What is the benefit of prayer

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I prayer before you...Almighty, please bless me.

This is a question which is asked by many people: What indeed is the benefit of prayer?

Guru Nanak has given us many answers to this question and by reading Gurbani (the Guru's compositions) one can find many varied and detailed replies to this query. The Guru tells us: "...So offer your prayers to Him, the Giver of Peace, the Destroyer of fear. Showing His Mercy, the Merciful Master shall resolve your affairs. (3)" (SGGS p 44) Here the importance of faith and trust is obvious. If you do not believe that there is a God who is the "...Giver of Peace" or the "... Destroyer of Fear" then the prayer is somewhat wasted!

Inherent in this line of Gurbani is the concept of belief in a Supreme Reality. Once you have accepted this notion then and only then can the benefits result. At this point, the Guru informs us that through God's Mercy and His Grace your affairs will be resolved. Meditate on the Creator force; remember the Benevolence of Waheguru or Allah or Ram or whatever name you wish to use to refer to God. By offering your heartfelt prayer to the One Supreme Almighty Lord, your worldly affairs will be settled and taken care of.

Are you a Believer?

Do you even believe in God? Some will say "yes" while other will say "no". The next question to ask is: Do you believe in the ten Gurus? For most the answers has to be "yes". If you agree then: Do you trust the Gurus? Surely, the Gurus who helped thousands over 100 of years must have been trustworthy. If you accept this then most will believe in God because the Gurus, who we trust tells us that He exists.

This is what Gurbani tells us about a faithless person:

ਜੋ ਭਲਾਈ ਸੋ ਬ੝ਰਾ ਜਾਨੈ ॥ ਸਾਚ੝ ਕਹੈ ਸੋ ਬਿਖੈ ਸਮਾਨੈ ॥

ਜਾਣੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਜੀਤ ਅਰ੝ ਹਾਰ ॥ ਇਹ੝ ਵਲੇਵਾ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਸਾਰ ॥੨॥
ਜੋ ਹਲਾਹਲ ਸੋ ਪੀਵੈ ਬਉਰਾ ॥ ਮ੝ਰਿਤ੝ ਨਾਮ੝ ਜਾਨੈ ਕਰਿ ਕਉਰਾ ॥
ਸਾਧਸੰਗ ਕੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਨੇਰਿ ॥ ਲਖ ਚਉਰਾਸੀਹ ਭ੝ਰਮਤਾ ਫੇਰਿ ॥੩॥

Jo bẖalĝ▫ī so burĝ jĝnai. Sĝcẖ kahai so bikẖai samĝnai.

Jĝṇai nĝhī jīṯ ar hĝr. Ih valevĝ sĝkaṯ sansĝr. (2)
Jo halĝhal so pīvai ba▫urĝ. Amriṯ nĝm jĝnai kar ka▫urĝ.
Sĝḝẖsang kai nĝhī ner. Lakẖ cẖa▫orĝsīh bẖarmaṯĝ fer. (3)

That which is for his own good, he thinks is evil. If someone tells him the truth, he looks upon that as poison.

He cannot tell victory from defeat. This is the way of life in the world for the faithless cynic. (2)
The demented fool drinks in the deadly poison, while he believes the Ambrosial Naam to be bitter.
He does not even approach the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy; he wanders lost through 8.4 million incarnations. (3)

In Raga Gauri, in the sacred Guru Granth Sahib, the founder Guru tells us: "The body is wild, and the mind is foolish. Practising egotism, selfishness and conceit, your life is passing away. Prays Nanak, when the naked body is cremated, then you will come to regret and repent. (4)(3)(15)" (SGGS p 156) If you think carefully about this tuk (line) from this composition, I think you will agree that indeed our bodies are wild and out of control chasing more and more "highs" in life; more petty pleasures of our senses, while the mind is foolish as it does not function its control over the "foolish" body. This twin combination of a stupid mind and an out of control body results in a wasted life; we live only for our own little pleasures and the full potential of human life is lost.

Gurmat living; Living the Guru's way

When we are tempted to sin, we focus on the pleasure that sin gives us. We relish how that sin is going to satisfy our physical or material craving. However, when we stop to pray, we begin to focus on God and goodness rather that on the sin and bad deeds. Our desire is diverted away from sin and towards God. Prayer helps us defeat temptation by diverting our attention back towards God, His desires and wishes.

In most cases, the greatest challenge is to motivate yourself to pray. It is easy to do many other things but getting oneself to pray is difficult. It is easy to sin but much more difficult to do a positive action like pray. Most sins bring an evil pleasure in the action. To steal fulfils greed and many people derive pleasure from the activity of stealing; some will spend hours searching for their desired items or lust away after others as this satisfies their carnal or material desire called Kam. There are huge benefits that happen when someone prays; these are only available to those who fight through the temptation not to pray. So enormous effort and devotion is required to engage in prayer.

Prayer is the way that the mind connects with the higher spirit; it is ones personal dialogue with God; it is the communication channel with the Creator. Without prayer there is no spiritual communication. "This is Nanak's prayer, that he may be adorned with the True Name." (421) In prayer, I remember him; I appreciate Him; I remind myself of his many blessings; in granting me this precious human life; of making sure I am safe and in good health. As the Guru says, "Without Him, there is no other at all" (232). Gurbani confirms that, "You are my Father, and You are my Mother" (103), for without Him no one would be here on Earth. It is by His Grace that the whole Universe exists; "He Himself fashioned the entire universe; He Himself bestows His Grace." (994)

Benefits of Prayer

  • 1. It provides a communication links to a higher authority brings a wider spiritual vision, higher conciousness, greater tolerance and understanding.
  • 2. It makes one humble; the person realises that in all of God's creation, they are only a very tiny speck.
  • 3. One becomes more concious of the enormous expanse of God's creation and so appreciates the reality of life in a much wider framework.
  • 4. It brings one closer to our spiritual leaders, the Gurus.
  • 5. The mind is focused away from purely material and carnal pursuits.
  • 6. It helps and encourages the person keeps away from sin and bad deeds.
  • 7. It promotes the person to move away from negative company and bad habits.
  • 8. Anger, Lust, Pride, Attachment and Greed will diminish in the person who prays regularly.
  • 9. As per Gurbani, it will cure all ills "ਬਿਰਥੀ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਨ ਕੀ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ॥ Birthī kaḝe na hova▫ī jan kī arḝĝs. The prayer of the Devotee is never unfulfilled." (SGGS p 819) It makes one healthy and happy.
  • 10 Spiritual improvement: The person who spends time in the presence of God will change for the better.

Other relevant Gurbani quotes

ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕਰਤ ਮਿਟੇ ਸਭਿ ਭਰਮਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮ੝ ਲੈ ਊਤਮ ਧਰਮਾ ॥

ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕਰਤ ਜਾਤਿ ਕ੝ਲ ਹਰੀ ॥ ਸੋ ਹਰਿ ਅੰਧ੝ਲੇ ਕੀ ਲਾਕਰੀ ॥੧॥

Har har karaṯ mite sabẖ bẖarmĝ. Har ko nĝm lai ūṯam ḝẖarmĝ.

Har har karaṯ jĝṯ kul harī. So har anḝẖule kī lĝkrī. (1)

Chanting Har, Har, all doubts are dispelled.

Repeating the Lord's Name is the highest religion.
Chanting Har, Har, supersedes social classes and ancestry.
That Lord is the walking stick of the blind. (1)

See also