The fewer the words, the better the prayer. Martin Luther
Across the world, prayer is the common medium of reaching up to the divine and uniformly it is always verbose and repetitive. Part of this notion of prayer being verbose and repetitive could be attributed to the fact that when the concept of prayer emerged most people were illiterate and not confident that they could talk to the almighty. The priests then preferred to have common verbose prayers that could be easily memorized and repeated. The also tailored prayers for certain occasions, festivals, celebrations etc. so that the mood and essence of the occasion is addressed. Ever since prayer has become central to religion but more significantly has emerged as a means to express ourselves albeit in a most hackneyed and contrite way.
In reality prayer is a communication with the almighty and this means one has to be spontaneous, free and frank. Prayer has no rigid format and that is another salient feature of this form of communication; one can communicate as one adult to another or as a child to a parent or as a friend to a friend. Since communication is a two process, it implies that one has to listen to the response to our communication. However this provides the biggest challenge for all our answers are heard only in the silence of our hearts. More often than not, our hearts are filled with anxiety, worries, hopes, expectations and so it is never silent nor attentive. As a result, while we seek to unburden or thank, we are never ever sure if our passionate pleas or entreats are ever heard or acknowledged. As a result, our rote prayers become more fervent, less personalized and often end up as a bargain with the almighty.
There is another aspect of prayer that is less understood and never emphasized. It is said that action speaks louder than words and this is applicable to prayer too. Most people find it hard to visualize action in the form of helping people, volunteering our time and efforts, taking some leadership roles in society etc. as being akin to prayer. In reality, prayer in the conventional form is relatively more passive, less action oriented and definitely more stereotype. If one were to roll up the sleeves and taken on some work that would benefit people at large that would be a more heartfelt prayer. Action needs more than just effort; it needs commitment of time, focused attention and is always result oriented. When you help others, there is sense of achievement a feeling of fulfillment and then the verbose prayers are almost always directed towards success of our activity and rarely self centered.
The best prayers are always those which focus on thankfulness, gratefulness and acknowledgment and appreciation. For such prayers we do not require too much verbosity and in addition it is more positive and humbling. When we volunteer and actively participate in the needs of society, when we take out time to devote to our specific project and when our commitment is unconditional and complete, there can never be a more powerful and devoted prayer.
Remember: “It is in vain to expect our prayers to be heard, if we do not strive as well as pray.” Aesop quotes
- List out 3 or more blessings for which you are always grateful to the almighty. If there was one more blessing you sought what would it be and why?
- Over the last 5 years, what were the practical things you did out of the way as a gesture of help and good will for your fellow men? Can you additionally choose a specific cause and commit yourself to it?
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