we avoid having the wrong attitude.
This is a simple prayer for material wealth, and success in the outer life. We feel that, if only, we can get that car, new job or material security then we will be happy. This is the kind of prayer that may or not be answered. But, the richest person on earth may be completely bankrupt of inner peace. It is often the case that when we get a new car, it isn’t long before we would like the next best model or another car; there is no end to this kind of prayer.
Pray for Health.
Often humans only pray when we are in great danger. Bad luck and bad health is a powerful reminder that even the most powerful person on earth can’t be entirely self-sufficient. To pray for good health is good. When we are sick and suffering, we tend to be more unhappy; to have good health helps us to be in a better consciousness and make progress. However, we can never know or not whether this prayer will work. Sometimes our soul may want to have certain experiences, sometimes it may be God’s Will for someone to leave the body. We cannot stay on earth forever. To make progress, the soul may need to depart the body. Therefore, it is best to pray for good health and a long life, but also with detachment. We pray to be healthier, but if we cannot regain full health we should also pray for the right attitude to deal with the illness. Then our physical illness can be an opportunity to make progress and not just a source of frustration.
This is a prayer for inner qualities. It is not for anything in the material world. But, for peace, love and joy. It is a prayer to be aware of our deeper sense of self. It is a prayer of spiritual aspiration that will help us face any situation we are in.
In prayer we speak to God, and try to ask for something; there is a feeling we lack and need more. In meditation, we list to God. We keep our mind and emotions still, we try to be aware of the vast Consciousness within. In a way meditation is a form of prayer because we are selflessly growing into that which we would pray. Prayer and meditation are like two sides of the same coin, each ultimately going to the same destination.
“When we pray, we ask God for what we want. But when we meditate, God showers on us everything that we need.”
– Sri Chinmoy 1
Not my will but thine be done.
Sri Chinmoy says the loftiest prayer was uttered by the Saviour Christ ‘Not my will but thine be done.’ [Luke 22:42] In this prayer we wish to become one with God’s will, with God’s consciousness. It is an awareness that if we can become one with our Source, then we will lack for nothing and all our prayers will be answered. We tend to be nervous of wholeheartedly offering this prayer. We feel that God’s Will will impinge on our freedom, but the great mystics and saints teach that only when we attain self-realisation, (Nirvana, God Realisation, Salvation) can we really experience the real bliss of being.
They say that prayer is the daughter of suffering.
But I say that prayer is the mother of delight
– Sri Chinmoy
Vilas Silverton, Bristol Sri Chinmoy Centre.