Prayer is speaking to God, and meditation is listening to God.
Prayer represents the first attempt of the ordinary human soul to approach God. When we meet with our fellow men, that meeting takes the form of a dialogue. So, also, the first meeting of the soul with God takes the form of an inner dialogue. It is the first effort of the soul to express its spiritual aspiration, for that is the only way the infant soul can orientate itself to the Supreme Reality.
Talks with those we love are always personal and informal. The internal conversation with God, or prayer, must also be intensely personal, natural, and spontaneous.
“Through prayer, all individual souls can be united to the Supreme Soul.”
Each individual must be free to pray in his or her own way. Let him begin praying in any way that is possible for him. The act of prayer itself will guide him about how to proceed further and will perfect his prayer.
There is an inner resistance in all of us that affects the free flow of divine power. This resistance is controlled by and comes from the ego.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said, “Prayer reduces the inner resistance and opens the heart to grace.”
Life is full of uncertainties and difficulties, and current living conditions have increased mankind’s anxiety and feelings of insecurity. The best way to overcome fear and insecurity is to continually pray to the Supreme Lord, the controller of the destinies of all beings.
Even those who practice Japa and meditation have to pass through dark periods when they feel desolate and hopeless. During these arid periods, prayer gives excellent support to the soul. St. John of the Cross says, “In all our necessities, trials, and afflictions, there is neither a better nor safer remedy than prayer, and the hope that God will provide for us in his own way.”
The religious temperament must be supported by strong faith— faith in the existence of God, and a belief that God listens and responds to prayer. This faith must be so strong that there is no room for negative or contrary thoughts. If we pray for something but are deeply convinced that we are not going to get it, we only obstruct the working of God’s grace. Prayer becomes effective only when the faith that supports it is total. It is said that faith can move mountains.
Indian philosophy teaches that man has to learn the most essential virtues of faith and patience. The prayerful man must practice the six fold-surrender to God, which is explained in one of the holy scriptures of India:
1. Think and do auspicious deeds
2. Refrain from acts that are inauspicious like anger, greed, deceit, etc.
3. Have tremendous faith in God’s saving power
4. Accept God as your protector and savior
5. Always be humble
6. Total self-surrender to the Almighty
The mind can attain this state only when it feels secure and is detached from desires. But we can practice, practice, and practice until we reach this level of perfection. The working capacity is enhanced if we practice these six steps, and a person becomes more efficient in all spheres of life.