Prayer and meditationPrayer and meditation are medicines to cure us. As we go to a doctor for medicine to cure our physical body, similarly prayer and meditation are the medicines which will cure us in our inner life.
With prayer we grow individually into the highest Divinity. But whenever we pray, often there is a subtle desire for something. We may call it an aspiration, because we pray to become good, to say or do something good, to have something divine which we do not have, or to be free from fear, jealousy, doubt and so on. In meditation we do not do that. We just allow ourselves consciously to enter into the effulgence of Light, or we invoke the universal Light to transform our ignorance into wisdom.
When we pray, we aspire towards the Highest and our whole existence goes upward like a flame. Prayer can come from the heart, but there is always a tendency in prayer to desire something. When we pray, we automatically act as if we are beggars who are crying to God to grant us a boon.
When a beggar comes and knocks at the door, he does not care whether the owner is a rich man or a poor man; he just knocks and knocks in order to get something. This is the way we pray to God, asking for this and that, looking up at Him and crying to Him. We feel God is high above while we are down below. We see a yawning gulf between His existence and ours. We do not know when or to what extent God is going to fulfil our desires. We just ask and then wait for one drop, two drops or three drops of Compassion, Light or Peace to descend upon us.
When we meditate, it is nothing like that. In meditation we dive into the vast sea of Consciousness. We do not have to ask God for Peace or Light because we are swimming in the sea of divine qualities. At that time, God gives us more than we can ever imagine. The deeper we go in meditation, the more we expand our own consciousness, the more abundantly the qualities of Light, Peace and Bliss grow inside us. Meditation itself is the fertile soil where the bumper crop of Light, Peace, Bliss and Power can grow.
In prayer we have nothing and God has everything. That is why we say, “God, give me this.” When we meditate we know that whatever God has, either we also have it or we will someday have it. We feel that whatever God is, we also are, but we have not brought it forward.
In the West, many saints have realised God through prayer only; they did not care for meditation. In the Western world we hear more about prayer than about meditation. In the East we pay more attention to meditation. This is the difference between prayer and meditation: when I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen.
If we want to differentiate between prayer and meditation, we can say that prayer is the conscious ascent of the human consciousness and meditation is an invitation to the Infinite or an offering to the Infinite. It is the individual who will choose whether he would like to make rapid progress by praying or by meditating.
Aspiration is within both prayer and meditation. He who is praying feels an inner cry to realise God. When we pray, we go up, up, up. He who is meditating feels the need of bringing Consciousness right into his being, into his own consciousness. Aspiration is the only key for both prayer and meditation. Either we reach up to God or He comes down to us. Ultimately, it is the same. God lives on the third floor, but when He comes down to the first floor, He is still the same God. One aspirant may go up and get Him; another may bring Him down. When we pray we go up and touch Him; when we meditate we bring Him down into our consciousness.
If one wishes to help other people, the most important thing is to pray and meditate every day. You cannot really help people without first getting the inner capacity through your prayer and meditation. If you want to help people, then help people after you have received inner strength from your own prayer and meditation. Do the first thing first. If you pray you will get spiritual wealth; if you meditate you will get spiritual wealth. But if you try to help others without meditation, without your wealth, what will you be able to give them? At that time you yourself are a beggar too. Your prayer and meditation are your inner work. When you work in the morning by praying and meditating, God gives you your salary, your spiritual wealth. Once you have your money, you can give it to others.
Your prayers can help another person, but you have to know how. You are praying to God and that particular person has God within him. When you pray for his welfare, you are not touching him directly: you are touching the God in him. Your prayer is going to God, the Source.
What do you do if a plant is dry? You need not actually touch the plant itself. You pour water at the root and the plant again gets strength. As you would go to the root of a plant, go to man’s Source. His Source is God. The person you are praying for will get the most benefit if you pray with this idea in mind.
To eliminate strain while meditating or praying, try to focus all your attention on the heart, not on the mind. First try to see the heart-source. From there you will feel a flow which will be going either upward or downward. Try to direct the flow so it moves upward from the heart. This flow, which is divine Grace, is like water. Each time you pray or meditate, feel that you are digging inside. Naturally, the all-nourishing water comes up, for this water is being supplied constantly from its infinite Source: God.