A beautiful German proverb says, “Pray as though no work would help, and work as if no prayer would help.” This saying is referring to two different types of people. One group prays for help from God, but in a half-hearted manner. Another group feels that when things go wrong or they want something, they should merely pray to God and do nothing else. This proverb is trying to bring about a balance between these two groups of people.
The first part of the proverb says that we should pray as if no work would help. In this kind of prayer, we are focusing all our attention on God. All our being is immersed in the prayer. It is as if we became the prayer itself. When we pray with such intensity and single-mindedness, God cannot ignore us.God knows when our prayers are sincere and we are truly crying for God. God knows when we are in pain and truly want help.
if we are merely half-hearted in our prayer, then God may or may not respond. That is why it is said that when a seeker is truly yearning for God, God hears it and will help that seeker find a way back to God. Similarly, there is a saying, “God hears the sincere cry of an ant sooner than the trumpeting of an elephant.” This is instructing us that if we have a deep prayer for something, we should pray with our whole heart, soul, and mind as if no work would help us achieve what we want.
Then, our prayer will bear fruit. The second part of the proverb is that we should work as if no prayer would help. This is addressed to those who would sit back and pray but not make any effort to attain what they want. Many people take prayer as an excuse not to put in any effort.
We should work as hard as we can to fulfil our duties as if no prayer would help. In this way, we would be fulfilling our responsibilities to ourselves, our family, our communities, and our world. We would be of use and of service to others.
Then, after putting in our best effort, if we find we still do not succeed, then we can pray with all our heart, soul, and mind for help.Spirituality is the path of positive mysticism. We come into this world with certain karmas that must be paid off. As part of our karmic debt we may have to support our family, we may have a certain role or job that we have to fulfil in this lifetime, and we have a collective responsibility to our society.
We cannot shirk that duty to sit on a mountaintop meditating all day and hoping that God will provide for us. We need to spend time in meditation while also doing our duties allotted to us in life. Thus, when God sees we have put in our best efforts, and then when all else fails we turn to the Lord, God will take notice. However, if we merely sit back, relax, and expect God to do everything for us, that will not happen.
–Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj