A Bahá’í Perspective
Most people are praying for their families and communities to be safe, to have courage, hope and strength during these challenging times. To pray with sincerity and dedication draws upon the blessings from our Creator.
We converse with God and express our love for Him through prayer. Daily prayer and meditation enrich us spiritually and are tools for our spiritual growth.
Prayer is a source of hope and spiritual sustenance. As the Bahá’í Writings state: “When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to Him and seeks bounty from His Ocean, this supplication brings light to his heart, illumination to his sight, life to his soul and exaltation to his being”. Prayer is also a source of joy and strength. “Supplication to God at morn and eve is conducive to the joy of hearts, and prayer causes spirituality and fragrance”.
We may be asking whether there is need for praying, because God is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. He knows what we want and what we need. Then why should we pray?
“If one friend loves another, is it not natural that he should wish to say so? Though he knows that that friend is aware of his love, does he still not wish to tell him of it? It is true that God knows the wishes of all hearts; but the impulse to pray is a natural one, springing from man’s love to God”, state the Bahá’í Writings.
We pray to thank God for His bounties and blessings; we pray to praise Him; and we pray seeking enlightenment from Him. We also pray for acquisition of spiritual virtues.
Prayer is food for the soul. Our soul needs regular nourishment, in the same way as our body needs to be fed daily and regularly.
“[I]n the highest prayer”, according tothe Bahá’í Writings, “men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear Him or hell, or hope for bounty or heaven. …When a man falls in love with a human being, it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the Name of God when one has come to love Him. … The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God”.
When we pray it is important to center our thoughts and our innermost being on God and forget what is going on around us. We should reflect on the words we say. The mere repetition of words is of no value. Sincerity of heart and concentration of mind is what matters most. Praying with sincerity and dedication draws upon the spiritual blessings that flow from the Source of love and mercy to humanity.
Prayer and meditation are primary tools for our spiritual growth. We commune with our Creator through prayer and receive His guidance through studying of the Words of God. The capacity to meditate is our distinguishing feature as human beings. The Bahá’í Writings suggest that human progress would be impossible without reflection and contemplation.
The process of spiritual development requires moral and spiritual choices, often involving challenges. Through sincere and regular prayers our souls will be strengthened and we can overcome challenges and obstacles in life easier.
According to the Bahá’í Writings: “The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed, the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: The heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times of the past, and you will find the greatest men have suffered most”.
The Bahá’í Writings encourage us to be both deeply spiritual and highly practical. While encouraged to pray and meditate every day, at the same time, we are to be engaged with the world at large. Service to humanity, for example, is viewed among the highest priorities in one’s life. As the Bahá’í Writings state: “Prayer and meditation are very important factors in deepening the spiritual life of the individual, but with them must go also action and example, as these are the tangible results of the former. Both are essential”.
Serving others, whether within the family or in the community at large – through promoting the well-being of our fellowmen – can also help us develop our own selves. Active service to humanity, together with prayer, meditation and obedience to spiritual and moral laws enable us to develop spiritually and grow closer to God.
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OPINION: Flora Teckie