No particular Language or Words are necessary for Prayers
No particular language is necessary for praying. If, while one is praying, he considers himself bound by some formula, the inner flow of love is not continuous. One is thus deprived of full spiritual benefit. Long and learned phrases are not necessary. A prayer should be replete with inner feelings. Although long words and phrases may satisfy our intellect, they lead to one becoming subject to the disease of ostentation. By becoming involved in the structure and recitation of the words, we become far removed from the true feeling of the heart. Our prayers then do not correctly represent the state of our heart and conduct. Our condition becomes that of a grave made of lime and mortar which contains the corpse of an infidel.
It may be observed that we often indulge in hypocritical prayer in which our heart and head are not in agreement. In Tibet, people go about in the streets with a prayer wheel, a machine that repeats prayers for them. When it is turned, the names written on it are turned, and it is considered that the names have been repeated so many times. People even earn money for turning a prayer wheel once or twice. How can such prayer benefit anyone?
Even when our prayers appear to be beautiful and full of feeling, but our inner life is impure, then all our prayers would be false in the sight of the Lord. But if our prayers express our inner feelings and our heart is dyed in humility and love, then our prayers are heard and granted by the Lord. It is not wise to deceive ourselves and others, for the reality cannot be kept hidden and will some day become known. To repent, after realizing a mistake, is the first step towards reformation, and the next step is to reform oneself. The temptation to indulge in sense pleasures incites us to commit sins, and we have to pay for them. We reap as we sow.
Maulana Rumi has given a beautiful example of prayer.
Moses, one day, met a shepherd who was praying in loving words, "Oh Lord, where are You? I will be Your servant. I will mend Your clothes, and will comb the hair of Your head. Oh Lord, let my life be sacrificed to You. I will sacrifice my wife and children and my home for You. I will supply You with milk. If You are willing, I will serve You. I will kiss Your hands and feet. I will stay on guard at Your gate while You sleep. I will bring milk, ghee, cheese, fried cakes, pots of curd and other good things for You to eat and drink. I will sacrifice all my goats for You, and will ever remain weeping in longing for You."
On hearing this, Moses said, "Fie on you. You are mad. You are no longer a believer, but an infidel. What is all this useless and impure talk? Keep silent. Your impurity has polluted the world and soiled the silken cloth of religion. If you will not stop, the fire of wrath will come and destroy the earth. The Lord, like the sun, does not need these things, for He has no body. Nor does He depend on hands and feet. If your talk is meant for those who have become one with the Lord, then also it is ludicrous. If a believer is called by the name of Fatima he would feel offended, because it is the name of a woman. He would feel annoyed and would beat you. The Lord is free from birth and death, and to pray to Him as though He had hands and feet is to insult Him."
On hearing this the shepherd said, "Oh Moses, you have sealed my lips. I am bewildered and on fire." He tore his clothes and began to weep, and then ran away to the jungle.
Moses then heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Alas! Why have you separated my seekers from me? I sent you to the world to bring about union, and not separation." You have come for uniting and not for separating.
The Lord then continued to speak to Moses, saying: "Everyone remembers Me in accordance with his own language and temperament. Whatever the shepherd offered, I accepted. I am not pleased with you, for I regard the refusal of such offers as reprehensible. My duty is to shower Grace. By telling beads it is not I who become pure, but they who do so. Oh Moses, I do not look at the outside, but at the inner state. I accept whatever men say when they pray – even if it is poorly expressed – when it comes from the heart. The feelings of the heart are the real thing; the words merely express them. I want real longing from the heart. Generate yearning within yourself. Kindle the fire of love which burns away all thoughts and languages. Oh Moses, those who observe rules and regulations are different from evolved and devoted souls. For the lovers, every breath produces yearning.
Nobody levies a tax on ruined villages. It is not necessary to wash the blood of the martyrs. Their blood is purer than purest water. Their faults are better than hundreds of good actions done by others. Do not expect guidance from observers of form. The religion of love is different from other forms of worship. For lovers, the Lord is the only religion and creed. If a ruby does not bear the seal, it does not matter."
When Moses heard these angry words of the Lord, he ran to the shepherd and told him, "I have brought good news for you. The Lord has accepted your prayers. Your unbelief stands on the same footing as belief. Your belief is the light of life. You may say whatever you like without any fear." The shepherd replied, "I am now above these matters. When you scolded me, I took a different turn. But then I crossed the skies in one bound and became a confidant and close friend of the Lord. My condition is now beyond description."