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Praying for Others

Should a person recite but a single verse from the Holy Writings in a spirit of joy and radiance, this would be better for him than reciting wearily all the Scriptures of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Recite ye the verses of God in such measure that ye be not overtaken with fatigue or boredom. Burden not your souls so as to cause exhaustion and weigh them down, but rather endeavour to lighten them, that they may soar on the wings of revealed Verses unto the dawning-place of His signs. This is conducive to nearer access unto God, were ye to comprehend.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 225)

Someone recently asked me how I manage to pray for so many people on my prayer list.  This was such a good question because it definitely reflects my situation.  People around me understand that I take prayer seriously and see that I use the 5-Steps of Prayer for Solving Problems in my life every day, and they witness the wonderful things that happen in my life, and they believe that I must have a direct line to God (and they don’t).  I hate it when people say that!  I’m no more loved by God than anyone else.  He loves every single one of us unconditionally.  That’s why He created us.  In the Arabic Hidden Words, number 3, Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.

So, people ask me to pray for them, and I’m honored to be asked; and I enjoy praying for and with people and do it almost every day.  I don’t always hear the end results and I have to leave that to God.

At one time, I put all my prayer requests for me and for others, in the Notes section on my phone, calling it “Prayer Requests”.  I had great fun crossing off the prayers as they were answered, but the list soon grew too long to be useful anymore.

Now what I do, is pray for the person at the time the request is made.  Sometimes I use a formal prayer from the prayer book, other times, based on the quote above, I recite just a single verse from the Holy Writings.  Sometimes it might be “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha (the Greatest Name of God).  Frequently it might be Ya Allahu’l-Mustaghath (to be said in times of trouble, difficulty or great need).  Sometimes it’s just “O God please help this person!”  No matter what I say, I make sure I do it in a spirit of joy and radiance.  After I’ve prayed, I write the person’s request on a slip of paper and put it into my God jar, trusting that God heard my prayer the first time, and I don’t have to keep reminding Him!

If the person and their problem come to my mind later, I can pray for them again, more to relieve my own heart than because I don’t trust that God is already on the job.

I’ve learned not to be so thorough and perfect as to be overtaken with fatigue or boredom or for these prayers to cause exhaustion and to let the burden of other people’s problems weigh me down.

Growing closer to God by letting go of the need to be perfect in how I pray for others, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  How do you pray for others?  Please share your thoughts below.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Have Hope. This Too Shall Pass

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Fire Tablet, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 317)

Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Tablet of Ahmad, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 210)

Have hope. It will not always be so.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2015)

As we were entering into our 4th (this time semi) lockdown, with the rapid spread of the Omicron virus, I began to despair.  Not this again, I thought.  I can’t bear it.  But of course, I can, and I must and I will.

I was contemplating these three quotes and trying to elevate my thoughts and overcome my despair, when I came across the following perspective from a someone on Facebook.  I’m not sure how it popped up on my feed, as I don’t know him, and don’t have any mutual friends, so I can only believe it was the hand of God, trying to reassure me.

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you’re 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet.

When you’re 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million. At 52, the Korean War starts and five million perish.

At 64 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn’t end for many years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? A kid in 1985 didn’t think their 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Let’s be smart, help each other out, and we will get through this. In the history of the world, there has never been a storm that lasted. This too, shall pass.

It gave me such hope, that I posted it on my own Facebook page, and my cousin reminded me that our grandmother had been born in 1900 and moved on a horse-drawn covered wagon from Nebraska to Edmonton, in western Canada with her family, for the free land grants.  Not only did she endure every one of the calamities above, but her entire world also changed in that move.  Could I withstand so many ordeals?  I really doubt it!  Leaving my “severe mental tests” from childhood trauma aside, all I have to deal with is “stay home to stay safe”.  It seems like such a small thing, in comparison with everything she suffered.

I have a hard time relating to Bahá’u’lláh’s suffering, but I can certainly understand my grandmother’s.  If she can do it, it’s in my DNA and I can too.

Knowing I have resilience built into my DNA, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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The Truth About Unbearable Tests

No one should expect, upon becoming a Bahá’í, that faith will not be tested, and to our finite understanding of such matters these tests may occasionally seem unbearable. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

This Plan will test their stamina, their willpower, and the strength of their love for those who dwell alongside them. (Universal House of Justice, to the Bahá’ís of the World, 4 January 2022)

I’ve just been reading 19 pages from the last 3 letters arising from the meeting between the Counsellors and the Universal House of Justice, outlining the upcoming 9-year Plan, including the most recent letter which came out today.  Needless to say, it’s overwhelming!

