By Roozbeh Gazdar
More and more people across the world are banding together to heal others and the world through the simple power of prayer. Could this be the new panacea of our times, and if so, how does it work? The prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. – Mahatma Gandhi As a young boy I used to learn the violin. To instill confidence, as soon as students achieved a level of proficiency, my teacher inducted them into an amateur orchestra with which she was associated. Casual with my practice and terrified of the public gaze, my time to go through this rite of passage was fraught with anxiety. Backstage on the big day, I was all nerves, unsure of my ability to play a note. The relaxed confidence displayed by other players made me feel hopelessly out of place. But as I awaited imminent public disgrace that evening, a little ritual saved me. Before making their entry on stage, all the players formed a circle. Intoning a prayer, they requested God’s blessings for each and every player and asked for the success of the performance. This simple ritual had a far-reaching effect on my jittery nerves. The solemnity with which it was enacted, somehow, conveyed a feeling of solidarity. I felt that I wasn’t alone; we were in it together and could depend on each other. In better control now, I managed to strut on stage, violin confidently tucked under the arm, and take my seat. And as the first notes were struck, my fear vanished completely as I played through my parts with commendable, if deceptive, bravado. It was a lesson in the power of prayer. Prayer powerEvenings, every other Sunday in Mumbai, a motley collection of men and women, young and old, assembles at a predetermined place, usually the home of a group member. Following a brief round of introductions – it’s a variable group where all may not know each other – they shift into the main activity of the evening. Sitting around a bag containing ‘prayer requests’- chits containing written pleas for prayers – they shut their eyes, hold hands and pray. Silently, each in his or her own way, they request God’s intervention to solve the problems. Welcome to Connect-Ticket, a unique non-religious prayer group that is the brainchild of senior journalist and reiki teacher, R. Shridhar. The idea occurred to him while doing an interactive column in his newspaper where people were invited to write in with their personal problems to encourage other readers to contribute prayers for their alleviation. The concept went down so well with readers that when Shridhar proposed a formal group, the response was enthusiastic and in 2001, Connect-Ticket was formed. Today, also functioning as an e-group on yahoo groups, Ctzens as Connect-Ticket members call themselves, are spread all over the world, connected by their common will to do good. At the prayer meetings, as also on the group’s website, stories circulate of miraculous healings and effortless resolution of difficulties, brought about through the benign intervention of prayer. One such is Sneha Bhangle’s. After an accident left this soft-spoken homemaker unable to walk or even speak normally, her life was miserable, any hopes of improvement becoming bleaker by the day. Then her husband took her to one of Connect-ticket’s prayer sessions. Sneha reminisces, ‘With so many people praying for me, I somehow started feeling better. My confidence, which had been completely shattered, returned. Barely six months after my first session, I even managed to make it to the meeting without anybody having to accompany me. But for the prayers, I might never have regained my health.’ Jyotsna Kumar came in touch with Connect-Ticket when her younger daughter was diagnosed with a rare heart defect. On a friend’s suggestion, she posted a prayer request, but couldn’t follow it up as she was in Chennai, battling for her daughter’s life. The worst behind her today, Jyotsna remembers, ‘ Though the doctors had as good as given up on my daughter, she did eventually pull through. Though not fully recovered, Anandita is so much better today that I am sure it is a result of the prayers that were offered for her.’ Meera Suresh was already part of Connect-Ticket when she requested prayers for her sister-in-law, who, suspected of having breast cancer, was to be operated upon. Even her expectations were wildly surpassed, however, for the suspect lump reduced considerably by the time of the surgery, enabling the procedure to ensue smoothly. Retired RBI officer and reiki practitioner Shyamala Ramamurthy, likewise, testifies to a gamut of issues, relating to health, family or finance that resolved smoothly whenever she put in a request for prayers. Community of Well-WishersIn this age of nuclear science and gene cloning, what stock can we actually put by prayer? Says Shridhar, ‘The thought that so many people are praying for you is a big high and a lot of people have been cured just by that. Many people just need someone to listen to them. Knowing that there is a community of humane souls who will help them out, heals them.’ Testifies Sneha, ‘So many strangers praying for me gave me the courage to take my recovery in my own hands.’ For Jyotsna and her husband, who are newcomers to Mumbai, Connect-Ticket is like a second family. ‘In case of a crisis, I know I can always rely on the members of the group for moral and practical support. I feel safe, ‘ she says. Shridhar points out the obvious practical benefits of such a community of well-wishers. ‘When one puts in a prayer request, a plethora of solutions emerge. People come forward with home remedies, information about the ailment, doctors, support groups, blood donations, job offers, even a kind word or two.’ Besides, he explains, even the very act of unburdening yourself before others is cathartic. ‘Every prayer session starts with a round where each member talks about himself and in the process releases hidden emotions. This cleanses them, improves the individual’s energy level and in turn, helps to improve the energy in the room.’ Positive Energy Boosting morale, group support and cathartic release: is that all there is? Or is there something else, something more intrinsic to the ritual of prayer itself? Not associated with Connect-Ticket, Prakriti Poddar is an HR consultant who also practices hypnotherapy. Her birth has a remarkable story to it. A ‘still-born’ child, she was apparently ‘resurrected’, by a nurse who, acting on her grandmother’s instructions, recited the ‘prayer of the cross’ for her. Providentially, since early childhood Prakriti has displayed an innate ability to heal though prayer. ‘It runs in my family and my grandmother had the ability, as does my mother, though she did not develop it, ‘ she explains. Prakriti’s methods are simple. Determining the nature of an ailment, she simply puts her hands over the affected part and prays. Again, the results bear out any doubts arising from the apparent simplicity of the exercise. She recalls an incident where her mother had a fibroid in the uterus. ‘It affected her life badly, causing frequent urination, disturbing her sleep patterns and leading to insomnia. With just one session where I prayed for her, the fibroid reduced and she could relax and sleep better.’ ‘All thoughts are wavelengths and so when one prays with faith, its power is strong enough to overcome illness and other problems,’ explains Prakriti. Agrees Shridhar, ‘When we pray, we generate positive energy within us. And by being in a place of worship, or by doing certain rituals, we aim to increase this dosage of positive energy. This helps bring fruition to the prayer requests.’ Group DynamicsHowever, it is in the context of a group effort that the results of prayer unfold as most striking. Shridhar explains, ‘Group prayers for a person constitute a huge influx of positive energy into that person, because it is comprised of a little bit of energy contributed by each praying person. The result is as a tremendous boost to the positive energy of the person.’ Meera Suresh compares it to the difference between a lone individual pleading and a morcha lobbying for a cause. Prakriti, who usually works alone, also supports this view. ‘Many wavelengths working together create a very powerful energy. For instance, when you hold a satsang in a room having bad or stagnant energy, it starts radiating positive energy and this can be verified using a Lecher antenna.’ Adds Jyotsna, ‘ In a group members are not emotionally attached to the intended beneficiary and so they can pray with detachment and this makes the prayers more potent.’ IntentionUltimately, agree all those who repose faith in prayer, it is intention that makes all the difference. Shridhar puts it in a nutshell, ‘The intention to pray is more important than how to pray. We use the technique of praying that we know best. The prayers are affirmations written in the future perfect tense. So if someone has cancer, the prayer request for him would read that the person is healed of cancer.’ Agrees Prakriti, ‘Prayer works primarily because of pure selfless intention. If you are drawn towards those who suffer, you too can develop the ability to heal. But the unremitting urge to help has to be there.’ Right intention it would seem then is what sustains prayer. It is the force that guides it unerringly through insurmountable hurdles, to bring succor to its intended beneficiaries. And for once, science seems to agree too.
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