Once when a student asked me if it helps write letters to God, I said, “Of course it does”. He then enquired, “Do you also write letters to God and to your guru?” I honestly confessed, “I am not as much of a writer as I am a prayerer. I love to pray.” Whether it’s writing a letter to God or talking to Him, a heartfelt prayer always helps us connect to God more intimately.
I then reflected on an incident when as a seven year old, Danny, a friend in the neighborhood filled my heart with fear, and I was compelled to take shelter of prayers. He had taken me to his cellar and shown me his father’s possessions; hand grenades and pistols. My horror compounded when he showed me a framed photograph of Hitler, and revealed to me how his parents hated me because I was a Jew and they believed that Jews killed Jesus. He said even God hated me for this. I couldn’t reconcile to these images of hate and violence that were flashing repeatedly in my innocent mind. Trying to conceal my agony, I later asked my mother if God hated me. I offered silent prayers to God, after my mother’s reassurance that God did love me.
I often prayed in bed, until I fell asleep. In prayer I found a sense of shelter, and felt that someone was listening to me. I still pray, having learnt as a child that it’s the most powerful tool to perceive God’s presence in our lives and touch Him with our thoughts.
Prayers work miracles in our lives as life throws up unpleasant surprises; prayers help us access the special mercy of the Lord. Certain situations are extremely painful and our intelligence fails to reason how this could be a blessing of the Lord. At such times we could try humbly submitting a prayer, “Oh God, please give me the strength to see this situation as your mercy although my intelligence fails to see it so”. This way we can tap the so far concealed grace of the Lord, and develop gratitude for all inconceivable situations that God arranges for us in our lives.
A prayer session is our exclusive appointment with God. Once someone asked me, “If God knows everything that’s there in our heart, what’s the need for us to offer our prayers to Him.” I agreed that God knows us in and out, yet He loves to see us pray to Him. He feels great joy to see us offer our will to Him and turn to Him. Although our prayers may lack the purity of the great souls’ prayers, nevertheless God derives pleasure as a parent feels great happiness in hearing the broken words of his or her child, attempting to speak. God is certainly pleased to see us take baby steps in prayers, even if they are incoherent and a distracted performance.
We often underutilize the instrument of prayer by carrying material expectations in our hearts and expecting God to reciprocate with our worldly aspirations. Although it’s a spiritually healthy move that we are at least turning to God, still it isn’t a relationship based on selfless love. A sincere prayer doesn’t necessarily guarantee a material solution to problems; it however guarantees we remember God more, and thereby come closer to God. And that fills our heart with rich spiritual emotions and helps us transcend petty selfish pursuits.
An excellent way to overcome selfishness is by offering prayers for others. Sincere prayers for the well being of others enriches our own hearts with the Lord’s loving presence, and brings deep, lasting fulfilment; it also empowers us with the spiritual strength to serve others happily.