„Oh, what would life be without prayers?!“ While I sit at the lotus feet of a very advanced Sadhu he makes this statement and recites a few wonderful prayers from Vedic Scriptures. I contemplate his words and realize that my own prayer practice could do with some improvement.
Vandanam — Offering prayers to the Lord is one of the nine processes of devotional service and probably the most universal practice of all religions. Even up to today, many people offer daily prayers regardless of their religious background. According to surveys, it is Nigeria who is on the top with 95% of all people, Christians and Muslims, offer a daily prayer, followed by Iran with 87% and Indonesia with 84%. India with a majority of Hindus it’s also up to 75% of people who turn to God every day. 1
While many people pray for their family and friends and to overcome their own problems and difficulties, pure devotees express in their prayers their eagerness to have sadhu sanga, to develop their devotion to the divine couple. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says in this connection: “The only thing worth praying for is that our mind may be more and more attracted towards Lord Sri Krishna. We don't want riches or followers, nor do we desire to be saved from the misery of birth and death. We do not pray either for the cure of disease or for liberation. Rather, we approach the great souls and say, 'May you bless us that our minds may be directed to Krishna.' “ 2
In the life of a devotee, there are different kinds of prayers. We have our standard prayers, the songs we sing every day during the temple program or at home, the personal prayers we offer in front of the deities and finally our daily chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra, which is meant to not only be a mantra meditation but a prayer from the heart.
How to improve the quality of these different prayers? We need to be introspective! We need to reflect from time to time and ask ourselves how much feeling do I invest in my daily japa? How much depth is there in my personal prayers to the Lord? After all, Krishna is very eager to hear our prayers! It is through prayers that we communicate with the Lord. It is through prayers that we express our hearts and give some attention to the Lord! And Krishna hears our prayers, which in itself can be a great source of inspiration, as the following story shows:
There was a Babaji at Radha Kunda who, although not at all gifted with a good voice and musical skills, nevertheless sang day and night the glories of the Lord. One day, Narada Muni passed by and knowing that the great Sage was traveling unrestricted between this world and the Vaikuntha Planets, the Baba requested Narada to ask Lord Narayana how He likes his singing. Narada agreed and returned after a couple of weeks with the message that the Lord is not so fond of the Babaji's singing. Upon hearing Narada’s words the Babaji jumped up and down in ecstasy and started weeping and laughing at the same time overwhelmed with joy. Narada was astounded and told the Baba „I believe you misunderstood my words, the Lord said that he does NOT like your singing“ The Baba however just called out repeatedly `The Lord hears my prayers! The Lord hears my prayers!“ 3
The fact that his prayers were actually heard by the Supreme Personality of Godhead gave that Baba so much joy. In other words, we should also feel encouraged to turn towards Krishna and open our hearts to Him, since He is really there for us and hears every single prayer we offer to Him.
So maybe it's good to ask ourselves from time to time: How often do I offer a heartfelt prayer? What do I pray for? How would my spiritual life be different if I would invest more in my prayers? I am convinced that daily prayers from the heart make a huge difference! Oh, what would life be without prayers?
1 - Pew Research Centre survey, www.pewform.org
2 - Quoted in the Book `The Gaudiya Vaishnava Samadhis in Vrindavana` by Mahanidhi Swami
3 - Krishna off course accepts any prayer offered with love and devotion, regardless of once material qualifications, but in this story the Lord chose to tell Narada that he did not like the singing just to test his devotees reaction and to glorify him in this way.