Is prayer useful?
It depends on the present degree of wisdom and the type of prayer.
If you do not tie your camel and it runs away and then you pray for its recovery, you may well get your camel back. But if you do not pay attention to your own negligence you have not gained anything substancial. In fact, chances are you will lose your camel again.
Spiritually, if you pray for deliverance from suffering but remain unconscious of your chief feature and invest in and justify all kinds of false ideas, theories and beliefs, and self-centered negative emotions, prayer is useless and can even be counter-productive. Nobody, no god, no teacher will give you peace if the devil runs free in your unattended garden. This is purgatory, but closer to hell rather than closer to heaven. Spiritual kindergarten.
On a more refined level, prayer can be seen as a type of meditation. You put your attention onto some idea and attempt to draw the Wisdom behind the idea. Self-remembering is one such practice. Or Self-inquiry.
Take the first line of St. Francis’ prayer, for example.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace”
Focus on the peace and if it is revealed as It Is the prayer will have worked on its highest or deepest possible level. If the Lord’s Peace is Known the Self is Known. It all points at the same Thing. It invites Awakening.
The rest of St. Francis’ the prayer describes the functioning of personality under the Lord’s Peace and is beautifully inspirational, in my opinion.
But in the language in these prayers there is a separation between me and God!
Exactly, that is what I meant, it is useful depending on the present degree of wisdom.
These prayers are mostly useful before Awakening takes place. Afterwards it makes less sense because it is Known that there is no separation.
It is the same with mystic poets. They say “don’t go back to sleep” and The Friend”. Well, You were never awake and never asleep and there is no separate “Friend”, nor God, nor Awareness. So, those poems may be inspirational early on the path. Perhaps for Bhakti or emotionally centered people they work as pointers, who knows. I cannot tell. Intellectually they are not congruent with reality.
With Awakening it is known in direct experience that there is no me here and a “Friend” there. No me here and Tao there, no me here and God there. So prayers and exaltations to God become meaningless and are naturally discarded. That process gives room to a deeper relationship to Divinity, which culminates at any moment, with the dissolution of such relationship.
"And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." I suppose that refers to the death of the ego.
That refers to the dissolution of the sense of separation. That particular manifestation of the ego ceases and thus Eternal Being becomes evident, so to speak.
The notion of dying into eternal life after physical death, which is so prevalent in certain religions is imagination based on blind faith with no intuition and no wisdom. It is fantasy based on misinterpretation and distortion of original teachings.
Spiritual Realization has no relation to the death of the body. It has a relation to, or is equal to, the death of the sense of separation. Nothing more, in fact.