February 18, 2012

Voices of Faith: Can one experience the greatness of the divine without prayer?

Prayer lets us interact with God

Rushdy El-Ghussein, former president of the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City: The greatness of the Divine does not manifest itself only in prayer but in all aspects of our lives. We can see the magnificence and beauty of life and the world around us. The scientist might experience the greatness of God in God’s creation and the wonders of science that God has created. A physician may experience God’s greatness in human anatomy or in the function of the heart or the function of eyes and ears. A parent can see it in the growth of his or her child.

Allah the Great manifests himself to us in many ways and forms. We might experience God’s greatness in the most awkward places or most frightening situations.

Do you imagine the difficulty Mary experienced in carrying baby Jesus? But she never thought that God had abandoned her. Can you imagine how the Pharaoh’s wife believed in God regardless of the disbelief that her husband displayed?

But there is value in prayer. Instead of simply being amazed or awed from a distance, we can interact with the Divine. We can worship and praise him, ask his aid, repent to him and seek his guidance.

It is the mercy of God that sends our way signals to believe in him and to worship him. The lucky ones are those who can see the opportunities God gives us and act upon them. The unfortunate ones are those who ignore these signals and throw themselves into hellfire.

Prayer is just temporary a path to awareness

Arvind Khetia, engineer and a Hindu: In Hinduism, the Divine is an all-pervading supreme being who is both immanent and transcendent, which cannot be limited by doctrine or dogma or by claiming its exclusivity.

To experience the Divine requires constant awareness of the Divine. Prayers in everyday religious practice do help one to remember the Divine; however, when prayer ends, one’s mind goes back to worldly thoughts.

To cultivate constant awareness of the Divine requires recognizing one’s divinity and seeing the divine presence in all of creation. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says: “I am ever present to those who have realized me in every creature. Seeing all life as my manifestation, they are never separated from me.”

To manifest one’s divinity, the Gita explains the spiritual disciplines of four primary yogas. (Yoga means the union of individual soul with the universal soul.) In Bhakti Yoga of devotion, prayer is an expression of one’s love for God. In Jnana Yoga of knowledge, one discriminates between real and unreal. In Karma Yoga of selfless work, one offers the fruits of all labors to the Divine. And in Raja Yoga of meditation, one strives for stillness of the mind to experience the Divine.

Therefore, the goal of all spiritual practice, with or without prayer, is to cultivate purity of heart and to recognize the greatness of the Divine in all of creation.

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