“The Purpose of Prayer”, The Speaking Tree
Prayer plays a very deep and important role in our life, but the role is not to change our external circumstances. It’s not, “Oh dear God, please make me 6 feet tall, or make me 20 years old again, give me a singing voice that sounds like Mataji’s.” It’s not that. God could do anything, God is infinite, but for our own spiritual growth, the highest level is not about going to God like He were Santa Claus or someone with a magic wand, and it’s just all about giving us what we wanted if we were good enough for it. Ultimately, what the prayers to God should be – and this is what changes our circumstances amazingly – are, “Oh dear God, help me recognize who I am, the Truth of who I am. Help me see the
beauty and wholeness and perfection in who I am, help me unfold and blossom into the greatest perfection that I can be. And mostly, dear God, let me just be a tool in your hands.” That’s the highest prayer, just to connect with God.
Pujya Swamiji always says that when you talk to God, it’s prayer, and when God talks to you back, it’s meditation. So, when God answers our prayers, what we get is not a castle, a mansion, a Mercedes, a perfect figure, but we get meditation. And what is meditation? Meditation is that deep experience of the peace, the love, the wholeness, and the consciousness which we really are.
Prayer is very important when we utilize it to just go to God. It connects us to God, it’s the way of talking to God. But for so many of us, our lives have become just ways of getting what we want, so whether it’s we’re hungry and we go to the nearest drive-thru, we want something and we just go online and order it, anything. Everything has become this immediate gratification.
One of the examples that we talk about frequently is the example of a vending machine. For so many of us, we’ve learned to see the world and the Universe as a vending machine. So, we want something, and what we’re told is if you “just” do this prayer, say this mantra, get this degree, look like this – whatever our metaphoric dollar bill is – you put that into the machine, you push the button, and you should get out whatever you want. If you don’t, it’s that you’ve got the wrong mantra or a certificate in the wrong thing or the wrong Guru or you’re praying to the wrong God. Our whole model has become about getting what we want. It’s all about just fulfilling our desires, or, as Pujya Swamiji says, getting our lists. We go to God with a list. But instead of that, if we recognize that connection with the Divine is actually not the means but the end, that that is the goal, that when we are connected with the Divine everything else is automatically there, then suddenly there is no list, then suddenly it’s not about, “Oh God, now that we’re connected could you please get my kid into the college he’s trying to go to, could you please get my landlord to stop harassing me for my rent, could you please take off the 10 pounds I gained over the holidays?” Suddenly, none of those things matter because we’re connected to the Source.
So, we pray, yes. It changes our circumstances, yes. But that’s not because we’ve prayed for the outer circumstances to change, but that through our connection with God, our own mind has changed. Then, since our mind has changed, our reality has changed. We are creating our realities. So, it’s neither about just a sense of “accept it” and never trying to change it, nor is it about asking God to change it. It’s about asking God to give us that level of connection, that level of awareness, that level of experience of who we are, through which our vision changes, through which who we are changes. As we change, so do our circumstances.