One of the common aspects of all religions throughout history is prayer. It is essential to our spiritual life as breathing is to our physical existence. The following description of prayer is from the Ruhi Institute training course book 1, which is often used in group study and discussion:
Prayer is “conversation with God”. “To converse” means to talk with someone; thus, when we are praying we are talking with God.
If a person truly loves another, his most fervent desire is to be in his loved one’s presence and to converse with him. Our prayer should be a loving conversation with our Creator, the One True God. During prayer, we who are week can beseech and supplicate God and ask for His assistance. We should always keep in mind that prayer in its purest state serves to bring us nearer to God and helps us attain the Divine Presence.
We know that God created us. He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. He knows what we want and what we need. Then why should we pray? God does not need our prayers; nevertheless, the progress of our souls depends on prayer, because prayer is the food of the soul. When we pray we are talking in spiritual nourishment. Through the bonds of love connecting us to the divine worlds, we receive the blessings of God. Prayer increases our capacity to enjoy spiritual gifts and to experience true happiness.
The pathway to God is straight and narrow. Innumerable obstacles may block our way. By means of ardent, sincere and constant supplication, we can overcome the obstacles and be guided along this path. Prayer helps us to advance towards God and not lose sight of our special destiny. This is why we should pray constantly that through the love of God our souls may develop and be strengthened, and that we may firmly walk the path of eternal happiness with steadfastness.
When we pray we should center our thoughts on God. We should forget the things of the world, what is going on around us, and even our own selves. To forget all save God is not easy. Effort is needed. It requires great yearning. When our hearts are pure and free of our own imaginings and desires, our prayers have their greatest effect.
Another very important requirement for reaching the true state of prayer is faith. We should have complete trust in the mercy of God and be certain that He will grant what is best for us.
Spirit has influence; prayer has spiritual effect. Therefore, we pray, ‘O God! Heal this sick one!’ Perchance God will answer. Does it matter who prays? God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable. He answers the prayers of all his servants. He answers the prayer of this plant. The plant prays potentially, ‘O God! Send me rain!’ God answers the prayer, and the plant grows. God will answer anyone. (Abdu’l-Baha’)
(Reflection on the Life of the Spirit published by the Ruhi Institute)