Atheists think that a prayer to God is sheer imagination. But for centuries, thousands of sincere practitioners have accumulated definite evidence of the positive results of prayer. The serious doubt regarding prayer is not whether God can hear and respond, but whether the things people pray for are worthwhile.
The Power of Prayer
One form of popular prayer emphasises the pragmatic results. These “prayers” are actually nontheistic. As advised by psychologists, a person who believes strongly in his prayer can awaken from within his own subconsciousness huge stores of confidence and power and thus achieve his desired goal.
Dale Carnegie, in his books on positive thinking, likes to narrate stories of people like the unsuccessful salesman who in desperation resorted to prayer and the next day was able to convince many customers to buy his vacuum cleaners. In such “prayers” the Personality of Godhead is hardly even acknowledged. Another shortsighted type of prayer comes from those who believe in God but who are interested not so much in Him as in getting a bit of His opulence.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna declares that persons who come to Him asking for material (and therefore temporary) benefits are sukritina, or pious. They are certainly better than those who never approach the Supreme, for although prayers for material benefits are ultimately foolish requests, the sukritinas get into the habit of approaching the Supreme, and thus they may purify themselves for higher communion with God…But when the Lord asked Dhruva what he wanted, Dhruva said, “Now that I have seen You, my Lord, I am fully satisfied, and I do not want anything else…”
Prayers of spontaneous pure devotion may take different forms, such as prayers of petition, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Krishna is known as Uttamashloka. which means “one who is praised with beautiful prayers.” Therefore even if we are unqualified to compose uttamashloka prayers, we can please the Lord if we are sincere. Srila Prabhupada states, “Despite whatever limitations you have, if you express feelingly, ‘My God! My Lord!’ that will be accepted.”
Whether we call on Him from the darkness of our fallen state in the material world, or whether we praise Him in the midst of His liberated associates in the kingdom of God, the pure prayer is the same: “Please engage me in Your service”—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. (from Back To Godhead Magazine #23-12, 1988)