Why are some prayers not answered? - A theory

Statement of Problem:

As a student in Swami’s (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s) school and college, I have always considered Him as my Lord and God. All my prayers have been directed towards Him. And when I look back at the prayers I have made, some of them have been fulfilled, some have remained unfulfilled while some others have been fulfilled in a manner that I did not expect. I can quote examples for all of them. I have written about instantly materializing prayers under the heading Satyameva Jayate and The Shivarathri of my Life. I have written about prayers which have materialized after a delay in God’s delays are not His denials. And those prayers which are still pending, well am waiting for their fruition to write about them!

I have tried hard to do a study on what sort of prayer always has a ‘will be granted’ status and what prayer always has a ‘will be declined’ status. And finally, I also tried to see if there is a time-frame within which a particular prayer would get answered. For a long time, I did not meet with success. I could never pinpoint and say,

“If I make this kind of prayer, it will be fulfilled.”
OR
“If I make this kind of prayer, it will surely not be fulfilled.”


Today, however, I feel that by God’s grace and His love, some understanding has dawned. And before I share that understanding, I would share an experience which has enhanced that understanding for me.

Having stated this "problem", I shall present the theory in the standard format - Experimentation, Hypothesis and Formulation of Theory.

Presentation of Evidence - an experiential experiment

I turn back the clock to more than a decade ago. It was in the summer of 2001 - 10th of June to be exact. I got a strong urge to write a letter to Swami. But what did I want to write? I had nothing in mind for everything was going on fine. But still, I wanted to write and give a letter to Him. So, I wrote a letter, the gist of which was this:
“Dearest Swami! By your Love and Grace, everything is going on well. There is no reason for this letter. I am writing this letter to you sheerly for the joy I get when I give you a letter.”

That was the Truth - nothing else. I had this letter with me when I went for Darshan. Swami was in His Bangalore ashram, Brindavan (Whitefield). And I was studying my second year in the Bio-Sciences undergraduate course. I sat along the central carpet in the hall through which Swami would invariably walk everyday during Darshan. I was feeling that the prayer enshrined in the letter was one which had no ‘materialistic’ desires and so there was a high probability of Swami accepting it.

As I said earlier, I was in this process of formulating a theory of prayers! In my experience, most of the letters which sought something worldly - a good academic rank, a friendship with another person, the extra-curricular activities’ championship, better health for myself - were rejected. Letters which were prayers for others (health, career, relationships) or for my spiritual uplift (better sense-control, calmness of mind, strength of character) mostly were accepted. I felt that Swami was chiseling us to automatically pray only for the ‘right’ things. And even if at times the ‘other’ kind of letters were accepted, they too seemed to make the letter-giver turn more spiritual. It was the fruition of what Swami says,
“I give you what you ask for so that one day you will ask me for what I have come to give.”

So, I felt that since my letter was seeking the joy of His proximity, it had a great chance of being accepted. (Not that seeking His proximity is the most selfless prayer but it is relatively selfless compared to the other prayers I have made!)

That day, Swami came walking in the exact same path as I had foreseen. He blessed a couple of students who were sitting beside me. But when He came to me, He just smiled at me and motioned with His hand for me to keep the letter with me. And then He moved on. I was a bit disappointed. I was thinking as to what was wrong in my letter. I thought,
“If Swami had not come near me, then it would be fine. It is selfish for me to think that He will come near me specially to take this letter. But then, He came so close. It was so easy for Him to take my letter. Then, why did He tell me to keep it? Why?”

Asking “Why” of God is a very tricky thing. As my teacher had once said, we ask “Why” of God only because we feel things are going wrong. And if we feel that things are going wrong, it means one of these two things:
1. My God does not love me enough to prevent ‘bad’ things from happening to me.
2. My God loves me, but does not have the power to stop ‘bad’ things from happening to me.

If I have the faith that my God loves me and is the strongest, then I will never feel that something which is happening is bad for me. I will know that God chose something specially to happen to me and that is for my good. That is the principle of surrender too according to Swami.

