--> Skip to main content

Understanding Prayer in Hinduism – Prayer Is Not For Desire Fulfillment

Understanding prayer in Hinduism. Many people see prayer as means to get their desires fulfilled by the intervention of God. But in reality is not for desire fulfillment. Srimat Swami Tapasyananda (1904 to 1991), Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Order, tries to explain the true meaning of prayer.

If every petition we make to God were answered by Him, all would have been devotees, only praising and never working for the achievement of all things, as it is the best short cut for attaining one’s ends. It is said that when wars take place, both the belligerents would make earnest prayers to God for victory for themselves. People have too naive an idea of God—an idea of Him as a mighty potentate sitting on a throne on high, granting favours and rejecting petitions according to His whims.

God is as much justice as He is love and, in regard to persons who approach Him for favours, He is mainly a judge. He functions through the law of Karma, according to which man’s merits and demerits are responsible for his enjoyments and sufferings.

Then the question would arise: is there no place for prayer at all? There are several alternatives. To adopt a stoical attitude, accepting the ultimacy of Karma, but striving one’s best for the attainment of one’s objective, is one way. Those who believe in the psychic efficacies of rituals, can resort to them for aiding the forces of favourable Karmas and counteracting those of evil ones.

But a true devotee, who puts entire reliance on the Supreme Being, can seek refuge in Him in a distressing situation. He does so not in a spirit of petitioning for advantages but of a total surrender in expectation of an upliftment, which neither his own powers nor merits can accomplish. In such a prayer there is also an attitude of submission, which consists in a willingness to abide by His will and wisdom, without any trace of that egotistic attitude of judging by the results. If he gets the Divine aid, he is thankful; if he fails to get it for reasons unknown to him, he says without the slightest dejection or scepticism: ‘May His will be done!’ In such an attitude there is no question of attributing success to chance or of becoming sceptical in case of failure. In either case, the attitude will be one of ‘Your will be done’.

Neither is there in it any semi-sceptical attitude of experimentation and of taking calculated risk, which expresses itself in the thought—there is gain if the prayer succeeds and if it fails, we lose nothing that we would not have lost otherwise. Such a worldly-wise attitude of giving a trial to prayer makes a travesty of it. In genuine prayer cent percent acceptance of the reality, power and beneficence of the Being one addresses must be there in the mind of the votary who should be fully en rapport with that Being, undeviated by the slightest trace of doubt or scepticism. It is not the piteous nature of the appeal made by the suppliant but his robust and unflinching faith and surrender that helps him in his prayer.