Sri Chinmoy: Praying out loud is always better. If you say out loud, “O God, please bless me with good health. Grant me love, joy and peace,” then your physical mind will be convinced. But you do not have to break down the ceiling! You do not have to pray that loudly. Although I was born a Hindu, I also love Muslims and feel that they are my brothers. But when they pray in the mosque, they pray so loudly that you can hear them at quite a distance. We Hindus feel that as long as you can hear your prayer with your own ears, then you are convinced that you are praying and that is enough.
While praying, you are using words: “O God, give me this, give me that. Do this for me, do that for me.” At that time you can speak reasonably fast — the way we are talking now. Pray loudly enough to hear yourself and also at your normal talking speed. But when it comes to meditation, try not to have any words or any thoughts at all; try to keep the mind empty. Every thought or idea that enters into your mind you have to silence. If you cannot silence it, then try to slow its speed. If some current of thought is entering into you very rapidly and you cannot stop it altogether, then try at least to slow it down. Eventually you can try to silence it. Also, to make the mind more silent, it is good if you can imagine something very peaceful, such as the vast sky early in the morning or the setting sun in the evening. Or you can try to feel that you are at the bottom of the sea, or on the top of a mountain in the Himalayas.
While you are praying, you are talking to God and God is listening to you. While you are meditating, God is talking and you are listening. While you are praying, your prayer is going up high, higher, highest. Then while you are meditating, God’s Love, Light, Peace and Bliss are entering into you. That is the difference between prayer and meditation.
There is also another difference. When you pray, try to feel that you are utterly helpless. You have to pray like a beggar-woman asking for alms: “God, give me this.” And you have to sincerely feel that you are in desperate need of what you are praying for. You have to feel that your whole world will collapse if you do not get it. Unless your prayer is fulfilled, you will be absolutely hopeless.
When you meditate, on the other hand, you have to feel that you are a princess, or a queen, or the dearest daughter of God, with infinite wealth inside your heart. When meditating, you are bringing to the fore your own divinity and inner wealth — your own inner peace, inner bliss, inner love, inner joy. You are not inventing these things; they belong to you and you are discovering them.