Prayer in one or the other form has been performed since the most primitive times. Human beings used to please God or gods by offering sacrifices accompanied by the singing of praises to obtain certain favors from them.
Ardas is a supplication or humble request. It is a supplicatory prayer of the Sikhs. It is not only a kind of worship, but is also an invisible emanation of most powerful form of energy that one can generate spiritually. Sikh prayer for Sarbat Da Bhala is recited at beginning or closing of a service or an important task.
Prayer is a personal talk with God from the inward depth of heart. It is earnest opening of heart before God for receiving His boons. It is a worshipful address to God, whether aloud or silent in one’s thoughts. True prayer is pure adoration and dedication. It has no ulterior motive.
Styles and times of prayer
It can be individual, family or congregational prayer. It can be vocal or silent in the heart. It can be performed everywhere and at all the times. There is no prescribed posture, time or the place but it must be performed from core of the heart with full devotion. Generally, devotees pray to God with closed eyes and with folded hands. They concentrate their attention, mind and soul on the Supreme Soul.
Although words in the prayer are almost the same but the feelings of individual participants cannot be weighed or measured. Depth of emotions can not be probed. In a congregation full of worshippers, the identical words which have deep meanings, will affect different people in different ways. Who is to say what and with what intention, each feels deep inside. The religious impulse which is carried out in the secret depths of the human heart, between one individual and Akal Purakh, in the end is a very private and personal matter.
The individual prayer is normally performed in homes and the congregational prayer is performed in Gurdwaras. Sikhism stresses upon both types of prayers. It is essential for the individual to attend holy company (Sangat) of the Gurmukhs and join the congregational prayer in the Gurdwara.
Generally, the individuals pray for physical health, material needs, welfare of the family, universal prosperity or for attainment of spirituality. Human beings pray to God for relief from the physical and worldly pains. Prayer for fulfillment of worldly desires defeats its own purpose. It can be in the form of thanks giving to the Almighty for His gifts and boons, adoration, praise or a petition.
What do the Sikhs pray for ?
The Sikhs pray for peace and prosperity of the universe as a whole and not just for a particular sect or group of people. It is for “Sarbat Da Bhala”. It is a prayer for asking the boon of spirituality and unity with the God Almighty. Sikh Ardas is also a summary of the suppression, oppression, tyranny and religious bigotry committed upon the Sikhs by the unjust rulers. It is a narration of the story of martyrs who preferred to sacrifice their lives than to flicker from their faith.
Prayer cleans the heart and is a direct connecting link between man and God. It gives a devotee the dynamic power to achieve harmonious assembly of body, mind and spirit to shun Haumai and link with the inexhaustible motive power that spins the universe.
Guru Arjan Dev says,
“By praying to the Guru, no obstacle befalls the devotee.”
ਬਿਘਨੁ ਨ ਕੋਊ ਲਾਗਤਾ ਗੁਰ ਪਹਿ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
It is believed in Sikhism that
“the prayer of a person before God never goes in vain.”
ਬਿਰਥੀ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਨ ਕੀ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
Whatever we ask, we receive from God because we are doing the things that are pleasing in His eyes. The things we ask and yet we do not receive because we are asking for a wrong purpose and for sensual pleasures.
“What ever I ask of my God, He blesses me with the same exactly.”
ਜੋ ਮਾਗਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਤੇ ਸੋਈ ਸੋਈ ਦੇਵੈ ॥
“Even without one's speaking, the True Lord knows everything.”
ਬਿਨੁ ਬੋਲੇ ਬੂਝੀਐ ਸਚਿਆਰ ॥
Guru Nanak Dev says,
“Without our saying, everything is known to the Lord.”
ਵਿਣੁ ਬੋਲੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਸਭੁ ਸੋਇ ॥
Is the prayer of every person, fruitful ?
The prayer of a God loving, pure and true person is always heard and answered. The prayer from the core of the heart of a contented person is respected in the court of Almighty.
Sikhs conclude their daily prayer with the plea:
“Nanak, may the glorious Name be ever in ascendancy and may all people prosper by Your grace.”
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ ਚ੍ਹੜਦੀ ਕਲਾ, ਤੇਰੇ ਭਾਣੇ ਸਰਬਤ ਕਾ ਭਲਾ ॥
Guru Arjan Dev says,
“God cures all pains; He Gives us comforts.
He does not suffer any ills who prays with faith.”
ਤੀਨੇ ਤਾਪ ਨਿਵਾਰਣਹਾਰਾ ਦੁਖ ਹੰਤਾ ਸੁਖ ਰਾਸਿ ॥
ਤਾ ਕਉ ਬਿਘਨੁ ਨ ਕੋਊ ਲਾਗੈ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਆਗੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
“To seek any thing except You is to invite the greatest sufferings;
Bless me with the boon of Thy Name and so that I may feel contended and my mind’s hunger be satisfied.”
ਵਿਣੁ ਤੁਧੁ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਿ ਮੰਗਣਾ ਸਿਰਿ ਦੁਖਾ ਕੈ ਦੁਖ ॥
ਦੇਹਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੀਆ ਉਤਰੈ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਭੁਖ ॥
Guru Arjan Dev Ji says,
“Make supplication before Him who is the bestower of bliss and the destroyer of dread. He, to whom the Merciful Master shows His mercy, has his affairs adjusted forthwith.”
ਸੁਖਦਾਤਾ ਭੈ ਭੰਜਨੋ ਤਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਕਰਿ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
ਮਿਹਰ ਕਰੇ ਜਿਸੁ ਮਿਹਰਵਾਨੁ ਤਾਂ ਕਾਰਜੁ ਆਵੈ ਰਾਸਿ ॥
“Joining both the hands, I make a supplication before Thee, O’ my Lord. If You will, then alone I will be embellished.”
ਦੁਇ ਕਰ ਜੋੜਿ ਕਰਉ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਾ ਆਣਹਿ ਰਾਸਿ ॥
“Kirat the minstrel, makes a supplication, O’ Guru Ram Das, keep me ever under Your protection.”
ਇਕ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ਭਾਟ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਕੀ ਗੁਰ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਸਰਣਾਈ ॥
“Without being told, the Lord knows everything, so before whom else should we make a supplication.”
ਵਿਣੁ ਬੋਲਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਜਾਣਦਾ ਕਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਕੀਚੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