It promised to be a bright, beautiful day. The sun was just peeping above the rooftops in a crisp, fresh, cloudless sky. Birds chirped cheerfully as a light breeze caressed the trees. Colorful flowers bloomed all around the beautiful garden. Springtime was in the air and Mother Nature was at her best.
But all the beauty and cheer of dawn and the lovely, well-kept, sprawling backyard was lost on Sunitha. She sat slumped down in her porch, lost in deep thought, her eyes swollen red with crying and lack of sleep. She felt helpless. Her good friend and neighbor—just 37 years old—had died in a fatal road accident a few days ago. It was a sudden, devastating blow on her entire family, especially her 7-year-old daughter. The child missed her mother terribly and pined for her, day and night. She wouldn’t eat or sleep or talk to anyone. Her father was terribly distressed and depressed himself. Her parents were inconsolable and broken, having lost their only daughter.
Sunitha had stayed with the family for a couple of days, trying to help them get back on their feet, but to no avail. They were all sunk deep in sorrow, unable to overcome it. And Sunitha was helpless. She had cried with them, and for them. But she knew they had to move on. However, nothing she said or did seemed to have any effect on them. She wished she could do something to help them get out of the deep pit of sorrow. But what could she do? How could she help when nothing would work?
How many times have we ourselves seen people around us suffer through similar distressing situations? In such times, what do we do? At best, we give them some physical support – bring them food or help with daily chores perhaps; or give them moral support – just be around them so they don’t feel lonely, talk to them, etc. But our words of consolation to them are, in truth, only words and nothing more. They are empty and devoid of the ability to render real help. We cannot ourselves alter the situation or make it any better for them. And our own grieving or worrying for their sake will not help them either. What then can we do?
To this question, “What is the best that we can do when we can do nothing about another’s misery?” Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji answers, “Prayer for them alone.”
Prayer? How can that help? One may ask. Then there are also those who feel that prayer is just a way out for those who don’t really want to or have the time to offer physical help.
But in a situation when we are helpless, when no amount of cooking, cleaning, running errands or even talking will make a real internal difference, who has the power to help but the One who is all-powerful yet is the loving Father of the world? When people like you or I spend time crying or worrying over something, it is, in essence, only a waste of time and energy. It doesn’t help anyone, and often only makes things worse, for us as well as others.
But if we instead spend the same energy in prayer, in asking God to help the friend who is in trouble, He can actually do something about the situation. He can give the grieving person mental strength and lift him up from despair, He can ensure that an orphaned child is taken care of, He can heal the scars of pain in a flash.
The catch, though, is that prayer is not as simple as it sounds. It does not mean blaming God for bringing grief upon someone and definitely does not involve using the phrase, “Why should this happen to him (or her or me)!” Sri Swamiji also warns that telling God something as one would pass on a piece of information does not constitute prayer.
What, then, is prayer? How should we pray? Sri Swamiji says, “Prayer is crying before God till we attain what we want, unmindful of everything else.”
This means begging, pleading, beseeching God determinedly but humbly. Like a baby crying persistently till it gets its way with the mother. And if this has to be done for someone else’s sake, it cannot be a cursory or superficial act, but only possible when we really feel for and truly want to help the other person.
Prayers are extremely powerful. And they are the best and most effective way to help anyone in need. For we are not alone. “He” is there, eager and hopeful that one day we will—instead of trying in vain to pull ourselves out of the quicksand of life—turn to Him for help in all earnestness.
Nisha Giri, Houston, TX