When people are in trouble, they pray desperately and then wonder why God doesn’t answer.
Paramhansa Yogananda said it’s a good thing we don’t always get what we pray for.
Nothing that happens to us is outside God’s will. God wants to give us true, lasting happiness. The pain of our tests is intended to remove obstacles in our consciousness that prevent us from receiving His blessings.
Yogananda wrote hundreds of inspired prayers that are collected in a book called Whispers From Eternity. He included prayers for all kinds of human difficulties – for overcoming suffering, finding happiness and success, and above all, for finding God.
But not one prayer says, “Give me a good job.” Or, “Help me find a better apartment.”
Yogananda’s book is not for those who think of God only when they’re in trouble, or when they want some worldly fulfillment.
He was concerned with helping people find a happiness that will free us from all suffering and give us perfect joy.
To pray to God effectively, we must know that perfect happiness can only ever be found in Him. Thus, Yogananda’s prayers show us how to ask God to give us the power to live in attunement with His will.
Yet he also included a prayer titled “Demand for Prosperity.”
That prayer doesn’t beg God to give us money and material things. It appeals to God as our Father: “I am Thy child, and as such, I have the right of possession over all things… Rescue my consciousness, shipwrecked on the tiny island of my body.”
To fulfill our material needs, we need to overcome the consciousness that we lack anything. We must remove the wrong idea: “I am tiny, powerless, and separate from God.”
Yogananda taught that it’s wrong to beg God to solve our problems. Instead, we should ask Him to give us the power to attract what we need. “Begging prayers,” as he called them, betray our actual relationship with God, as our Father and Mother. To pray as a beggar is to limit our power to draw from the divine source that is already ours.
With the right attitude, we can find the strength to deal with any test, in cooperation with God.
For example, if someone treats us badly, we can ask God to give us His power of forgiveness.
When we face unbearable trials, we can ask God to give us the consciousness of a warrior. In one of Yogananda’s prayers, he says: “Burn away all the dross of weakness in me; bring out the steel of endurance, and harden me into the strength of calmness.”
If we want God to help us overcome our problems, we need to ask Him for the right attitude, the right will, the right energy, and the right devotion, so that we can draw on His power.
Yogananda urges us to choose a prayer that has a personal meaning for us. It’s important to choose prayers that we won’t be resisting with part of our mind.
Next, we need to calm ourselves so that we can enter completely into the spirit of the prayer. Most prayers don’t “work” because we aren’t sufficiently focused and sincere.
An effective way to focus the mind when we pray is to repeat the prayer slowly and calmly until we are fully absorbed in the meaning.
Once we feel the meaning, we can visualize it more and more clearly until we make it our own.
Yogananda’s “Prayer at Noon” speaks of God’s energy as blessing us through the Sun. “Thou art invisible yet Thine energy flows through the rays of sunshine….”
Meditating on this prayer, we find a hidden meaning. “Is there ever a time when God’s invisible light isn’t shining on us?”
When I’m shopping, can God’s rays penetrate to me there?
When I’m at work, are God’s rays present even there?”
By visualizing God bathing us in many situations, we begin to understand that His love shines everywhere, like the sun.
Yogananda’s prayers describe ordinary realities: a crowded street; a bee gathering nectar; a person watching a movie, a swim in the ocean.
Over and over, God is telling us that if we want to know Him, we must see Him in our daily life. Before we can rise out of this existence, we must see it as perfectly spiritual.
When we take the meaning of our prayer into our hearts, it awakens a deep longing for God. Most important, we must saturate our prayers with devotion, again and again. Yogananda said, “Imbue yourself with faith that your heart’s craving is being felt by God.”
We feel closest to God when we receive His blessings with gratitude. When we are grateful to God, it is easier to open our hearts to His love.
Do you have trouble feeling love for God? Remember that that the power to love Him is His gift. Pray deeply to be able to love Him. Deep love for God is your birthright as God’s child.
When you pray, visualize a saint sitting with you. Feel that God is inside you, listening to your prayer, encouraging you, and giving you the power to love Him.
Yogananda urged us not to dig up our “prayer plant” with worries and doubts.
“When will God come?”
“Am I wasting my time praying?”
Accept that you’ve done your best, and leave the results in God’s hands. Never feel that you are small and separate from Him. Remember that He is, literally, your Mother, Father, and dearest Friend. As Yogananda said, God is “nearer than the nearest, dearer than the dearest.”
Sometimes God answers our prayers by not answering! God responds to every prayer – but by His silence, He may be telling us that we need to pass through a difficult test in order to learn important lessons – perhaps to purify our hearts so that we can receive His blessings more fully.
We must understand that everything is coming from God. As Swami Kriyananda said, when you achieve liberation, you find that it was God who was living all the events of your countless lives.
The prayers of the masters have the power to change us on the deepest level. The more we pray, the sooner we will rise above words and find the living power of Spirit flowing in us.