Any kind thought, altruistic aspiration, or wish to benefit others is, in essence, a prayer. All too often I feel that we are very limited in the way we approach prayer in our life. For some it is a religious practice, others a spiritual endeavor or something we do when we need help. Many people find comfort in memorizing and reciting prayers and others feel it is important to pray spontaneously from their heart. It is my belief that if our prayer comes from a motivation to improve oneself and the world in which we live, increasing harmony, understanding, love, and compassion, then regardless of the methods, words, or religion, it can only be beneficial.
There is much more to prayer than words. When we bring to our mind virtuous thoughts to improve ourselves and the environment we live in, we are consciously saturating our mind with positive potentials. What we water grows in our consciousness. As the neuroscientists say, neurons that fire together, wire together. When we are consciously bringing love and compassion to our minds, we are not allowing hatred and ill will to grow. We cannot have love and hate in our hearts at the same time for the same thing. Love can quickly switch to hate. However, we cannot feel both pure love and pure hate towards the same object at the same time. It is like turning on a light in a dark room. When the light is on, the darkness disappears. Every thought, word, and action plants seeds in the gardens of our lives. We have the choice to plant seeds of love, compassion, and peace, or those of anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction. Understanding this, we can see the incredible benefit of cultivating virtuous thoughts, aspirations, and prayers into our lives.
Prayer is not limited to a formal practice or religion. When we wish others well or send them love, that can be our prayer. When we aspire to help others, improve our environment, or cultivate our own higher potentials, that is also our prayer. We may also discover that our deepest prayers are without words and can only be found when we quiet our minds in meditation. Ultimately, prayer is about the willingness to move away from self-centeredness and the suffering it brings and towards connection with others, meaning, and purpose, and the well-being that brings.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes on prayer. I pray that you find them beneficial.
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ― Mother Teresa
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” – Soren Kierkegaard
As my prayer became more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
-which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking.
Prayer involves becoming silent,
and being silent,
and waiting until God is heard.
– Soren Kerkegaard
“The fewer the words, the better the prayer.”- Martin Luther
“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”- Saint Teresa of Avila
“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” – Mahatma Gandhi