When it comes to Swami, even the act of acceptance/rejection of a letter holds so much meaning and message. (photo taken in Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam)
When it comes to Swami, even the act of acceptance/rejection of a letter holds so much meaning and message. (photo taken in Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam) | Source

Returning from my brief detour in thoughts to the story, I kept these thoughts to myself and sat as the Darshan went on. Swami seemed to be in a hurry and His car came out of His residence. We got the information that Swami was going to the Sathya Sai General Hospital to bless everyone there during the hospital’s silver jubilee celebrations.

“Ah! He is in a hurry and that is why He did not take my letter”, I consoled myself. And He was indeed walking very briskly. He took a complete round and briskly walked back towards the stage. Just before reaching the stage, He stopped at a distance of about 12 meters from me. He stood there, swaying to the rhythm of the bhajans going on. And for a moment, His eyes met mine. In a flash, Swami had taken a detour.

He quickly walked across the 12 meters and came straight in front of me. He again smiled at me, took the letter from my hand and then quickly ascended the stage. Joy welled and burst into raptures within my heart. I was simply thrilled by this.

That was not all. He went to His chair on the stage and sat only for 2 minutes before asking for the Aarthi (ceremonial waving of the camphor at the end of a session) to be taken. He got up from the chair and walked towards the car. All the letters He had collected during Darshan were neatly packed in bags which would go into His residence - all the letters except one. My letter was in His hand and He carried it with Him in the car too! My happiness knew no bounds and tears of joy flowed down my cheeks.

And then it hit me. My prayer was:
“I am writing this letter to you sheerly for the joy I get when I give you a letter.”
His response had simply maximized my joy. He had answered my prayer in a manner that perfectly satisfied the prayer. My temporary disappointment was only because I did not know this beforehand! But then, just imagine, had I known the outcome beforehand, though the disappointment would not be there, would the joy be there? And so, I was thrilled and I told myself,
“Swami knows the best for me and He gives it to me.”

Hypothesis:

Here is my hypothesis:

We feel that prayers are 'answered' only if the outcome is exactly as we see it. This is stating that we know things better than God.

Let me return to the point where Swami came all the way for me and took my letter. Had Swami simply ‘rejected’ my letter and left, would I still have been able to say,
“Swami knows the best for me and He gives it to me”?
The answer is no! When things go my way, I appreciate God’s wisdom and love but when they don’t, I ask why God is doing this to me! If He fulfills prayers, it is for my good but when He doesn’t, he is ruining me or testing me. Talk about double standards!

The truth is that out of a million possible things that can happen to me, God is handpicking the best possible option for me all the while. It is up to me to have faith and fortitude. Shraddha and Saburi were the two qualities that Shirdi Baba sought from the devotees. That is the same He seeks in the Sathya Sai Baba avatar too!

The Theory (finally)!

And it is here that I formulated my theory of prayer. Irrespective of what we pray, God always plans and executes what is best for us. At times, when I have prayed selflessly and have been in sync with God’s plan, I have experienced Him answering my prayers. At other times, when my prayers have not been in sync with the divine plan, I have experienced Him denying my prayers.

And so, if I want my prayers to be answered always, I have to always be in sync with His plan right. And His plan is the Masterplan. How can I always be in sync with God’s plan till I become God myself?

There is that answer, only when I rise to the level of God, my true Self, will all my prayers be answered for at that time, all my prayers are completely in harmony with what is best!

Practically, this theory means that whenever I tend towards Godhood, the likelihood of my prayers getting fulfilled increases. And tending towards Godhood means being more loving, more compassionate, more firm, more strong and positive. The corollary is that whenever my prayer tends away from Godhood - attachments, materialism, lack of faith, greed etc. - the likelihood of my prayers getting fulfilled decreases. Interesting theory right?

The only possible proof for this theory is experience...

And so, if in the same village a farmer prays for rains to water his crops and the landlord prays for a bright sunny day to conduct the marriage of his daughter, whose prayer will be answered?

Whomsoever is in sync with God will seem to get the prayer 'answered'! :)

Along similar lines, I found another very interesting article by a Sai Student about prayers being answered based on what Swami told him in an interview. That should also be a thought-provoking read.


A quick question

Do you agree that being selfless in prayers increases the likelihood of prayers being answered?

See results without voting

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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya

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Comments 36 comments

ttpudayasankar@gmail.com 20 months ago

Sairam. You always think and write out of the box. Prayers cannot be unreasonable but can be unlimited. Prayers need not be timed but at all times. Prayers can generate from any place and not restricted to location.


