According to most religions, the act of prayer surrendering to forces higher than you, instantly takes you out of your ego-bound self into a higher plane. When combined with meditation, the experience can be even more deeply rewarding. For, it takes you inward, allowing the opportunity for personal reflection.
Prayer allows one to bring together a distracted mind to concentrate on a primary focus. Meditation helps us to retreat from the external world into an inner sanctum.
All faiths advocate prayer and meditation. Jews are meant to pray daily during morning, afternoon, and evening. Muslims are required to pray (Salah) at five particular times each day as a very basic and mandatory obligation of upholding the faith. Christians and Baha’i allow for flexibility and individuality in prayer practices but consider it as an important aspect of their religious practice.
Prayers and meditation are staple practices in Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism, with an overarching goal of reaching deeper awareness and spiritual awakening. Most world religions use tools such as visualization, chanting, concentration, and contemplation to transcend the human limitations to foster deeper connection with cosmic energy.
There has long been a practice of retreating to remote mountains and staying in solitude to meditate. However, one need not make a journey to a mountain to meditate; A quiet corner will suffice. Several studies conducted at elite educational institutions are confirming the health benefits of regular meditation including anti-aging, lower blood pressure, decreased anxiety, improved memory, and increased happiness to name a few.
Religion and science both concur about the inestimable value in taking some time out of the day to be in solitude with our own mind and reflect on what truly matters in life.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
—The New Testament (Mark 11:24), Christian text
“The correct execution of salat [daily prayer] depends on the following elements: (a) an intention to dedicate the prayer to God; (b) a prescribed sequence of gestures and words; (c) a physical condition of purity; and (d) proper attire.”
— Saba Mahmood, anthropologist
“This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.”
—‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i leader
“Closing their eyes, steadying their breathing, and focusing their attention on the center of spiritual consciousness, the wise master their senses, mind, and intellect through meditation.”
—The Bhagavad Gita (5:27-28), Hindu text
“Whenever you have to attend to your daily affairs, or undertake any matter, always spend some time in meditation and everything will be alright.”
—Zhu Xi, Confucian scholar
“Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is, itself, enlightenment. If you cannot be satisfied with the state of mind you have in zazen [meditation], it means your mind is still wandering about.”
—Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Buddhist monk and teacher