She sat in the dark corner of the chapel every morning in bitter cold praying for money matters to get better at home; he fervently prayed for his alcoholic father to turn over a new leaf and stop beating his mother and abusing his sisters; she prayed to find a life partner whom she can trust, love and respect; he prayed for the right job that would help him realise his potential.
Our journey on this earth is temporary. In this brief sojourn, we aspire to fulfil our dreams, achieve our goals and live a life free of woes. But this is easier said than done. Of course, life is not easy–it is a bumpy road. The Buddha summed up this bitter truth by saying: “Life is suffering.” Unfortunately, each of us can vouch for this.
Our lives are not devoid of misery and pain, though we all wish for such a life. During testing times, when everything seems hopeless, many of us turn to prayer, the ubiquitous solution to our woes.
An integral part of faith, prayer is an intention or a resolution. Precari, the Latin word for prayer, means ‘to ask earnestly or beg or entreat’. For a common man, prayer is a communication with god, or the divine, or an object of worship. It is a belief amongst most faiths that prayers are communicated either to a ‘source’ that is present ‘within’ an individual or ‘outside’ of an individual.
A prayer can take different forms. Some offer prayers by chanting the name of a deity, some say their intentions out loud, and others chant mantras. For instance, in Hinduism, it is a common practice to chant the universal sound Om. Practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism chant Nam-myho-renge-kyo and recite parts of Lotus Sutra as part of their daily practice.
Praying isn’t just about a higher power coming to our aid, but also about how the very act of praying can positively shift our thinking.
Whatever be the form, a prayer is about asking of, and thanking or praising the divine. It is about wishing for things to go well, for the fulfilment of our dreams, and for the happiness of our families, society, and humankind at large. Pranic healer Jeanne d’Arc says, “Geocentric prayers can be a part of certain kinds of meditation. Pranic healers who practise the twin hearts meditation send prayers to the entire earth for the wellbeing of all creatures. This brings about tremendous change in the practitioner. It not only makes one peaceful, but also inculcates love and kindness towards all beings.”
Of course, we are not the only creatures that inhabit the earth. And the secret to harmony is the wellbeing of all the inhabitants of the planet. The fact that praying for the welfare of all creatures brings about a sense of peace and calm in an individual, makes one wonder about the nature of prayer.
Some of us might believe prayers can do wonders, while some of us might question that belief. The thing is, praying can indeed be wondrous, maybe just not miraculous. Psychologist Archita Reddy says prayer has the power to influence our mind. She explains, “Prayer works on the mind at various levels. It impacts the mind positively, in turn affecting how we function on a daily basis.”
Praying isn’t just about a higher power coming to our aid, but also about how the very act of praying can positively shift our thinking. Senior monk Tenzin Legtsok, who teaches Buddhist philosophy at the Bangalore-based study centre Choe Khor Sum Ling, says, “When we set an intention, and we expect it to happen, we use our minds. That way it changes our mind. The mind has certain energies, so it is like projecting these energies of the mind towards a certain goal or aspiration. This strengthens our thoughts and reflects in our actions.”
Understanding the nature of prayer is a revelation in itself. Not many of us are aware that praying influences our mind, and positively impacts our daily actions. It transforms an individual’s inner landscape to improve his response to external situations. Perhaps, making prayer a conscious practice can help one transform their life for the better. Ultimately, isn’t it something we all strive for?