What is the Purpose of Prayer and how should we pray

 It is said that there is nothing as powerful as a prayer. A prayer said by anyone, at any time, from any place is heard by the Divine. Every religion has their own method of praying and also have their own set of prayers, however, a prayer which is said by the devotee from the heart, with pure intention, and in simple words can be the best. 

How to pray:-

Prayers can be of just a simple single line in the language that the devotee is comfortable in. 

As far as Hindus are concerned, broadly prayers can be divided into some categories:-

  • To make a petition - where the devotee requests God to fulfill material desires
  • To pray for intercession - praying for another person to be helped
  • For Moksha - a prayer to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death and merge with the 'Source'/ Divine.

As per Hinduism, though there is no particular method of praying, devotees mostly offer a prayer through puja. Puja is honoring and praying to the Divine Supreme by following Vedic rituals which include offerings and chanting of particular mantras for a particular deity. As there are many forms of Gods that are worshipped so the offerings and mantras are different. Prayers through puja are done by individuals at home as well as in the temples. Most houses have householders praying through puja daily. In temples generally a pujari (priest) conducts the puja rituals for the devotee. Puja in festivals and special occasions, such as Griha Pravesh, a marriage ceremony is conducted by qualified pandits, who are well versed in the Sanskrit mantras and rituals for each God.

An idol, image while praying serves as an icon of that particular deity, which helps the devotee to connect easily. Idols/images are as per what the old Hindu texts specify and which have been translated as per the imagination down the ages. Many times when a devotee is praying while traveling it becomes easier to visualize the form of the deity one is praying to.

 For just simple prayers, without ritualistic puja, joining hands in Namaste with heads bowed down or prostrating in front of the deity ( 'Shashtang Pranam') in respect and devotion, is a part of the Hindu tradition. Burning of Incense (Agarbatti/dhoop) and lighting of oil or ghee lamp is also an integral part of praying at Hindu homes or temples. Prayers can be done standing or sitting, preferably on the ground.

Meditating or dhyana, on the Divine is a form of prayer which is followed by many devotees. Where the sole intention is to connect with the Divine consciousness, to cleanse one's own mind, and delve inside self. It is said to be one of the best prayer forms.  

Praying through the chanting of mantras is widely followed by Hindus. Mantras like the Mahamritunjay Mantra (Lord Shiva), Lord Vishnu/Sri Krishna/ Lord Rama mantra, Goddess Durga mantra, etc. are chanted by the devotees to invoke the Divine energies. Mantras of planets are also chanted by many devotees to safeguard against the malefic effect of planets when suggested by a qualified astrologer, which is also part of praying.

Singing devotional songs or Bhajans/Kirtan, in glorification of Divine is another way to pray and it is said that as the Divine loves music, so singing is a good way to pray.

Now, online Puja services are getting increasingly popular for various pujas, including for pujas to appease planets. As online puja services are convenient, especially in case the puja location is in a temple away from the place of residence of the devotee. The facility of live streaming of the puja and video recordings of the puja process is provided in online puja services.

It is said that gratitude to Divine is the biggest form of prayer. When we are grateful, we are acknowledging the many blessings that each one of us has been bestowed with. Thanking the Divine when our wishes are fulfilled or when something good happens in life is also a very important part of praying. 

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What is the purpose of praying? 

The answer is deep and there are many points of view about the purpose of prayers. It is said that faith can move mountains. Prayers said with complete trust and faith in whichever God form one believes will give the best benefits of puja.

Mostly commonly prayers are said for fulfilling some wish, be it material, health, career, or for any other aspect of life. For Hindus different deities are invoked for different purposes, like, Lord Ganesha for removal of obstacles and gaining abundance. The Srimad Bhagavatam has specified which Hindu God/ Goddess/ Dem- God can be invoked for specific attainments, for example, for a fulfilling and happy married life Goddess Uma (consort of Lord Shiva) should be prayed to, Durgadevi for good fortune and many other such specifications. But at the same time the sacred Bhagavatam has also said that connecting with the Supreme Divine without any material attachment/ desires, helps to gain the coveted spiritual attainment which is most precious. 

When repeatedly prayers are said insisting on something, which is not being granted, it makes one instantly assume that God does not love that individual and it makes the person feel dejected. Surrendering to the Divine will is very important, so when we pray for some attainment or wish fulfillment, we should trust that the Divine's love for each creature on earth is equal. And also we should be aware that God sometimes does not grant us things because it might not be good for us in the bigger picture, which the human mind cannot fathom.

The purpose of prayer is to hand over to Divine and surrender completely and continue doing the work. Focussing only on the outcome does not serve good for us. Leaving it to the Divine's will gives a magical outcome.

Prayers are ideally said in praise of God, to acknowledge His Divine grace. Such prayers, whether through chanting or singing Bhajans/Kirtans, when done without having an underlying motive to get some wish fulfilled, goes a long way in attaining spiritual connection with the Divine.

Prayers are best when it is a conversation with God. Thereby the continuous conversation helps us to be spiritually tuned to the Divine. No particular time, space, or ritual is required for this except for keeping up the mental conversation.

The purpose of prayer should be to trust that the unconditional love of God is there with each individual and to trust when we say a prayer that it has been heard and then leave it under the Divine's care.

The purpose of prayer should also be to open the heart and see everything and everyone, including self, with love.

The purpose of prayer is to request God to help us go through the situation with courage, strength, and will power to sustain in the situation rather than only pray for deliverance from the situation.

To remain in gratefulness to God is another highest form of prayer. When we appreciate what we have, it pleases the Divine, and blessings are showered in abundance, without even us asking for it.

Prayers are meant to be a bridge between us and the Divine, and therefore the purpose of praying should not always be attached to material gain. And when we pray in this manner, we are aligned with the Divine Consciousness, which is the ultimate attainment of human life. 

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