Behind this seemingly puerile statement in Matthew 7:7-8 lies a profound truth. Let’s explore this.
Honouring our innermost desires is extremely important. Desires are the life force within us. They impel us to act – either good or bad. Imagine living a life without any desires. This would be a sapless, dry life. But desires bring pain, especially when not fulfilled. This is where the role of prayer becomes very important in keeping us sane.
Prayer is essentially a tool to manage our intense emotions. Prayer should not be seen as a demand-fulfilling mechanism. It isn’t Santa Claus. When we intensely yearn for something or someone, great pain fills our hearts. We suffer, sometimes mildly, sometimes intensely depending on the intensity of the desires. The mistake we make is we think that by acquiring the object of our desires, the suffering will disappear. And therefore we pray for that which we want. What we need to do instead is pray that the suffering ceases. This may be either due to the acquisition of the object, or it may be because of acquiring wisdom – wisdom that we don’t need the object anymore to be happy.
Haven’t we all noticed, more often than not, we yearn for something so much, and when this desire comes to fruition, we do not enjoy what we have obtained? Instead, we feel listless, empty, and bored. What we truly seek is not the object, which we think will satisfy our desire. We seek the ending of desire. The peace that comes from not seeking. And this is a profound shift in the way we approach our desires. We seek to resolve the inner strife. We aren’t really concerned about the external object.
Keeping this in mind – pray. And how should we pray?
The first step in prayer is to establish your intention. In the Sanskrit tradition this is known as Sankalpa (San – Right, Correct, Perfect and Kalpa – well ordered, regulated, whole, to create). In the words of Dr Sampadan Mishra,
Sankalpa is not just any resolution or vow or will to do something in particular. It has a deeper meaning. The word sankalpa in a true sense means a spontaneous coming together of all the movements or power of the nature to form an aspiration or to collaborate, be in accordance with the deepest aspiration that one has. It is in this sense that sankalpa is the power of the concentrated Will integrating the whole being into a coherent unity. In sankalpa there is the unity of all movements of the being, it is free from division, diversity, and so from the essential conflict. Doubt has no place in sankalpa.Dr. Sampadananda Mishra. https://bit.ly/3S6SC4v
Establishing the intention of where you want to go is crucial in order to integrate your whole being in order to be able to culminate this desire. Establishing the intention of what you want also helps us escape from blame and complaining. Often when things don’t go our way, we begin to focus on the fact that things didn’t go our way, instead of focusing on what we want. Sankalpa connects with your innermost being and articulates this. This reaffirms our psyche and helps us get into action.
This Sankalpa (or prayer) is offered to a God / Guru / Being of one’s choice. In Hinduism, millions of Gods were created to give flexibility to the one praying. She can choose that God which suits her best. The important point here is that the prayer is more important than the one prayed to. The strength of one’s prayer is crucial. When we state our intention, we offer it. We say this is what I want. We don’t focus on “But how will this happen”, or “I’m a useless person”. No. We simply honour what is there in us. It is a naked acceptance of the strong desire in us.
When we recognize our Sankalpa and state it in such a way, you will notice something interesting that happens. The knot of suffering within oneself is released. One has to be sensitive to this, but the effect is almost immediate. This intense praying, not to get what we want, but to relieve us of our suffering, works almost immediately. One can perceivably notice the impact on the emotional -energetic system of our bodies. The emotions subside. The body relaxes. The breath deepens. And the mind calms.
But will we get what we desire?
No one knows. No one can tell. That is left to laws that are greater than us. And indeed, our primary focus is on relieving our suffering and not on the acquisition of the object. Therefore, once our suffering is relieved, it really doesn’t matter. We set our intention and ask earnestly and the response arrives as a disappearance of the trouble. “You asked and it was given”.