O SON OF SPIRIT! Ask not of Me that which We desire not for thee, then be content with what We have ordained for thy sake, for this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 18)
Many of us pray often or say prayers every day, but it seems to us that the prayer has not been answered. Here let us look at what we say in our prayers that might please God and have the prayer answered. First, let us look at two passages from Holy Scritures to get some ideas and see what is essential and what kind of attitude we should have when we are facing God.
Pray then like this:“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13）
Thou seest me, O my God, bowed down in lowliness, humbling myself before Thy commandments, submitting to Thy sovereignty, trembling at the might of Thy dominion, fleeing from Thy wrath, entreating Thy grace, relying upon Thy forgiveness, shaking with awe at Thy fury. I implore Thee with a throbbing heart, with streaming tears and a yearning soul, and in complete detachment from all things, to make Thy lovers as rays of light across Thy realms, and to aid Thy chosen servants to exalt Thy Word, that their faces may turn beauteous and bright with splendour, that their hearts may be filled with mysteries, and that every soul may lay down its burden of sin. Guard them then from the aggressor, from him who hath become a shameless and blasphemous doer of wrong. (Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 190)
Jesus said, “Hallowed be your name”，This is a pious and respectful attitude. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Let’s pause and think about what this means? What is God’s will? What would it be like if God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven? To do God’s will is to follow His commandments. God’s Kingdom is an exalted, sanctified, holy, selfless Kingdom, isn’t it? ”Give us this day our daily bread.” What is the daily bread for our spirit? It is the words of God. To feed our mind (spirit) with the Word of God and let our mind consume it daily instead of earthly thoughts. Our mind is like a mouth through which we take food for our spirit. We pray for the spiritual food daily, we pray for a message to enlighten us everyday. We ask for the guidance through Holy Scriptures (the prayer may be answered when we read and understand more about the meaning of the Holy Writings). Every day we eat the right food for our life of the spirit, then we help our life of the spirit grow stronger. Every day the situation is different, so we need to ask for guidance every day. God will give us different words, admonitions, encouragement or instructions. We ask humbly and patiently waiting for guidance through mediation. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” We need to reflect on ourselves, be honest to look at what we need to improve or can do better every day. When we do something wrong do not try to escape, do not fear and sincerely ask forgiveness from God and ask for divine assistance. When we really want to make the change and improve ourselves, Divine guidance will be like a pouring shower. That is the strength, that is the spiritual force and power, and that is God’s grace. It is our sincerity that lets us remove the veil and lets the spiritual force be received. It is our determination to follow the path that allows us to have guidance from the Holy Spirit. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Before our spirit of life becomes strong, we need protection from God. We ask help to stay aware, so we won’t fall into temptation and evil tests. But sometimes the test is from God, so we can examine ourselves to continue moving toward the goal, to develop the qualities of our soul.
O SON OF MAN! Transgress not thy limits, nor claim that which beseemeth thee not. Prostrate thyself before the countenance of thy God, the Lord of might and power. ( The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 24)
O SON OF BEING! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 26)
From the second prayer, we can see the attitude which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tried to show us as lowliness, humbleness, submission, trembling at the might. “I implore Thee with a throbbing heart, with streaming tears and a yearning soul, and in complete detachment from all things, to make Thy lovers as rays of light across Thy realms, and to aid Thy chosen servants to exalt Thy Word, that their faces may turn beauteous and bright with splendour, that their hearts may be filled with mysteries, and that every soul may lay down its burden of sin.” This prayer does not contain earthly desires, it’s only aim is for the qualities of the spirit. When we try to detach from secular things, acquire virtues and qualities of the soul, then a pure and radiant heart will gradually appear in us. “Their hearts may be filled with mysteries, and that every soul may lay down its burden of sin.” A pure and radiant heart is like a shining and clean mirror, it reflects the mysteries of the spirit through our soul.
O SON OF BEING! Walk in My statutes for love of Me and deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest My pleasure. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 38)
O SON OF MAN! Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine? (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 56)
From these two Writings, we understand what God likes to see from our prayer. It is our spiritual growth and having a pure and radiant heart. He wants us to bring ourselves to account each day, to seek to improve and attain virtues and spiritual qualities in our life. We must not be afraid to face our own weakness, come to receive daily guidance from the words of God, ask assistance to develop our strengths, ask protection from the temptations in the world. He loves us so much and He wants to do this with us no matter how fragile we are, as long as we are not giving up. He will help us become stronger and stronger in our soul, and bring us closer and closer to Him.
O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 31)
So if our prayer has not been answered, maybe we should think about what our attitude toward it is and what we were asking in the prayer. When we make mistakes, instead of avoiding it, we should be brave enough to face it and ask forgiveness. This is the attitude of repentance with dedication. When others misunderstand or mistreat us, we avoid conflict and choose understanding and patience. Then we can bear the hurtful feeling and ask healing from God. God likes to see us choose unity instead of arguing or blaming. When we are thrilled by what we have received, thankful with excitement like we got a surprise gift, we should tell Him how happy and thankful we are, even though He already knows how we feel. God likes to be surround by the joy and intimacy we show to Him. When we understand the truth from our life experiences or from the Writings, we hold the precious gift and tell Him how excited we feel and how valuable is the gift we received. Let Him share our feelings for the gift and grace He gave us. When we encounter difficulty, either for ourselves or others, we ask for guidance and think about what test He has for us. Instead of paying attention to what happened, think about what virtue He wants us to acquire through this test. Pay no attention to who is right or who is wrong, and focus on what spiritual quality we can gain. Usually the problem will be solved and the difficulty will be removed when we recognize the problem and are willing put in our effort to make the change. If we pray for strength and make the change, our prayer will be answered and the difficulty will be removed by God. Don’t just ask God to remove the difficulty in the beginning, it won’t work in many cases or the problem will keep coming back. To be obedient and forgive are the most challenging lessons we need to learn. To be obedient to God’s commandment and forgive others are battles for our ego and our own self. We can call out loud for assistance for these battles. We can keep using the Words of God to give us power and force. This is detachment. This is puting away our pride and being humble enough to learn. This is putting down the mask we have been wearing for so long. This is tearing down the strong and high wall we have built around ourselves for protection. This is sacrificing our own ease and comfort to serve others. This is performing justice and putting effort in pursuing the equality of mankind…These are the prayers which God likes to hear, and these are the prayers that will be answered.
“O MY FRIENDS! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you.” (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 19)
O SON OF MAN! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 51)
Prayer for Protection
God, my God! Shield Thy trusted servants from the evils of self and passion, protect them with the watchful eye of Thy loving-kindness from all rancor, hate and envy, shelter them in the impregnable stronghold of Thy care and, safe from the darts of doubtfulness, make them the manifestations of Thy glorious signs, illumine their faces with the effulgent rays shed from the Dayspring of Thy divine unity, gladden their hearts with the verses revealed from Thy holy kingdom, strengthen their loins by Thine all-swaying power that cometh from Thy realm of glory. Thou art the All-Bountiful, the Protector, the Almighty, the Gracious. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)