Many of us know and value the importance of regular prayer sessions, but what about meditation? What exactly is meditation, and how meditation is different from praying. Perhaps the easiest way to explain the difference between prayer and meditation, although some may disagree and it’s much more complex than this answer, is that prayer is us seeking and speaking with God,while meditation is us allowing God to speak to us.
When you pray, you try to express your thoughts and emotions to the Supreme Being–in words and in gratitude. You try to seek that which only the Divine can grant. You pray for yourself and for those whom you want to receive the bounty of God’s grace and healing. Sincere prayers come from very deep within your heart when you are faced with situations that are beyond any human control or efforts. I can cite an example. If the person whom you love the most is in great danger or pain, or you are moved by the suffering of others due to some natural calamity, then you open your heart in earnest prayer to the Lord of the Universe, or to the One unseen Force in which you believe, trusting the divine power to heal and help others or yourself.
Meditation as a practice is an effort to stop the mind from its natural tendency to weave thoughts. In the practice of meditation, you try to relax and then try to focus your mind on a divine form, a sacred sound or a word or phrase as mantra, or you focus on your physical body, breath or thoughts. Meditation is just sitting with your own mind for a while. All day long, you use your mind but never just be with it.
Difference between meditation and prayer:
1. In meditation there is no concept of god. For a meditator there is no god but in prayer, you often pray to god for some favors or to thank for giving you this abundant life.
2. Prayer is a method of surrendering your ego or life situations in the hand of god. Whatever god offers you, you are happy with that. It’s a path of surrender. Whereas, in meditation you don’t surrender because there is no god in meditation, then whom you will surrender your ego to? In meditation, you go beyond the mind by understanding it mechanisms.Witnessing is the method to understand the mind.
3. In prayer, you often can have conversation with god. You can talk to god. But in meditation, there is no conversation with anyone. Moreover, in meditation any thought which comes to your mind has to be witnessed. So the meditator witness his thoughts as well as his emotions.
4. Surrender is the method in prayer. Witnessing is the method in meditation.
5. Surrender will be more suited to heart oriented people or people who have lot of faith in god or who can surrender easily.Meditation is suited more to people who are more into mind or like to analyze things.
Prayer, meditation, and contemplation then are quite different in focus and practice. And yet all three strive to achieve something that seems to be an innate need for all humanity -- the need for communion with the divine. For those willing to risk the known, much peace can be discovered in the unknown.