The Supplementary Papers
Prayer has been taught by all religions, in all forms: by bowing, by prostrations. As soon as man began to feel the immanence of God in nature, he began to prostrate himself before that Being, calling his limited self helpless before that Being, bowing before Him, worshipping Him. In the Christian religion man knelt before God. In the present time man's pride is grown so much that he thinks, "Why should I pray, why should I prostrate myself before another?" But even now, in Russia, we see rich and poor prostrating themselves, bowing down. A person might say, "What effect should prayer have upon the soul that is pure, aloof from everything?" The soul, when it sees the external self bowing down before it, rejoices and is glad. Prayer gives a nobility to whoever prays, be he rich or poor.
Prayer is of three kinds. The first prayer is the praise of God. The second is asking something of God, petition. The third is the prayer of realization. The prayer of praise is the most beautiful. We see here that if we praise anything in our friend he is pleased, and the praise, the respect we give to him, comes back to ourselves a thousand times more. Let us see how many admirers there are. He who admires, who praises one person, forgets himself in the praise of that person. He has one object of his admiration and is blind to all else, and no one knows who he is. He who admires an art is greater. He is known to be the admirer, the adorer of an art. He who admires his nation is greater. He admires the qualities of his nation, and all that has to do with it, and he thinks everything else is nothing. The man who admires his race is greater than he. But he who admires the whole humanity and the whole being, all that is, is greatest. His admiration has no limits.
It is said in the Quran, "If We had not made thee, O Muhammad, We would not have created the whole world." A person might say, "What a partial compliment to Muhammad!" It is not Muhammad, the personal, individual being, who is meant. It is meant, "If We had not made thee, the seer, the admirer of Our Whole Being, We would not have made the world." The Divine Being from there sees that each one admires one particular being. One part of the whole he singles out, admires, praises it, and calls that his own, not recognizing the Whole Being, of Whom it is a part, to Whom it belongs. The Divine Being that has made all is without an admirer.
The second kind of prayer is asking God to do something. This is for the ordinary person. For him it is better that he should ask of God and bring his need before God, than that he should ask of man. What a humiliation it is to ask, to show his need, before man. The ordinary person cannot depend entirely upon God. He does not altogether believe that God is. He looks to the external sources to supply him. Therefore it is best for him, as a moral, that he should ask of God only, and use his own exertions. By this he learns trust in God, and he learns resignation. If his desire is not granted, if he is left in misery, he learns to think that this is Gods Will.
After this comes the prayer of realization. This is the prayer of the dervishes, of the saints. They are ashamed to ask even of God. With whatever comes they are content. If they have food, whatever it is, it is right. If they have no food, it is right. If they have no covering, it is right. By this contentment they become greater than kings. Sitting under a tree, in rags, they are greater than the richest, than those who own all the earth and yet are needy, because they have the kingdom of God. Their prayer is the Zikr, Fikr, the prayer of realization. The Zikr, the perfect humanity, Fikr, the prayer of the jinn, of thought only, without words. The Shaghl, by which he enters the angelic world. But about what they see their lips are closed. They do not speak of it. They never tell.At the present time people say: "I see such things, and this color, and that light, and I hear that sound," in order to excite curiosity and wonder, and to gain notoriety. They make a trade even of spirituality. It is a very, very great misfortune, and if this goes on, even spirituality, the purest thing, the knowledge of God, will be brought down and lost.
God bless you.