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PRAY: This morning while chanting, I naturally remembered many of the aspects of life I pray for, which have come to me during japa, or in my introspective times during the day. What I pray for, is what I also teach about in my talks. In a general sense, I teach the necessity of calling out for help to our gurus, previous great teachers, and the aspects of Divinity we especially think of or attracted to, like Radha and Krishna, Gaura and Nitai, Prahlad and Nrisimhadeva, or those of your spiritual tradition, etc.

I share some of them with you for your reflection, and possible addition to your natural, daily prayers, or to encourage you to pray as often as possible. Although personal prayers should be a no-brainer, I have found it to be a rather neglected topic of conversation or in classes. After publishing this blog on Facebook, one devotee took great exception to my sharing my personal prayers, considering it not only unsanctioned by our acharyas and thus inappropriate, but also indicative of my great arrogance, and he kept it up even as I endeavored to explain myself.

I do consider the merits of criticism even if is seems unwarranted, and while I admit to being a mixed devotee, my writing is done as my offering to my readers in the service of Prabhupada, my siksha guru, our line of teachers, Shri Shri Radha and Krishna, and Shri Gaura and Nitai, the mercy incarnations for this age. I admit that I want my writing to be well received because this is feedback that I am on the right track. Whatever I am, and am becoming, I pray it will be helpful for my advancement and for those we read my posts or hear my talks, and for this purpose I pray for the Vaishnava humility (trinadapi etc) and spiritual advancement to not think I am the doer, or to be changed in success or missing the mark. From my perspective, my prayers show how far I have to go in my spiritual life, and yet, personal prayers have helped me so much, that I wanted to emphasize how much we can all benefit from the practice. My hope and prayer is that if you don't already, you will take up this practice. After this blog has its life, I may share the many posts I have written centered around prayer.

Why is personal prayer is so important? Our regular personal prayers reveal who we really are, deep down inside our conditioning. That is why I ask devotees, “What do you want—really want? Not what you “should” want, or what you think others think you should want, but what you really want, conditionally speaking? Our questions can give us many answers to our lives’ problems, and help us to be a creative force for what supports us, instead of merely putting out the fires of our lives.

Knowing what we want, instead of denying it, or making it bad, can greatly assist our life path, and also help us pray for the removal of certain aspects of our conditioned nature. Otherwise, for many of our desires, “the way out is through,” and we use our nature as Prabhupada taught us, by “dovetailing” it with our life direction as a sadhaka, or spiritual practitioner of bhakti, and our overarching goal of pure devotion.

Besides helping us to be honest and accept both our light and darkness, I have understood that a big reason my lack spiritual progress is that for years, I never prayed specifically to make spiritual advancement, even when I was externally fully engaged in service to various Deities around the world. I got caught up in busy-ness, even as I received many blessings for the amount of service I was doing. External service is visible and is often praised, while our internal culture or mindset, remains hidden from others, or even not noticed by us because our attention is outward.

There is a quality to our service that makes the difference, not merely quantity. Without scriptural study, hearing from devotees of spiritual standing, and frequent introspection to uncover those aspects of our internal or external lives that are holding us back our spiritual progress will be stalled and we may coast, adrift as it were, for years or even lifetimes! We can’t hit a target we are not aiming at! Here are some of my moving targets:

I pray to have true humility of the soul, exemplified the verse 3 of Lord Chaitanya’s 8 prayers. To practice by realization humility like the grass, tolerance like the tree; the absence of the desire to be praised or to put my selfish interests above others which may cause me to be unnecessarily critical; the ability to see the divinity of all, and thus be respectful to all creatures, and the whole world and universe, seeing it as the Lord’s energy, one with and different from him. I pray to do this in a natural way, gradually step by step, and not artificially or fanatically beyond my eligibility (Adhikari).

I pray to come to the spiritual platform and relate to others as a soul, even while I deal with their conditioning and less than ideal parts of their physical/mental nature.

I pray to have the right attitude and intention to please the Lord and my gurus. I also pray to be the change I want to see in my own life and in the world.

I pray to see myself as a work in progress and accept where I am on the path, even as I keep the highest aspirations of pure devotee close to my heart, and not be overcome by the dualities of the world, or merely focusing on bad in my life, the world is, or even in the world of devotees.

I pray to be a spiritually minded optimist, an “optimystic,” or toughminded optimist who is aware of the problems of the larger world and my personal world and yet, focused on the positive and what I can do to change and help. Charity begins at home, and the better person I become, the more I can help the world, my family, and others. I have to remember and endeavor to not loose my best and most empowered self in any consuming pursuit, however praiseworthy. Yet, I also pray to not be artificially disengaged from my life and the world, in the name of spiritual advancement.

I pray to see every person and situation as meant for my highest good, and as a teacher, either how to act, or how not to act. I also pray to be grateful when someone or some situation triggers my negative emotions because this reveals to me the work I have remaining to be a better person.

I pray to see clearly those parts of myself which are unfavorable for my highest nature in goodness (my unresolved life issues), my spiritual progress, my service, my relationships, and my mission in life.

I pray to be my best friend and not worst enemy and that my nature will become one of naturally giving with the service attitude, instead of the material conditioned nature to be a selfish exploiter of others and the world.

I pray that I will be in integrity with my highest nature, values, and spiritual goals, and that I will understand how to improve if I’m not, and that I will keep in mind that this will likely be a lifetime work, until I am in the higher stages of devotion. Thus I also pray to be a balanced person and share kindness, love, mercy, understanding, wisdom, integrity, and to do it with compassion and humor.

I pray to become an ideal example of what I aspire to be, though also sharing how I have fallen short in the past and present—my education in the “School of Blessed Hard Knocks,” yet also focus on the positive aspects of my spiritual journey.

And my most frequent prayer, "O Lord please save me, change me, uplift me, motivate me, help me realize my highest potential as your servant and as a good example of all that it means to be a devotee of your Lordship and my highest ideals! May everything I do be an act of worship especially my speaking, and writing, and in my relationships with others."

And so many more…...what about your prayers? What do you really want, and what do you give energy or food to, and what do you keep as your highest spiritual ideals?