The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

Volume

Sayings

Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date

THE SUPPLEMENTARY PAPERS

Heading

Unity and Uniformity

Religion

The Sufi's Religion

The Aspects of Religion

How to Attain to Truth by Religion

Five Desires Answered by Religion

Law

Aspects of the Law of Religion

Prayer

The Effect of Prayer

The God Ideal

The Spiritual Hierarchy

The Master, the Saint, the Prophet

Prophets and Religions

The Symbology of Religious Ideas

The Message and the Messenger

Sufism

The Spirit of Sufism

The Sufi's Aim in Life

The Ideal of the Sufi

The Sufi Movement

The Universal Worship

Sub-Heading

-ALL-

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Prayer

Often mankind thinks, "Since God is the knower of the heart of every man, what does it matter if prayer is recited and gesture or action made? Would it not be sufficient if one sat in silence and thought of God?" And the answer is that it is according to the extent of your consciousness of prayer that your prayer reaches God. If your body is silent and only your mind working, part of your being is praying and part is not, for you are constituted of both mind and body. Therefore, when the mind is praying the body must pray too, to make it complete.

In reality God is within you, and as He is within you, you are the instrument of God and through you God experiences the external world and you are the best instrument of conveying yourself to God. Therefore your thought, action and word makes prayer complete.

Then there is another idea. The next question is, when God already knows what we want, what is good for us, what we need, why should we ask Him for it? He knows it. For this in the first place I would quote Christ's words:

"Knock, and it shall be opened unto you; ask, and ye shall receive."

In other words God knows your need, He knows what you want, but your want becomes clear when it is expressed not by the mind, or the body only, but by your whole being. That is the secret.

The question, "Why does God need praise from us? Who are we that we should praise God?" is answered thus: We can never praise Him enough, and our praise can never be sufficient, but at the same time our soul is blessed with the impression of the Glory of God whenever we praise Him. The soul could praise God every moment and yet be wanting to praise Him more. It is constantly hungering and thirsting to find the perfection of beauty. When to our utmost we praise the beauty of God, our soul is filled with bliss. Even to utter the name of God is a bliss which fills the soul with light and joy and happiness as nothing else can.

  1. Giving Thanks

    The first aspect of prayer is giving thanks to God for all the numberless blessings that are bestowed upon us at every moment of the day and night, of which man is mostly unconscious.

  2. Asking Forgiveness

    The second aspect of prayer is laying one's shortcomings before the unlimited Perfection of the Divine Being, and asking His forgiveness.

    This makes man conscious of his smallness, of his limitedness, and therefore makes him humble before his God. And by humbling himself before God man does not lose any virtue. God alone has the right to demand complete humility. There is another side to this question: although humility is painful to the pride of man, the joy of humility is never known by the proud. The effect produced upon his own feeling is as if, by his very humility, he had opened the doors of the shrine of God which is in the heart of man. The one who asks forgiveness of his friend feels a joy that he of whom it is asked does not know. And it must not be forgotten that it is not pride that gives joy, but it is humility which gives a special joy.

    If we can only know the joy of asking pardon even of our fellow man, when we realize we are in fault, however little it may be! And when we ask the Father of all to forgive our fault, joy, beauty, happiness, spring up in the heart in a way unknown until it is experienced. And then to think we can ask pardon of Him Whose love is unlimited, while our errors are numberless and our ignorance limitless! Think of the joy of asking forgiveness from God! Every moment of our life, if we can see wisely, contains some fault or error, and asking pardon is just like purifying the heart and washing it white. Only think of the joy of humbling yourself before God!

    There is a story told of Akbar. He was mourning for the death of his mother and for a long time his grief was so great he could not overcome it. His ministers and friends tried to comfort him, telling him how fortunate he was, how great was his influence and power. He answered, "Yes, I know it, but one thing grieves me. I have everyone to bow before me, but there was one, when I came in the palace, before whom I could be humble. I could be as nothing before her and I cannot tell you the joy of that."

    Think then of the greater joy of humbling yourself before that Spirit, that Ideal, who is the true Father and Mother, on Whose love you can always depend; it is a spark of His love which expresses itself in the earthly father and mother, and in whatever manner you humble yourself before Him, it can never be enough. To humble your limited self before His Perfection, that is to deny yourself. Self-denial is not renouncing things, it is denying the self, and its first lesson is humility.

