In the Western Christian tradition, more emphasis has been placed on prayer as a means of communication with God, while in Eastern spirituality, meditation has been held paramount.
Sri Chinmoy expresses these two pathways in the simplest terms: “In prayer, I speak and God listens. In meditation, God speaks and I listen.”
It’s a common notion, that prayer is an ardent request formulated into words: our lost, weak, helpless self, beseeching a higher, all-knowing, all-powerful Being to fulfil our desired outcome. Words, and the desires they express, typically arise from our mind, so such prayer will inevitably be conditioned by our mind’s limitations and preconceptions. Our mind almost never knows what is actually best for us or for the world, so there is every chance our mind’s prayer may be misguided and not in our best interests. Yet it is infinitely better to pray with imperfect intentions than to not pray at all, for prayer creates momentum, which leads to progress. Our prayer reflects us; as we grow spiritually, so our prayer matures and blossoms.
Why the need for words – does not God already know what we need for our fulfilment? Yes of course God knows what we need, and is already offering all we need and infinitely more. It is we who are not accepting or receiving the bountiful spiritual wealth with which we are continuously being showered. The words of spoken prayers are for our benefit, not God’s. They help us become more conscious of our needs, more aware of our opportunities, more conscientious in our responsibilities, more disciplined in our practise, more receptive to our progress, more surrendered to our transformation and more grateful for the continuous blessings flowing towards, within and all around us.
Prayer awakens us, and points the way forward.