3 Lessons to Learn to Pray Effectively

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Prayer has been an indispensable part of almost all religions. Without praying, humans can get too involved in their own life forgetting the vast reality of which they’re only a part.

Despite being a crucial part of all religious practices, one hardly learns how to do it effectively. Those who try prayer soon find out to their disappointment that things aren’t working the way they want them to.

I, for one, was like that throughout my childhood. I never thought prayers worked but prayed nevertheless to fit in during a religious ceremony or gathering. God, was a familiar, though distant concept that I’d never cared to think about.

As you can guess, my prayers were highly ineffective. Growing up, I always found it hard to believe in God as a judgmental being granting favors and punishing evildoers. It seemed to be more like the definition of a court judge.

Thankfully, when I found the true meaning of religious teachings through yoga, I realized the purpose behind all of it, including how we can make prayer effective.

How Do You Expect God to Listen if You Don’t Say It Clearly?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”

(Luke 10:27)

“God doesn’t listen,” is the common cry of most souls. But why should He? We rarely pray to Him with all our heart, mind, and soul. While praying, we find ourselves endlessly distracted.

We might want to pray for the health of a loved one but our mind is fixed on trivial matters like what’s being cooked for lunch, when is the next meeting scheduled, and so on.

If you keep thinking about hundred different things, how will God know what you really want? Therefore, if you pray with full concentration, your chances of receiving a response increase tremendously.

Mindless repetition of a prayer will not get you anywhere. A sincere, loving call made to God while focusing your mind totally on Him will yield results, even if done for a few seconds.

In India, it’s a common practice to ask saints and sadhus (holy men) for a blessing of every kind. Why? Because these saints have their consciousness attuned to God. They have their minds firmly fixed on God, at least relatively.

Another way to think about it is this — if many children are crying out loud for attention, to whom will the mother listen? The one who wants nothing else but her; the one who is persistent in his longing.

Thus, we have to work to improve our concentration and raise our consciousness to “get our word across” to God lest he will remain ever distant to our beings. Swami Kriyananda put it succinctly when he said,

“God answers all prayers. Restless prayers, however, He answers only a little bit.”

To Whom Will God Give More — a Beggar or A Child?

“Too often, prayer is more like the halfhearted mumbling of a beggar than the confident, loving demand of a friend.”

Swami Kriyananda

As people often believe in God being like a King or a Queen from whom favors are to be begged for, they pray like a beggar. Many prayers plead God for intervention and beg for His mercy.

Beggarly prayers instill the consciousness of separation — that we are separate from God. In reality, however, we’re children of God and we do have every right to enter His kingdom.

This is not a statement to be molded egotistically. In other words, don’t be a spoilt child who takes every gift from the parent for granted.

Instead, being a child of God means dropping your doubts and insecurities while praying. This attitude brings God closer to you — rather it raises you to His consciousness.

If a beggar comes to your house asking for money, you may give him a few dollars. But if your own child asks for something, you’ll give him everything you have.

Pray believing that God is your friend and that He truly wants to help you.

Being made in the image of God, moreover, also means that you’re not a sinner, as many groups like to believe. Paramahansa Yogananda said, “The greatest sin is to call yourself a sinner.” Therefore, identify always with your potential, not your faults.

Here is a beautiful and simple prayer from Whispers from Eternity by Paramhansa Yogananda you can use as a model for your own prayers. Read it several times, repeat it with closed eyes and go into the feeling behind the words. As you continue to saturate the prayer with your soul yearnings, you will spiritualize it and give it power:

We Demand as Thy Children:

Thou art our Father. We are made in Thine own image. We are children of God. We neither ask nor pray like beggars, but demand as Thy children, wisdom, salvation, health, happiness, eternal joy. Naughty or good, we are Thy children. Help us to find Thy will in us. Teach us to use independently the human will (since Thou gavest that to us to use freely), in tune with Thy wisdom-guided will.

Learn to Listen to God

If you go to someone for help but don’t let them speak, how would they help you? Similarly, when we pray too often we say our bit and then get up hoping everything will be fine.

However, each of us needs also, a regular habit of listening to God. God doesn’t shout at us except in extreme cases. Most times, he speaks in a whisper — through the intuitive perception of your heart.

Listening to God is a part of prayer, though it entails a separate set of practices, primarily, meditation. Together, meditation and prayer allow the seeker to commune with God in the language of his own heart.

It is said that the point between the eyebrows, or the Spiritual Eye is the broadcasting station of the body from where we send out our thoughts and prayers.

The heart, on the other hand, is the receiving station where we receive the response. When you feel the response of God in your heart, that is the best time to pray to him. Because then, it turns into a conversation, rather, a communion with Him.

Meditation, also helps us develop the concentration needed to pray deeply and manifest the answer to our prayers.

Both prayer and meditation, therefore, help the seeker to have a conversation with God. This is the best way to pray — for when your consciousness is heightened enough in meditation, you would see clearly the reason and solution for all troubles in life.

Final Thoughts

There will still be people who will continue to disbelieve or go on with their ineffective methods of prayer. I understand. But I can’t hope to convince you with mere words. The only thing convincing enough is your own experience. Try it for yourself.

Once Yogananda was trying to teach his disciple to be more serious. That disciple had a habit of cracking jokes and keeping everyone’s consciousness on superfluous realities.

On getting a scolding from his Master, the disciple said, “But Master how can I transform if I don’t have your blessing?” Ah, such a sweet thing to say isn’t it? Well, the Master didn’t take it so sweetly.

Yogananda replied sternly — “My blessing is there, God’s blessing is there, it’s your blessings that are needed!”

So it is with prayer — your self-effort is needed. Passivity won’t get you anywhere.

Drawing God’s response in our prayers takes an effort of the mind. But it isn’t as arduous a battle as we think it to be.

Don’t think, therefore, that communion with God is reserved for a special few. You too, with the right techniques of prayer and meditation, can perceive His thrilling response.

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Written on September 5, 2021