In a famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie stated that best way to be thought a
fascinating conversationalist is to listen attentively, and with interest. This principle applies also, though of course
not in quite same way, to practice of prayer.
Most people when they pray talk to God rather than with Him. They don't take time to listen, in deep inner silence, for
His answer. Prayer, however, to be most deeply meaningful, needs to be a two-way communication, a giving and
receiving - like conversation. And while it would be absurd to think in terms of "fascinating" God with our part of
conversation, there are proven ways of making our prayers more effective. Listening is one of them.
How many people ever think of prayer in this way? Usually, they think of it as begging for special favors, as though prayer
were a petition submitted before aweful majesty of an imperial throne. Many, no doubt, question whether Lord will
even single them out for special attention from among multitudes appealing to Him daily. Perhaps they fear they might
be judged presumptuous if they tried to interest Him beyond actual subject of their petition. Whatever case, most
people talk a lot, like inadequate conversationalists, but seldom think of listening in return.
The difference between one-way street of normal prayer and actually conversing with God is simply degree of
involvement - on both sides. Of course, there can be no question of trying to "fascinate" Him with our conversation. The
Lord has all creation to engage His attention, besides perfection of love and bliss in which He eternally dwells. One
petty life in great scheme of things cannot particularize His interest to point of making Him fascinated with it!
When we approach Him, however, with deep love, dedication, and trust, we appeal to that cosmic, but at same time
deeply personal, love which He feels for every one of his human children.
conversation means prayer must come from heart. As there is a world of difference between talking at
someone and talking with him, so there is a universe of difference between petitioning God and including Him in needs
We need to involve Him in our lives, in our love for Him. How can we hope to do that, if we merely pray to him? That's like
talking to somebody.
Leaving aside question of fascination, conversationally, how are we most likely to involve anyone in anything that
interests us? It isn't much different from listening for answers to a question. We involve them best when we include their
reality in our own. To awaken concern in them for our needs, we must show an interest in their needs. To get them to
participate in our lives, we must participate in their lives. To get them to show love for us, we must love them, first.
All this involvement on our part is, in its own way, a kind of listening. We need, in same way, to listen to God. The
kind of prayer that most often wins a response is one in which person praying converses with God: calls to Him, while
at same time listening for His silent response in soul.
And that is, essentially, what is meant by practice of meditation. Meditation is act of listening for, and hopefully, in time, listening to, God's whispered response in soul.
Why not try that, next time you pray to God? Instead of merely offering up a petition for His consideration, try involving
Him in your needs.
Meditation is more than a practice conducted at specific times of the day. It is a habit of mind, a way of life. all day long Try
sharing your thoughts and feelings with God . Listen for His guidance, His approval - yes, even His silent
laughter within! your meditations will be much deeper When you share your life with Him,.
When people exclude practice of meditation from daily prayer, it usually means they aren't really convinced there is
anyone "up there," listening to them. All too easily, their prayers become a process of simply talking to themselves.
Well, one may ask, does God really listen anyway? You'll never know, if you don't give Him a chance to reply! Just as in
any conversation, the degree of listening, and response it awakens, is in direct proportion to degree of one's own
involvement in what he is saying. Why else is it that, prayers of saints have been, often, so much more effective than
those of worldly people? God is no respecter of persons. His response is according to depth of sincerity in the person
In conversation, people tend to think of listening as something one does after he has said his piece. Personally, however,
I've found that there is much better communication if one "listens" - that is to say, is sensitive to other person's
reactions - even during act of speaking to him. When lecturing, also, even though I don't expect people to start up a
conversation with me from audience, I've found it helps, while lecturing, to "tune into" their needs, to respond to
their unspoken reactions, to feel as though I were speaking to each one of them individually.
On subject of lecturing, I've found it helps also to "listen" even before I begin speaking. By that I mean that I
meditate and try to tune into what people in this particular audience need to hear from me.
In the same way, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi), who brought teachings and techniques from India
to West, used to say that prayer is most effective when it is offered after some contact with God has been achieved in
Western society generally identifies meditation with thinking process. We are told to meditate "on" a particular
subject. Vaguely, we suppose this means to think in circles around it, hoping for a deeper understanding of it. Only
comparatively recently has teaching come to West that silence itself is wellspring from which true
understanding arises. In other words, true, and especially spiritual, understanding is not product of thinking one's
way to it, but of direct inner perception. As Yogananda wrote in his autobiography, "A truth cannot be created, but only