Say a little prayer

Ever heard the song “Say a little prayer”? Its one of my favorites. Mostly because it is something I identify with completely. My relationship with the Higher Being, Godji, the Divine is just as simple as that – the force is with me, for me and my buddy, my support. This belief makes things so simple, so whenever I am low, wounded, bruised or hurt, all I have to do is “say a little prayer” and I know that I am not alone. I will get the support, see the way out. Its better than having to visit the temple, it is better than having a buddy on speed dial, it is even better than punching pillows and slamming doors. The temple bells don’t have such a soothing effect, the chanting of mantras does not help me as much as just whispering, “Please Godji …..”

I was just walking up and down the corridor, tense – no I was actually in a foul temper; I had messed up something pretty bad, and knew the boss would haul me over burning coal … i.e. after I was done kicking myself. Yeah, I am a great one for punishing myself 😦

And I was murmuring to myself “Please Godji, help me control damage”

A person tapped me on the shoulder and proceeded to read my a huge lecture on how I could not pray with shoes on and facing south … it may be rahu kalam, had I checked?

I turned, shrugged and walked off. If I had stopped, the argument would have been huge and bitter, I am not one who likes my personal space intruded upon. And I have issues with know-it-alls.

But once I was calmer, crisis sorted out, I started reflecting …

Anyone who has a “prayer habit” must have pondered on this, “What is the difference between personal prayer and ritual prayer? Why the difference?”

In ritual prayer, we pray at fixed times, in prescribed manner from fixed texts, most of them unchanged over the centuries. Day after day, so many of us mumble the same set stanzas, lips moving, minds uninvolved ….

How can we reconcile that with the intensely personal character of prayer?

Should not prayer be simple, just me talking to whoever I think is my God? Should I not have my own personal equation with the divine?

Traditionalists argue with this belief. They have been brought up with rituals, the ritualistic repetition of mantras/stanzas/prayers in language not understood/chants are soothing to them.

To me, it seems mindless (when I am feeling charitable) and when I am not, it seems like one is pestering or badgering the divine.

To me, the personal prayer is far more valuable, and it cheers me up, so it is therapeutic.

What do you think?


36 thoughts on “Say a little prayer

  1. What i think can occupy a few pages πŸ™‚ Really.
    My aversion to ritualistic prayers are many , after a short trip to Hardwar ( sans any darshan, puja n dubki) my aversion to ritualistic prayer has intensified….but that is something else.

    The thing how this personal prayer is important and more effective , i think it is like evoking your own strengths …it is a prayer to your own self . Have you heard about ‘aham bramhasmi’ … i started believing in this after my own experience …. and my experience came after a long time of struggling with getting the answers . The answers , the solutions are all within …. when we pray to our Godji … personally , with the mind focused on it …the mind takes care of everything.

  2. Hmmm I personally do beleive what you say, talk to a friend or someone who you know cares for you..
    Praying and worshipping is not my cup of tea, Yeah i do go to a Gurudwara sahib every day on my wya to work , i go , bow my head and come out .. But I have seen when people go in and they have to do this Whole ardas thing everytime which lasts 5 – 10 minutes and you are standing in a que behind them.. That to me doesnot mean anything ..

    I mean you might be praying and the moment you come out of the place you do something wrong so whats the use of all that ardas that you jsut did.

    I mean we say god knows all, so he/she knows it all standing there and asking and singing his praises wont get us anywhere , i mean He knows it all so he does know whats good for you Simple. Us praying and singing his praise wont change anything if it did then all these so called baba’s and other people would be much better off.

    I go in , bow my head, take the parshad and out i come .. I dont know if its right or wrong but it satisfies me that i am not like one of those who have nothing to do other then keep asking and then do totally the opposite of what god has told us to do.

    and As Sandhya says above if we do something with pure heart then we do see the ways too, its all within us..

  3. Now this is a very difficult topic.

    I do not like ritualistic prayers, but I do visit temples. At the temples, I refrain from any specific pujas which are chanted by the priest for me, using the star name etc. I do not think I need a middle man to talk to God. I am at the temple, I want to pray, and I can do it myself.

    If you ask me why do I go to the temple in the first place, I would say, its mainly because I like the peace and sanctity that it has to offer. Everyday, after a bath, I do pray at the puja room, and thats about it. I do not do any elaborate puja, and try to refrain from following any major religious pujas especially those done on festivals.

    • The small puja you do daily is more like a personal prayer, a simple connection with the divine. I can understand that. That is what I do, apart from chattering to the divine non-stop in my head when I am alone. I find that very therapeutic too

  4. Praying or talking to God from the heart or what we call making dua, tops the ritualistic part of prayer! Well, I do pray the 5 time obligatory ones as well, and sometimes, it does seem like I’m rushing through it with the next task weighing on my mind! A nice long monolugue with the creator makes me feel he is probably listening right there and then !

    • That is exactly the point I am making. We have these mantras, most of them in Prakrit or Sanskrit … If I don’t feel it, then how will it benefit me? And I do believe that every hour every minute is good for prayer. I can’t understand this rahu kalam business

      • yeah true! And imagine saying them in Arabic…hehe……tho i do check out the tafseer and the meaning is beautiful, can’t always remember it when actually reciting !

