Prayer is meant to act as a complement to prudent action, not as a replacement
Some people think of prayer as a magic wand to solve all problems or as a mystical shield against all problems. For example, amid a pandemic, they claim that prayer frees them from the responsibility to take practical steps for avoiding infection. However, time-honored spiritual traditions stress that prayer is a complement to prudent action, not its replacement.
This principle of both praying sincerely and acting responsibly is demonstrated in the Bhagavad-gita. On encountering the universal form (11.15-31), Arjuna offers prayers, filled with emotion and erudition (11.36-46). Therein, for example, he offers his reverential obeisance, acknowledging divine omnipresence and omnipotence (11.40). However, that acknowledgment doesn’t make him imagine that prayer alone will protect him in the subsequent war. He picks up his bow (18.78) and fights diligently; he never presumes that prayer exempts him from the need to use his archery ability, fully and resourcefully.
If prayer doesn’t replace prudent action, what does it do? It complements prudent action by helping us increase our composure, concentration and connection.
- Composure: Whenever we do anything, our mind often worries about the things beyond our control. Prayer reminds us that those things are not entirely out of control; they will be managed by an intelligence far greater than ours.
- Concentration: Having entrusted what is beyond our control to divine hands, prayer inspires us to concentrate on doing our part diligently and dexterously. The Bhagavad-gita states that we all are parts of the divine (15.07). That means we all have to play our part, and we need to play it using all our God-given abilities and resources.
- Connection: Prayer keeps us spiritually connected so that through whatever we do and whatever result we get, be it success or failure or something in between, we grow in self-understanding and progress toward becoming the best we can be.
Think it over:
- What is the relationship between prayer and prudent action?
- How does the Gita demonstrate that relationship?
- How can praying help us to act responsibly?
11.40: Obeisances to You from the front, from behind and from all sides! O unbounded power, You are the master of limitless might! You are all-pervading, and thus You are everything!
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