Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? There’s a wonderful Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint, please, please, please… give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son, please, please, please… buy a ticket” (Eat, pray, love, Elizabeth Gilbert).
This paragraph from the book Eat, Pray, Love made me think a lot. Ardaas or prayer is something I have incorporated in my routine. Like a ritual I am praying for the same things over and over again every morning. What use is this? When I am praying for the same things, I am not praying for it consciously; I am rather pressing a button on an automatic machine, without making any effort to do something about what I am praying for.
My way out has been to focus my ardaas on one thing. By focusing on one thing, it’s easier for me to remember what to focus on that particular day. For example one day my ardaas could be focused on patience. I will ask God for His/Her Blessings that I can focus on patience that day, and the whole day I will remind myself of my mission whenever I meet a situation where the patience is challenged. When I am about to sleep, I look back at the day to see when I have managed to do be patient, and when I have not managed to do so. This has made my ardaas not a ritual, but a spiritual practice. My ardaas is a step to become a better human beings. It’s not mere words, it’s something I am making an effort to follow.
Our gurus condemned many rituals. We should critically look at all the practices we do today and ask ourselves if we are doing it as a ritual or if we are consciously doing something which has a meaning. Prayer is a relationship – you ask for something, but you also have to make an effort to achieve what you asked for. When you are just asking for something, it’s more like a ritual.
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