DEEPAK DESHMUKH 2 years ago

IN ONE OF THE PERSONAL SOLO INTERVIEW GIVEN TO ME IN 1990 SWAMI TOLD ME THAT,"YOUR ALL PRAYERS ARE EITHER DEMANDS OR COMMANDS CONSIDERING YOURSELF AS MASTER AND SWAMI AS YOUR SERVANT WHO, FULFILLS ALL YOUR FOOLISH AND SILLY MATERIALISTIC DESIRES CONSIDERING, YOU KNOW BETTER THAN SWAMI WHAT IS NECESSARY TO AND YOU TELL SWAMI HIS DUTY, THE REAL PRAYER IS THANKFULNESS AND GRATITUDE TOWARDS SWAMI AS WELL AS ALSO ACCEPT WHATEVER HAPPENS TO YOU AND BE THANKFUL TO SWAMI SAYING " SWAMI THY WILL BE DONE"AFTER INTERVIEW WAS OVER I WAS SERIOUSLY THINKING OVER WHAT SWAMI TOLD, I THINK PRAYER IS JUST LIKE A KITE FLYING VERY HIGH IN THE SKY TOUCHING THE SAI KINGDOM BUT OUR PRAYERS ARE LIKE KITE TIED UP WITH HUGE HEAVY STONE RESEMBLING

OUR DESIRES. SUCH A KITE CAN NOT FLY AND REACH HIGH IN THE SKY AND DOES NOT REACH TO GOD AND HENCE OUR PRAYERS ARE NOT ANSWERED.SO DESIRE- LESSNESS IS THE GREATEST PRAYER OFFERED TO SWAMI. OM SRI SAI RAM


DEEPAK DESHMUKH 2 years ago

USKO PANE KI TAMANNA NE ,

KUCHH AISA NAWAZA HAI HUME,

KI MANGI NAHI JATI,

KOI AUR DUA HUMSE.......


umesh prasad. sahoo 2 years ago

bhagaban baba solve my all problem


sumedha habbu 2 years ago

As usual your articles are a must read. You fill life into every word of yours. Great pic as well. I have no words to thank you for keeping us connected to God in your own inimitable way. Some say student had written once, " prayer is a telephonic conversation with God on the other end". I liked it a lot. As you grow in spiritual parlance your 3 stages begin to unfold. Sarah.


sandya rajagopal 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing and the article makes me go back to memories


MOHANA RAO KOPPOLE 2 years ago

PRAYERS ARE A SOURCE OF RELIEF WHICH WOULD KEEP US DOWN TO A ZERO EMOTION LEVEL.

SWAMI REPRESENTS OUR OWN CONSCIENCE IN MICRO LEVEL MATCHING WITH THE DIVINE PLAN IN THE MACRO LEVEL.

BEFORE WRITING DOWN OUR PRAYERS ,SWAMI KNOWS THE SAME AS BEING WRITTEN DOWN.

WHY SHOULD WE FOOLISHLY EXPECT SWAMI MAKES A DIFFERENCE OF OUR PRAYERS, ACCEPTED OR OTHERWISE.

SURRENDER OUR WILL TO SWAMI FOR HIS PLAY IN THE DIVINE DRAMA!


vijaya lakshmi 2 years ago

Extraordinary..............got an answer from Swamy through you for a prayer which I was pestering Him from a long time................ Thank you Aravind


Ganeshan 2 years ago

Superb article Aravind


prakash99 2 years ago

Dear Bro Aravind Thank you. A very good one to uplift your Mon morning. Sometimes I feel the desire to get the result over powers the quality of the prayer both positively & negatively,


Sudha Ram 2 years ago

Your derivation is 100% true..

Awesome experience shining with understanding of Swami's ways..

Salute you bro


Sreenidhi 3 years ago

I somehow find it difficult not to pray for myself though I know He knows the best. At the end of a situation, it always happens that I thank Swami for not listening to my prayer, for the situations have ended in a way I never expected, according to His super awesome Masterplan!

