Michael Laitman, On Quora: “What is a prayer?“
We are born and raised in a self-centered perception and sensation of the world, which leads to an accumulation of problems in our lives. Our encounter with all kinds of problems is in order to give us a desire to rise above our current perception and sensation, and discover a new world, one of love, care, and positive connection among everyone.
The transformation from our inborn egoistic perception and sensation to a new altruistic one is performed via an act called “prayer.”
What is prayer?
Prayer does not mean reciting words from a book, no matter how holy the book is, nor does it mean asking a higher power to change something in the world, or to benefit oneself individually. Rather, since our entire perception of reality is self-centered, where we aim to derive fulfillment within ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis, then prayer is a sincere request to transform our self-centered approach to reality, and become beneficial to everyone and everything surrounding us.
In other words, prayer is a request for self-transformation, where instead of wishing to egoistically absorb, receive, and exploit others for personal gain, as we do by default, we instead develop a genuine will to think and desire in an opposite direction: to give, bestow, and use our own selves for the benefit of others.
The outcome of an honest prayer for self-transformation from the depth of our hearts is written by the sages in the commandment, “And you shall love your friend as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). That is, our prayer should lead us to a state where we feel others as we feel ourselves, thus inverting and correcting the intention upon our ego to one of giving.
Therefore, prayer means reaching a true desire to love others as we love ourselves, as well as a revelation of the full extent to which we actually love ourselves. If our desire is true, from the bottom of our hearts, then we become awarded with help from a higher power that corrects our ego, granting us the ability to love others to the extent of our own self-love.