      • That is because lovely though it may be, it came from some one else’s heart, someone who lived long ago. It did not come from yours or mine, so the connect isnt there

  5. I honestly believe that even if you do ritualistic prayer at the prescribed time, using the prescribed texts but if your heart and mind and soul are not in it nothing is going to come out of it. But if you sit quietly in corner and remember god sincerely for even a few minutes with your whole heart it will work a thousand times more than the rituals.
    But somehow I like the ritualistic part of prayers at times – I mean it’s a sort of disciplined methodical way to remember god isn’t it !

  6. My mother raised me up to recite all shlokas perfectly and in tone and blah blah blah… I did it so she could stop breathing down my neck. But she never gave me logical reasons for doing so which put me off them and make me question my faith and beliefs. But if you have faith, godji is the best way to connect to him/her πŸ™‚

    • Oh the religious faith I am born in places huge importance on mantras and their recitation. And I do come from a family that is active, religiously. But still, I cant go with blindly chanting stuff that does not resonate within

  7. I enjoyed reading this…. and so identify with ‘saying a little prayer’….. while i visit temples all the time, and really enjoy them, and also participate quite often in ritualistic prayers, it is those little prayers which are a direct conversation between me and Him, which really seem to work for me….. but more than the concept of ritualistic prayers, it is the idea of simply paying for pujas which really irritates me….. and all the wastage of materials which would much rather be used for real humans….. but in any case, everyone does have a right to believe in whatever they believe in and anyone interfering and giving a lecture about beliefs is utter rubbish… if someone had given me the same lecture, i dont think i would have been able to control my tongue….

  8. I believe its faith that matters … the power of a prayer lies in the heart thats praying …and also brought up in culture where prayers usually have minimum ritual process … the pain and effort behind intensive rituals I have seen around is beyond me …
    thought provoking post.

  9. My question is.. without the rituals and the mythological stories.. how would one creatively pass on the faith in prayer to the children. As the philosophy of “they do as we do”, there is some sense in saying the same stanzas in a particular time of day, makes sense to me in their formative years to instill the idea.. lateron it would be their choice. πŸ™‚

      • :), thank you for acknowledging.. I have tried to reason out with parents, in-laws, literally everybody who have tried to force the rituals on me without explaining the logic. Trust me.. God would be tired of my MIL’s non-stop rituals and prayers, but I am equally thankful that she keeps herself occupied like that, unlike other ladies who would be gossipping and conspiring against everybody they know. My mother too used to say, “We never asked such questions to our mother, we just did what she said”. I hope I dont come up with such lame and rubbish reasons as a parent in my life.

      • Of course I will acknowledge your comment. I like a debate, it helps me clear up my mind and arrive at a well considered decision. And I am not afraid of contradictory points of view. As a parent, I have always argued and reasoned. Sadly my kids miss authoritative parenting. They say that sometimes I have to put my foot down. Kids ….. you can’t please them ever!

  10. Even after being brought up in the traditional ritual prayers, I feel gud only after a one to one talk with my God !!! Those ritual chants might make my palpitations less, but certainly I cant understand the lang and hence I feel the communication is less complete. But with talking in the lang I feel like – mostly I use English – I feel good and I also feel that complications and tensions reduce.

    Loved ur post. πŸ™‚

  11. As i was reading the words, i kept thinking of my mom.. She has been trying to get me to learn slokas, and recite them regulary.. but when i ask what they are about, she has no answers and infact most times get angry and retorts “we followed it when our mothers asked us to , why don you?”..
    I then told her, ok, i will do what you ask me to, but it will be like a child doing homework or the gardener watering the plants…. This brought a showdown between us!!

    Guess what am trying to say is that – I Do believe in God, and i have my own way of showing it, and i am truly happy with that!! πŸ™‚

    Nobody can force me
    nobody can order me
    esp when it comes to rituals!!!

    • I feel the same way Aarti. In my faith we call the priestesses and priests of God “Maharaj ji”. My arguments with Maharj ji happened almost on a daily basis when they lived in the temple next to our house. I guess we agreed to disagree on matters concerning faith and my soul

  12. for me prayer is the private relationship with Lord and there is really no need to go anyplace to pray, it is within u and part of u, when we pray and think that our prayers will be answer, it will because we believed it would…..the universe takes care of us and does what we believed it will happen,
    in olden days religious ritual were performed to time pass, they had too much time at hand and too many retrictions in men’s world, women were expected to do the housework and look after dozens of children in joint families, so religion was a good excuse for socialization and get out of house, they built temples where women could sit in peace and pray (meaning introspect) for few hours and nobody minded

  13. I believe in God but its been yeaaars since I have gone to a temple to pray (went recently to one but that was tourist reasons), I dont have a puja room at home in the current house most take it as a sign that we are atheist but no I am not. I pray to my God everyday and whenever I need it, I dont need any specific place to do it, my god is there with me everywhere.

    But I guess this is a personal topic and choice each to his own and what we need to do is to let each be to his own

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