By: Dr Aniruddha Babar
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
– Søren Aabye Kierkegaard
The power or strength of a prayer must be examined, lest its practice becomes worse than useless. Blind faith is better avoided, and egotistical prayers can only lead people into self-defeat. Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship, typically a deity, through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity, or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.
Today, most major religions involve prayer in one way or another; some ritualize the act, requiring a strict sequence of actions or placing a restriction on who is permitted to pray, while others teach that prayer may be practised spontaneously by anyone at any time. How many people today truly know what prayer is, how to pray, and to whom, and for what? Some people regard prayer as a bargaining process in which they seek to obtain certain favours in exchange for their good behaviour at some future time. The “Catholic” Church employed a similar strategy during the Middle Ages: selling forgiveness of sins. For a fee, bereaved relatives could get their deceased loved ones out of Purgatory. The living could also offset their own future sins in return for a fee-a sort of a spiritual insurance policy.
Similar tactics has also been employed by Hindu Temples when the priest would be required to perform Pujas and rituals at the instance of devotees and in exchange of those devotees are required to offer ‘good’ offering to the deities. More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher, Socrates said: “Our prayers should be for blessings on all, in general, for the Gods know best what is good for us.” He also said: “I pray Thee, O God that I may be beautiful within.” Now that is a truly wise prayer we may all utter at all times with the greatest benefit to ourselves and others.
However, the question arises as to whether ‘prayer’ has a real, scientifically measurable effect on our world? Or is this all an imagination, a wishful thinking and shouting out into the dark abyss of a cold, indifferent, mysterious universe or is someone or something actually listening and responding? These are questions nearly as old as human species, which have consumed theologians, philosophers, thinkers, scientists, doctors, and psychologists alike since time immemorial, and yet we still are searching in the dark for answers. There have been documented cases in the history of medical science where prayers actually worked.
There have been studies pointing at a benefit of prayer, such as a study in The American Journal of Public Health which followed 5,000 people in California for 5 years and seemed to show that those who prayed regularly were 36% less likely to die than those who didn’t, another one published in the U.S. Journal of Gerontology that suggested atheists had an increased death rate, and research by The American Society of Hypertension, which apparently showed overall lower blood pressure for those who prayed regularly.
A study conducted by San Francisco General Hospital examined the effects of prayers sent by strangers to 393 cardiac patients, and concluded that those who were prayed for showed fewer complications and better overall health, as well as quicker recovery times and earlier release from hospitals. Another study comes from 1998, and involved a rigorous, double blind study of 40 patients with severe, advanced cases of AIDS. Each patient randomly either received prayers from strangers or did not, and nobody knew who might be praying for them. After 6 months it was found that the group that had received the prayers displayed better overall health, fewer doctor visits, and decreased cases of further health complications than the group who had not been prayed for.
However, there have been studies which has shown no ‘significant’ results of prayers for e.g. double blind study conducted by Mayo Clinic in 2001, study conducted by the scientists of Duke University in 2005 known as “Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Teachings II “and also a study conducted in 2006 which is now well known as “The Study of Therapeutic Effects of Intercessorary Prayers”. However, the success stories cannot be ignored.
Now the question is, whether to expand our understanding about the prayer is it necessary to amend the definition given beforehand in the beginning of this write up? Will this be helpful in understanding the functioning of the prayer? Let us try and see. As we know that Prayer is often connected with the God and the God is connected with the Religion which is further connected with the FAITH.
Moreover, we know the religion, we know the Godhead, Prophets too, but none of us have any idea about the nature of ‘GOD’ and therefore, GOD may be considered as a ‘Hypothesis’ for the proof (or conclusion) of which ‘Faith’ is an essential element, therefore FAITH is an act of holding the Hypothesis to be true and therefore this truth becomes our very own, absolutely personal truth. In this context, it may be said that the prayer connects our mind with the help of the ‘prayer-words’ (that amalgamates tonal vibrations and emotions) as a ‘bridge’, to connect to the truth of Hypothesis which; whether we accept or reject connected with the core of the ‘infinity’ of ‘Creation’. Hence, basically we connect our whole living existence with the existence of Creation by way of prayer and that core of the infinite-living creation or source of everything may be understood as God.
Words used in Prayers are not ordinary words. They are special words that create special ‘vibrations ‘which are charged and accelerated by the ‘energy’ of emotions resulted out of thoughts produced by the mind. Let us take an example of The Book of Psalms. Most individual psalms involve the praise of God-for his power and beneficence, for his creation of the world. The psalms envision a world in which everyone and everything will praise God, and God in turn will hear their prayers and respond. Worst of all is when God “hides his face” and refuses to respond, because this puts in question the efficacy of prayer which is the underlying assumption of the Book of Psalms. If we study The Book of Psalms in depth, it reveals us the need to pray ‘properly’ which may be interpreted as a need to connect our consciousness with that of the God. When prayers are released ‘properly’ from us they transformed into the waves and set themselves into the right ‘frequencies’ and reaches to the almighty provided the mind is fully cultivated/programmed for this type of extrasensory ‘communication’.
Therefore, cultivation of mind with the help of the light of the ‘true’wisdom of Jesus is a necessary condition that needs to be fulfilled in order to pray more effectively.
Real prayer is the gateway to abundance glory and kindness of almighty. However, Prayer is not just an utterance of some given words. More than words it is the ‘tides’ of emotions upon which ship of prayer floats in the vast ocean of thoughts is important. Jesus said, the ‘Kingdom of God is within us’ that simply mean that an each one of us has inherited the godly nature from our Creation-God/Creator. Therefore, it is necessary to ‘activate’ that godly essence if we truly desire to reach to the ‘Creation-God’ by prayer and therefore, as the flower opens its eye to the light of dawn, so should man open his heart to God, that His rays may strengthen the flowering, and the fruit of attainment be his. Blind mind contaminated with the fog of ignorance cannot reach to the almighty, but a man who lit a lamp of wisdom ‘within’ can access the infinite plain of ultimate reality of God-where prayers are truly answered.