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What is the role of prayer in spiritual growth?

Question: Swamiji, prayers are usually recited to help obtain a particular result, like a student’s prayer for good grades on an exam. But for one who seeks spiritual growth, rather than worldly goals, what is the purpose of prayer?

Answer: The purpose of prayer depends entirely on a person’s needs. Those who have financial, emotional, or health problems can pray for the Lord’s blessings. Their prayers, if done with sincerity and faith (shraddha), will invoke the Lord’s grace in their lives, helping them to manage or overcome their problems.

Those who seek spiritual growth, rather than worldly goals, also pray for what they need. But their needs are different. They need the ability to discover the Lord’s blessed presence within themselves and throughout the universe. They need the capacity, the preparedness, and the inner strength to achieve the highest discovery, leading to complete fulfillment and contentment in life.

For the sake of making this discovery, there are several absolutely necessary factors which they must possess. They must have minds which are disciplined and prepared, capable of discovering the ultimate truth. They must have hearts which are pure, completely free from any emotional problems that would obstruct their journey of discovery. And they must have qualified teachers and appropriate teachings to guide them to discover the ultimate truth.

A prepared mind (adhikaritva), a pure heart (antahkarana shuddhi), and a qualified teacher (guru) — these three requirements can be gained only with God’s grace. Therefore, spiritual seekers pray to invoke the Lord’s blessings for acquiring these three. With God’s grace, they may be able reach the final destination of their lives of spiritual growth.