And yes, anna, such a sweet and cute letter it was! Swami would have been so proud of His child! As usual, enjoyed reading each and every word of the hub :):):)


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aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

Thank you SAishwarya! :)Glad you enjoyed it


SAishwarya 3 years ago from Ahmedabad

this is just amazing! It felt like swami was speaking to me through this hub in order to remove all my doubts


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aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

Thank you Raitu Disong for answering that question by SaiP.

@Sai P, hope that answer satisfies you... :)


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Raitu Disong 3 years ago

God does answer prayers. But sometimes no in the way we want or expect.

The answer is yes, no or wait. NO prayers are unanswered!


saip 3 years ago

@arvindb1982 i have a question .i did not understand what the "best for us" actually means? some traumatic incidents remain with us lifelong.If so from what sense does the almighty actually give the best for us?also there are times when we pray sometimes the suffering is taken by almighty himself?so is it really necessary to pray/not keeping in mind that whatever god wishes is for our good?


G.Vijay Kumar 3 years ago

Sai Ram Arvind,

Very interesting & has given space to go back to our previous memories & experiences we had with the Divine Master.


deepa 3 years ago

thanks for the hub, very well said dear Aravind


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aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Santosh M - Interesting way to put it. Thank you.

@ Reverend Dr. Linda De Coff - Exactly! And that is why my prayer nowadays is just this, "Lord let my love for you grow."

What else can one pray? Requests and seeking just fade away when you keep reminding yourself that all happens for the best, perfectly as per God's plan! :)

Thank you for the comment...


Reverend Dr. Linda De Coff 3 years ago

Thank you for this beautiful article. Yes, the Divine Plan for Greatest Good is always far more beneficent than even the best we of ourselves can conceive! Regardless of the area to which one's prayer is directed, by asking for the Highest Good for All to prevail in any matter, the solution is swift-winged to arrive.


Santosh M 3 years ago

Hi Burru

Nice article. let me try to add my 'hypothesis' (!) in this context.

Prayers are basically some or the other desire.

When humans desire something and ask whom they percieve as God that desire becomes a Prayer

When God desires something it becomes His Sankalpa/Will (eg. Inshallah)

When we really want something to happen i have observed that circumstances conspire to make it happen.(This has happened many times to me.People can dip into their own experiences and choose to agree or disagree)

This means that even ordinary persons are capable of sankalpa/Will probably because there is God in everyone as He says.

When our Faith in God outside of us is very strong prayers are answered.

When our Faith in God inside of us is very strong prayers are answered

Sairam!


Mark Aspa 4 years ago

thanks for a deep and soulful article, with a supporting cast of the same in the comments section! truly thought provoking from all concerned...


Malini Venkatesh 4 years ago

Sairam, all ur posts are wonderful and it creates a strong bond with Swami or rather I can say it firms up our faith in Swami. The episode with respect to "how Swami became ur family deity" is too good and u r fortunate enough to be born in your family!!

Please keep posting such experiences for bringing us nearer to Swami.

Sairam, Malini Venkatesh


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god2us 4 years ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

When our fate is bad, most of our efforts to change it are useless. Conversely, when our fate is favorable, we will run into affairs that lead us to success. When our fate is bad, even if we pray hard, angels will not help us; the more we pray, the more ignorant we become. When good fate comes around, however, angels will help us quietly and without any conditions so that we can obtain success. Although God is the supreme power, He would still judge based on righteousness law.


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aravindb1982 4 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

:)

Oh Yes Mr.Happy! It is always a pleasure to converse with you. :)

Thank you....


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Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I just wanted to say: "thank You" for the conversation, Mr. Aravind.

Always great fun! : )

Cheers.


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aravindb1982 4 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Mr.Happy - Ah! That is the culmination point! Many have been the yogis, saints and masters who have advised of the 'needlessness' of prayer once that realization dawns! Prayer is like a bridge that is needed till the crossing is done. But for one to give up prayer because "irrespective of what one prays, God always does the best" requires faith.

As for the sorcerers, there have been so many instances in Indian mythology and in the lives of devotees (saints) of the Lord where no harm ever touches one who is complete in his/her faith. The kind of sorcery you mention cannot be considered as a prayer. Prayer is communion or union with God/Holy Spirit/Higher Self. It can never be destructive o negative. Mixed up with the ego, people consider asking and seeking some kinds of requests as prayers! :)

Cursing is in fact being able to direct the strength of one's mind and discipline in a negative way. Praying is the direct opposite of it. While one is drained after a curse, one gets strengthened in prayer. Cursing leads to weakening of the curser and the cursee, while prayer strengthens both the pray'er' and the prayee! :)

Hope that answered you...


