Volume V - Spiritual Liberty
Part V: PEARLS FROM THE OCEAN UNSEEN
THE PRAYERFUL ATTITUDE
There are five attitudes that are assumed by different classes of people with regard to prayer. In the first place there is the praiseful attitude of those who are grateful for their daily bread. The second class of people are those who are not only grateful for material benefits, but who hope also for power and position, or for forgiveness of their sins. The third class of people are those whose eyes are opened, who recognize the beauty of God in nature and in all around them, and glorify Him for that beauty.
The fourth class of people are those who recognize the greatness of God in His power, who is able to provide for all His creation, from man to the smallest worm or germ. And in the fifth class are all the mystics and thinkers. Their attitude to prayer is far higher than that of the four preceding classes. They understand the truth of the being of man: that God and man are not separate. Notable among these are the Sufis. Many people who are free thinkers, and have this understanding, do not bother about prayer. Some even say, 'To whom should we pray?' The Sufi realizes the truth of his being, and his whole life becomes an attitude of prayer, in spite of his free thought and his rising above good and bad, right and wrong. When a person loves, he may be in the crowd, and yet be unaware of those around him, being absorbed in the thought of the beloved. And so it is with the love of God. He who loves God may be in the crowd, yet, being in the thought of God he is in seclusion. To such a person the crowd makes no difference. Sadi says, 'Prayer is the expansion of the limited being to the unlimited, the drawing closer of the soul to God.'
Hazrat Ali, the most distinguished among Sufis of the past, says, 'To know the self is to know God,' yet he spent much of his day and most of his nights in prayer. The Sufi's prayer is his journey to the eternal goal, his realization of God.
The question now arises how to attain to this prayerful attitude in life. In the first place, for those whose prayer is one of praise, if their whole life is to assume a prayerful attitude, they must carry this praise and gratitude into the smallest details of life, and feel grateful for the slightest act of kindness done to them by anybody. Man falls very short of this ideal in life. He is so stiff, he misses so many of the chances of giving thanks. It is sometimes because of his riches, while at other times he is blinded by his power. All that is done for him he thinks is his due because of his money or his influence. When a man has been able to attain this attitude of praise and thanksgiving for all things in life, then his life may indeed be called a prayerful life.
Those who express a hope when they pray can turn their everyday striving into prayer, providing they maintain this hope in every pursuit of life, putting their trust in God, and provided they consider all the objects of their desire as coming from one and the same source when they have gained them.
Those people who glorify God for His beauty, should see the beauty of God in all His creatures. It is of no use to praise God for His beauty, and then to criticize and find faults in His creation. For one's life to be prayerful one must always seek the good in man. Even the worst man has a good spot, and this should be sought and not the bad points. We can learn virtue even from the greatest sinner, if we consider him as a teacher. There is a tradition that Moses asked Satan to tell him the secret of life.
Those who glorify God for the greatness of His power must be able to see greatness in His creation. There are some who so pride themselves on their power, position and money, that they cannot see the greatness in another. For these it is of no avail to worship God for His greatness; it is only lip service.
As for the fifth class of people, those who realize the truth of their being, they recognize their God-ideal in all of His creation. They see their divine Beloved in all manifestations, in every name and form.