Prayer... A Precursor to Meditation.
Prayer is not the same as meditation. Rather, it is an intellectual process where thoughts are formulated and it helps concentration. Properly practiced, it leads to the deeper and more powerful process of meditation.
Prayer is a preliminary step to meditation. Prayer is a matter of thinking, meditation is prayer with feeling, it engages the soul forces as compared to the thinking forces. To get to the second and further step you need a certain discipline and concentration which you learn through prayer. Most people are not used to be spiritually and mentally active, yet one cannot enter into meditation unless one has first learned the preliminary state of concentration.
The person who has walked through this first gateway needs above all the insight that nothing can be gained without discipline, regular work, and the best will to give each day some time to get closer to God, to liberate the often dormant and hidden forces of the soul, and find the connection to the rays of divine energy. This can happen only through self-discipline and regular practice, preferably always at the same time of day. Yet it is not possible to establish a rule valid for everyone without exception. For a few a more spontaneous way may be better, but only when in spite of this spontaneity no day is omitted and solely time and place vary. As a rule, regularity is advantageous.
Human beings have difficulty concentrating. Time and again my friends have experienced that, at first, their thoughts wander, that something mundane gets in the way. Then they become so dismayed that they cannot pick up the thread. As I have often said, it is important not to let these interruptions bother you and not to get confused and bewildered. Do not ask too much of yourselves right away, but resume your practice in a quiet and relaxed manner. After some time you
will succeed in achieving a certain continuity and concentration. This is prayer. Do not forget, as humans often do, to ask God again and again for help. You do not know how much this will serve you. Why don’t you say: “Help me to learn real prayer, or real meditation.” At any moment, when you are confused, ask for help. Here, too, the word holds true: “Knock and it shall be opened.”
Concentration in prayer is beneficial not only as a training but also because each thought builds a form. With the thoughts of prayer you build harmonious forms, so that the “thoughtprayer” activates favorable energies even before you have learned the “feeling-prayer” or meditation. Yet thought forms, though they may not have the power of feeling forms, can nevertheless manifest their own greatness when coming from a full heart, without self-deception, rooted in sincere willpower.
Download Lecture 9: “Prayer and Meditation – the Lord’s Prayer” (PDF)