One of my fellow monks is an extremely prayerful person. He has regular stories of the reciprocation and interaction that comes from conversing with God. Though inspired, I personally find it difficult to pray. It usually feels unnatural and artificial; probably a combination of my impersonal character, hard-heartedness, lack of faith, and general life philosophy of “work hard and be practical.” Someone, however, recently offered me an interesting antidote – “pray for other people” they said. Whether a friend, family member, work colleague, or even a stranger you meet for the first time, just stop for a few moments and sincerely pray for something that will help them in their life. I began to try. Unconventional as it sounded, I could immediately appreciate the power of this approach on many levels:
Personal level – Rather than being critical, judgmental or aloof, we evolve into selfless agents of positive change. Since prayer invokes divine intervention, we are not simply observers of the world, but can make a difference, even to people we have very little physical contact with. In such moments of noble prayer, we rise beyond self-absorption and forget our own difficulties.
Relationship level – Taking the time to deeply contemplate someone’s life transforms our relationship with them. We learn to see beyond the external chaos, appreciating that everyone is a pure soul trying to break free from material entanglement. Prayer helps one to connect with people on a deeper level.
Social level – When a group of people form, each one sincerely wanting the others to excel, it creates a unique spiritual energy. That unity, fellowship and genuine warmth helps them to achieve their goals and transform the world. Prayer brings people together.
It reminded me of how Swami Prabhupada would sign off his correspondence with “your ever well-wisher.” His prayer was completely selfless; a natural consequence of his incredible compassion and concern for all. Saintly persons are said to feel another’s pain as their own (para dukha dukhi). Just as we spontaneously attend to any ailment in our body, they are spontaneously impelled to relieve the suffering of the general populace. Even if we fall short of that pure stage, we can still institute the process of selfless prayer as a vehicle to developing deeper sensitivity, which is so integral to spiritual advancement. After all, we find ourselves by thinking of others. Try it out this week – take a few quality moments to sincerely pray for the wellbeing of someone else. And if you’re finding it difficult to identify someone, you could always slip in a good word for this struggling soul. :)