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aravindb1982 4 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Sai Santosh - It must be a wonderful feeling... I have also had that experience many times wherein I find exactly something That I have been discussing! :)


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poornimasrinath 4 years ago from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA

Agree with you 100%. You have beautifully given words to the inner feelings and understandings.


Kavita 4 years ago

Since a couple of years... I have started praying for people or events by saying that Swami you please do what is for the highest good of all concerned and If I really really want something then I say this or better whatever you choose.... I have learnt this from a Sai Couple..

Thanks again


An Impressed Reader 4 years ago

Very good post brother .. I completely agree with the theory ..

Prayer according to me is an effort from our side .. I do know that Swami knows best and will execute his best laid plans for me to perfection .. But by praying, I keep telling him that 'You know best. Give me the wisdom to surrender to you completely and live without a care in the world'. Sans this constant prayer, there is a chance that I may give room to worry or start making plans myself, both of which is contrary to surrender ..

Also, I have noticed that when we regularly pray for others, our own heart broadens and it really elevates our mind .. It is the first step towards selflessness .. And more than anything, it makes Swami really happy ..


Ajay Singh 4 years ago

I have many a hypothesis on this and related subjects, and Swami has been very gracious in giving me the opportunity to experiment with these.

For the sake of convenience, I have been documenting these in a journal, but will share it online shortly.

Looking forward to continued insights from you.


darshi 4 years ago

Hi Anna :) Whazzzap? :D

Interesting questions, interesting introspections. I think I've sort of experienced extreme stress when it comes to getting answers for prayers.

Here's what I've learnt :

1. Asking for something that is for our highest good usually results in immediate answers.

2. Asking for something that we think is for our highest good (and it may be, just that the timing may be a bit off) results in delays, not denials.

3. Asking for something materialistic usually results in answers too - depending on what the purpose of that materialistic want is.

4. Asking for something just for the sake of being, usually results in a feeling of extreme joy - regardless of whether there are delays or immediate answers.

Funnily enough, I've never experienced any denial. Only delays :)

Prayer is a way of speaking to Him (who in the end, is just a reflection and Higher aspect of us), a way of discovering our highest and incredible potential of latent Divinity.

Absolutely anything is possible, and that's where prayer leads to - to the realisation that with Faith, everything is possible. Prayers are answered when we have faith in ourselves, and our Selves. This I suppose, is what you meant by our plans being in sync with His plans.

In the end of it all, we are just experiencing a beautiful form of communication with ourselves. All the joy and bliss derived is simply experienced for the sake of the experience - and the knowledge that anything and everything is possible allows for the Faith in ourselves and our Selves to grow and strengthen by leaps and bounds through this.


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Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Greetings Mr. Aravind,

As usual, I have some questions which arose in my mind while I was reading your article.

"Irrespective of what we pray, God always plans and executes what is best for us." - Here I then, ask myself why pray for something specific if Irrespective of what we pray, God always plans and executes what is best for us?

"There is that answer, only when I rise to the level of God, my true Self, will all my prayers be answered for at that time, all my prayers are completely in harmony with what is best!" - This part here, made me think of a more negative side of prayers, which can also be considered as sorcery. In my country of origin, sorcery is not something uncommon and often times one hears of witches or sorcerers putting curses on people - it is not something good, these are ill-wishes. A curse can be cast upon someone through a ritual of prayer and/or spell casting. With that in mind, when a curse works (and I think often times they do, although I have never tried it myself) through prayer, can we still say that such prayers are completely in harmony with what is best?

I enjoyed the following statement and I find it true from my own experience regarding prayers: "Letters which were prayers for others (health, career, relationships) or for my spiritual uplift (better sense-control, calmness of mind, strength of character) mostly were accepted." I am happy and grateful for that. : )

Thank You for another insightful read.

All the best!


Sai Santosh 4 years ago

Thank you for sharing. Just minutes before, I and a Sai brother were discussing this, and your post comes along :-)

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