When I Pray, Who Listens?

A person or some impersonal entity?

Today, many may want to say,“No one.” And yet, in popular culture, we routinely see persons state, “I am praying to whoever is listening.”
Online dictionaries say that a prayer is defined as “words that you say when praying to God or gods,” and another one puts it more succinctly as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks.” Thus a prayer involves three basic elements: someone asking for something, someone capable of giving something, and the means of communication involved.

The Bhagavad-gita describes four kinds of people whose prayers are accepted – one who prays because he is suffering from distress, one who prays out of curiosity, one who seeks material enjoyment and lastly, one who is searching for spiritual knowledge.

All four categories are classified as pious persons who have their respective prayers answered according to the intensity of their prayers

When a distressed person desires relief from sickness, calamity or other material miseries and in that situation prays to Sri Krishna , his distress serves as an impetus to approach God. A curious person wants to test the waters before taking the plunge. Such a person wants to understand the soul or wants to become self-realized and he gets that knowledge. A person in the third category wants to enjoy things like property, money, wife or children, and he approaches God to fulfil his wants. The very reason that he has approached the Supreme Personality of Godhead qualifies him to be declared as “pious.” The last in this category has been already endowed with intelligence and wants to build up on his spiritual assets. He then progresses further on his onward spiritual journey. Thus all four categories get tangible evidence that God does exist and He answers prayers.

How does God do it?
Here is direct evidence from the Upanisads: “He has no feet or hands, yet He is the swiftest runner and can grasp anything. Though without eyes or ears, He sees and hears. Nobody knows Him, yet He is the knower and the object of knowledge. Sages describe Him as the supreme, original Personality of Godhead.” (SvetaSvatara Upanisad 3.18).

The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no hands which are materially contaminated, but He has His hands and accepts whatever sacrifice is offered to Him. The hands, feet, eyes and ears of the Supreme Person are not like those of an ordinary, conditioned soul, which are derived from false ego, of material quality. Rather, the Lord’s transcendentally beautiful features are direct manifestations of His internal nature. Thus, unlike the soul and body of conditioned living beings, the Lord and His bodily form are identical in all respects. Moreover, His lotus hands, lotus feet, lotus eyes and other parts are not restricted in their functions. Lord Brahma, the Lord’s first creature, glorifies Him in this way:

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose transcendental form is full of bliss, truth and substantiality, and thus displays the most dazzling splendor. Each of the limbs of that transcendental figure possesses in itself the full-fledged functions of all the other organs, and He eternally sees, maintains and manifests the infinite universes, both spiritual and material.” (Brahma-samhita 5.32)

Although the Supreme Lord is described as having no hands and legs, He nonetheless accepts all sacrificial offerings. He has no eyes, yet He sees everything. He has no ears, yet He hears everything. When it is stated that the Supreme Lord has no hands and legs, one should not think that He is impersonal. Rather, He has no mundane hands or legs like ours. “He has no eyes, yet He sees.” This means that He does not have mundane, limited eyes like ours. Rather, He has such eyes that He can see past, present and future, everywhere, in every corner of the universe and in every corner of the heart of every living entity. Thus the impersonal descriptions in the Vedas intend to deny mundane characteristics in the Supreme Lord. They do not intend to establish the Supreme Lord as impersonal.