THE same may be said of congregational prayers which too fall under the above head. These are offered in temples and mosques, churches and synagogues, gurdwaras and other sacred places. The man at the pulpit gives the sermon and the audience mechanically hears it or he reads a prayer and the congregation just repeats it in a chorus. Except for some honorable exceptions, the rest just walk in for the weekly or monthly service, as the case may be, for form's sake. If such prayers do not create in us a longing for God, they avail nothing. This is the most elementary service that is expected from such prayers and if that too is not achieved, nothing is gained therefrom.
Such services, if conducted on proper lines, can do a lot of good to the people. We may pray in all humility for the welfare of humanity in general, which is a universal cause and dear to God. It is a powerful instrument that has been responsible for building nations and welding together societies.
O Nanak! great is His name.
May there be welfare of all under Thy Will, O Lord.
O God! put us on the right path,
Make us steadfast in faith,
Grant us mercy, O Allah,
None is more merciful than Thee.
O God! forgive us our trespasses,
And ignore our high-handedness,
Make us true in Thy Path,
And grant us victory over the unbelievers and the unfaithful.
The object of such prayers is either to ennoble ourselves or to benefit the audience or to tell God of universal sufferings or some needs of humanity in general or, in the last resort, to ingratiate and push ourselves into public favor by a show of religiosity. Prayers offered and services conducted with the last of these motives are, of course, not only quite useless but definitely harmful and must therefore be avoided at all costs.
In Sura Baqar of the Koran, it is stated:
O God! if we err either in our endeavor or in practice,
do not call Thou us on that account; but forgive us our shortcomings.
O God! never put us to hard trials and never impose on us restrictions
and obligations as were ordained in times past.
O God! do not put a heavy load on us which we may not have the strength to bear.
O God! forgive us our transgressions and shower Thy blessings on us,
for Thou art our Lord and Master; to whom may we turn except unto Thee.
Grant us Thy victory and glory against the unbelievers and the unfaithful.