What is prayer? Prayer is out-pouring of the heart. What is prayer? Prayer is offering flowers plucked from the garden of the heart. What is prayer? Prayer is the cry of the wounded heart to the beloved. What is prayer? Prayer is the soul’s ascent to the mount of vision.
This word, this English word, “prayer,” means, literally, “asking.” I recall the words of Jesus spoken on a memorable occasion to his disciples. Jesus said: “Ask and it shall be given to you.”
Prayer is “asking.” Asking for what? And asking how? Prayer is asking for the key to the treasures of the spirit-world.
How shall we ask? And what shall we ask?
We have a beautiful word for “prayer” in the ancient Indian language, the Sanskrit language. That word is, upasanas. Do you know what upasana means? The literal meaning of the word is, up-asana, “sitting under.” That is prayer—sitting under the influence of the spirit. And sitting here with you, beneath these beautiful trees and under the ancient skies, I have felt that I have been sitting under the influence of the spirit. Prayer is sitting under—the influence of the spirit. Blessed is this evening when we, sisters and brothers, are met together with trusting hearts in this beautiful spot under the influence of the spirit.
And I sometimes say prayer is a voyage of discovery. For, if you but know how to pray, you begin to discover a mighty world around you—the spirit-world.
Many years ago, when I was in England, one sweet little English girl came to me and said to me: “Teach me what to pray.”
I said to her: “My child! The spirit alone may teach us what to pray.”
But she said: “You must speak to me: you must give me some words which I may recite every day!”
And I passed on to her the words of and ancient rishi: “Out of darkness lead me light!” and I said to her: “Recite these words and, in silence, meditate on their meaning.”
I was staying with the parents of this girl: I was a guest in their house. One day, I looked into a little room and saw her sitting—this sweet English girl—and she was lisping the words: “Out of darkness lead me into the light.” And she offered the prayer in such sincerity, with such love in her heart, I saw her face illuminated, her eyes aglow with light, and I said to myself: “I have seen the face of God.”
True it is, that from time to time you see a person filled with the spirit of prayer and gazing at his face you feel that you see the face of God.
And I sometimes say prayer is a voyage of discovery. For, if you but know how to pray, you begin to discover a mighty world around you—the spirit-world. And even as you learn to pray, more and more, you come in touch, more and more, with the spirit-world. To pray is to receive the key to the mighty spiritual treasure. Jesus asked his disciples to ask of the master.