prayer isn’t an act. Being prayerful is a quality, that is a beautiful phenomenon.
For most people, if you look at what their prayer is, it is: “God give me this, give me that, God save me.” What you are seeking in prayer is not God. You are seeking security and happiness. Ultimately, what you want with prayer is wellbeing, but you are not willing to admit it. The first step is to be straight with yourself. Then we can see how to cross the threshold of limitations to true wellbeing.
It is time we realized that looking to God will not help until we look at our own foolishness. If you sincerely look at your deepest motivation for religion, you will see you have never aspired for the Divine. Your aspiration was never for the ultimate. Your aspiration is for comfort, wealth, power and pleasure. But you think God is a tool to achieve all those things. When you seek protection or material things, greed and fear have become the basis of your prayer. This will not work.
Ordinarily, we think prayer is a means to reach God, but what do we really know about God? If we are truthful, we must admit we have no direct experience of God; we are coming from a particular belief system. Using prayer to reach a God we have no direct experience of, can be illusionary. Thoughts and prayer can open a person, but at the same time they can create hallucinations. Once hallucinations start growing, they take on such a big dimension because the illusory is always more powerful than reality. An illusion has the freedom of becoming anything it wants. The cinema is more powerful than real life. You can just exaggerate it the way you want it. When the illusory process gets exaggerated, it becomes more powerful than life. So, prayer can not only be misused, but can also be deceptive.
People need to understand that it is not the prayer which makes the difference, it is being prayerful as a quality and not as an act which makes the difference. Becoming prayerful means that your whole being has become an offering. It is a process of offering yourself. Being prayerful is a deep connection with the Divine inherent in everything and everywhere. It is a quality, a state of being. As we become prayerful, it is extremely beautiful. But that state is reached only when we connect to our inner nature. Then, the experience is absolutely joyous.
When we are really joyous, we are wide open and can receive. Prayer no longer becomes a monologue, but a beautiful phenomenon and a celebration which brings great joy. Then, we pray not out of fear or greed, but because prayer itself is the reward. Patanjali, considered the father of modern yoga, goes as far as to say that when one knows how to be truly prayerful, prayer is not a means to reach God, but God is only a means so that we can pray.