    And the blessing one can receive by prayer becomes a thousandfold greater when that blessing is received by some few who are united in the same thought and are praying together.

    Humility has several forms, and these forms are observed according to the customs of different peoples. There are forms of respect known: towards parents, towards Teachers, Masters. But at the end of examination, and after studying life keenly, one finds that it is to God alone that all forms of respect are addressed. And it is this lesson that the different religions have given to different peoples according to their needs.

  3. Asking for One's Needs

    And the third aspect of prayer is to tell to God one's difficulties, the troubles of one's life, and to ask God for what one needs and one wants. And who else deserves this trust but God? It is true that we have relations, friends who love us and wish to help us. But they are only human beings, traveling in the same boat on the same sea, subject to all the same difficulties, the same limitations. And man can be helped by man only to a certain extent. The more one studies human nature, the more one feels inclined to bring before God alone one's troubles, one's difficulties, and one's sorrows. Therefore this is a part of what is taught in the form of prayer: it is called an aspect of prayer.

  4. Calling the Beloved

    The fourth aspect of prayer is the call of the lover to the beloved. No doubt this is a higher form; and to be able to pray in this manner man must rise above the ordinary level of life. As it is difficult for a human being to love man, whom he sees, so it is more difficult to love God, Whom one has never seen. Loving one's fellow man, yes; but not everyone is capable of loving the Formless, the God-Ideal, and to evolve by the lesson of love. For in this love there is no disappointment, and only the love of God can fulfill the desire of the human soul, and all other forms of love are only as steps that lead to the love of God.

    But who can explain the love of God to one who has never felt it? Because God is the perfect ideal, His love is the perfect love. There is the love of the mate, of parents, of friends, of children, but in the love of God all is found combined. Therefore its joy is perfect. The love of God is living and everlasting and the love of the true Beloved.

  5. Union

    The fifth aspect of prayer is to know God, and by this means to draw nearer to God, which is the real meaning of the word "at-one-ment," which means complete union. And this cannot be learned; it is a natural tendency: it is the attraction of the soul to God. It is as the negative pole of the electric wire is attracted to the positive. Which means that the happiness of man depends on his nearness to God. This has been taught in the form of prayer.

It is these five aspects of prayer which constitute the form of religious worship. Every religion, at whatever time and in whatever country it has been given, has given as its method, prayer. But man has always shown his childish nature. He has always fought with his neighbor because he does not pray as he himself does. Man has taken the outer form of prayer. He has used the outer form of prayer to satisfy his vanity, and the consequence has been that man, revolted by this state of things, has given up prayer. For instance, Protestantism is a sort of protest against the Catholic form of prayer. Many people, between the two, have given up prayer. And giving it up is not satisfactory, for nothing can take the place of what is called prayer.

The chaotic condition at the present time is caused by the lack of religion. Man's soul needs religion: his mind fights against it. In history we find that most wars have been caused by disputes about religion. In the East no one dares to say that he does not believe in God. In the West there are people who are proud of not believing in God. They say: "Force, or forces, are the origin of life." It is the greatest tragedy if one deprives oneself of God, because there cannot be any other means for man of rising to a higher consciousness.

The question arises in the inquiring mind: If God is within man, all our troubles and difficulties, our feelings and our attitude towards Him, our faults, are known to Him -- what need is there to express them in prayer?

  • It is like saying, "Because I love a certain person, why should I show it?" Expression is the nature of life. When every part of man's mind and body expresses his feeling, his thought, his aspiration, then it produces its full effect.

  • And no doubt, by the fact of being met together for prayer, the effect is greater. The blessing that one can receive through prayer becomes a thousand-fold greater when received by a few united in the same thought, and who are praying together.

  • Besides, the psychological effect is another thing. The world is a dome, and in this dome, every word that is uttered resounds. And when the resonance is produced in this dome, its re-echo is produced, and what comes, comes as the answer of God.

The question whether God has time to give attention to our prayer is answered, by the mystic, that it is through the medium of man himself that God hears his prayer. In the East the head of man is called the dome of God, which means "the greatest secret" and also "the highest place." For outwardly, it is the head which represents the eternal abode. It is for this reason that it is said in the scriptures, "We have created man in Our own Image."