Q: According to you, what is the best means to advance on the spiritual path?
A: The easiest and simplest mean of advancing on the spiritual path is prayer. Some saints emphasize japa but prayer is also a powerful mean to achieve God. Prayer is not a new medium, great saints and sages have used this medium to approach God and have succeeded in achieving the grace of the Almighty. I would even say that prayer alone is sufficient for the realization of God.
Q: How should I pray? Can you suggest any method/technique?
A: Prayers should occur naturally and from within one’s heart. One can use any verse, any bhajan or any poem for a prayer; it can be in any language. Prayer can be sung out loud or it can be recited in one's mind (i.e. singing internally in one’s mind).
It may take some time before the prayer comes naturally but with the passage of time it will occur automatically. You will pray without any effort once love for the Almighty manifests in you.
Q: Should there be a specific time for prayer?
A: Having a specific time set aside for prayer is most desirable. A fixed time for prayer will help you immensely as your mind will form a habit of praying at a certain time. Another benefit is concentration, with intense prayer you will find that your mind becomes easily focused. As the attraction for the prayer increases your mind will become full of emotions which will result in continuous prayers. Every moment of your life will be utilized in prayer to the Almighty Lord.
Q: In addition to prayers, do I need to meditate or do japa etc.?
A: There’s nothing wrong if in addition to prayers, you meditate or do Japa. It will benefit you but it is not mandatory. Meditation and japa should not be inevitable but prayer should be inevitable. The power of prayer is so infinite that meditation and knowledge automatically manifests in the sadhak. With prayers the mind will become sensitive and emotive and will enter into bhav-samadhi. If one has a desire for self-knowledge he will attain that as well.
Ramakrishna Paramhansa Dev used to pray everyday to Jagadamba that "O Mother! Whatever is in the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita or Ramayana, bless me with that knowledge. I do not have Gyan, Bhakti or Yoga in me. I only ask for your infinite grace. Bless me with your divine vision." As a result of his intense prayers, not only Ramakrishna Dev had the vision of Mother Jagadamba but he could narrate the inner most secrets of the ancient scriptures. Learned people of that time were amazed by his knowledge. The secret of his knowledge lied in his prayers and the grace of Mother Jagadamba that followed as a result of his intense prayers.
Q: Can one have the vision of God through prayers?
A: Most definitely. One has to pray from the innermost of one's conscious and consistently for a prolonged period of time. Then only it will transform into love and affection for the Almighty. As a result of that one day a stage is set such that God can not but appear before the aspirant. Divine love for God is inevitably necessary for his vision.
Q: Is it true that the prayers are heard?
A: Definitely. There is no reason to doubt this. As you will progress on the spiritual path, you will automatically believe in this fact. Just as the person sitting next to you listens to your words, the divine power listens to your sincere prayers.
Q: Why it take time to get a response to the prayer?
A: There can be many reasons for that. Sometimes our prayer is superficial, merely expressed by words and not from our heart. Sometimes the prayer is performed just for the sake of routine. Such prayers wherein the cry of the soul or sincere emotions of the heart are lacking, the response does not come out as expected.
Try to pray with all the vigor and enthusiasm and with complete faith in the power and grace of the Almighty. Surrender your being to His feet and pray as if there is no other alternative and then tell me if you do not get a response to your prayer.
Q: Do all prayers bear results as expected? If not what is the use of praying?
A: All your wishes expressed in the prayers may not come true. But this does not mean that one should not pray. It is in the hands of the supreme power to decide which wishes to grant and which one to reject or to accept late.
We should only pray and leave the result or the success of the prayer in the hands of the Almighty. Prayer is a mean of spiritual advancement. One can realize God by constant and sincere prayers. If you look at the lives of great ones like Mirabai, Narsinh Mehta or Tukaram, they used the prayer as a medium and achieved the vision of God.
Q: What gain does an ordinary person derive from prayer?
A: Prayer gives confidence and courage to face adverse situations. It helps the mind to remain nonchalant in all kinds of emotions. When a favorable result is achieved due to prayer, love for the God increases manifold and one’s mind and heart becomes purified.