Several things stand out in my mind – the focus seems to have gone from community building to society building, which is really exciting!  And there will be more focus on developing LSA’s again, when so many have been lost.  International pioneering will again be a focus.  Ruhi will be revising but not creating new branch courses – that will be the responsibility of the institute boards.  And more than any plan I’ve thought I’ve understood before, the focus seems more than ever, on the working in groups of people.

So where do I fit in?  This seems to be answered on page 6 of the 30 December 2021 letter to the Conference of the Continental Board of Counsellors:

The challenge facing the friends serving at the grassroots is essentially the same in every place.  They must be able to read their own reality and ask:  what, in light of the possibilities and requirements at hand, would be fitting objectives to pursue in the coming cycle or series of cycles?

As an isolated believer in an inactive cluster, serving an online community and loving to serve the Faith from behind my computer screen in my pajamas, where does that leave me?  Don’t expect not to be tested!  I may have to give up my comfort zone and detach from the things I hold most sacred, in order to enable the Faith to grow according to God’s will and not my own.

Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!

Seeing the end in the beginning, through the vision of the House of Justice, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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We All See Reality Differently

Participants in a consultative process see reality from different points of view, and as these views are examined and understood, clarity is achieved.  (Office of Social and Economic Development at the Bahá’í World Centre, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 13.  Bahá’í Library Online)

I like this quote because it reminds me that not everyone sees reality from my point of view.  Nowhere has this been more obvious than during this pandemic, where my choice to adhere to government directives and guidance from the House of Justice has been at odds with the behaviour and actions of many of my closest Bahá’í friends.

I became aware of a huge difference of opinions during the first lockdown, when they chose to gather at a cottage for our semi-annual retreat at a time when people were being asked not to come up to their cottages and to avoid the 3-C’s (close faces; closed spaces and crowded places).  I was furious that they would so blatantly disregard the lockdown and potentially put each other at risk.  I was afraid that the gulf between us had widened to such a degree that I’d never be able to find my way back.  I found myself incredibly judgemental, superior and self-righteous and at the same time, I was also jealous because they were continuing on and having fun without me.  They continued to have a retreat in the fall, when we still weren’t allowed to gather in each other’s houses, and it is now is happening again in the third lockdown.  Many of them are not planning to get vaccinated and I wonder if I will ever feel safe to go back to these retreats again.  I am swimming in a sea of poisonous, attack thoughts aimed at people I thought of as my closest friends for over 30 years.

I realized that I had a choice.  I could find a way to allow a difference of opinion and approach them with love and forgiveness; or I could let my bitterness eat away at the foundations of our friendship.  I know how to walk away when the going gets rough.  Now I’ve had to learn how to apply the things I’ve been teaching others in this blog and in my books, so I can keep these friends and at the same time keep my integrity and walk with my head held high with the effect of my decisions too.  Consultation with others has been an important key to remind me that we all have COVID-fatigue and everyone has their limits.  This has helped me be more understanding, and please God, may I continue to let go of judgement so I can hold love in my heart.

Remembering that consultation helps me see reality from different points of view, I can relax and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

 

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The Spiritual Forces at Our Disposal

Above all, the friends need to remain ever conscious of the magnitude of the spiritual forces that are at their disposition. They are members of a community “whose world-embracing, continually consolidating activities constitute the one integrating process in a world whose institutions, secular as well as religious, are for the most part dissolving”. Of all the peoples of the world, “they alone can recognize, amidst the welter of a tempestuous age, the Hand of the Divine Redeemer that traces its course and controls its destinies. They alone are aware of the silent growth of that orderly world polity whose fabric they themselves are weaving.  (27 December 2005, Universal house of Justice to the Conference of the Continental Counsellors)

As I watch so many terrible things unfold as the world continues its relentless descent into darkness as the Old World Order is being rolled up, my prayers and the prayers of people all over the world intensify.  I’ve been encouraged time after time, at the soft landing of many events which could have unfolded much more disastrously than they have, and I’m reminded of this quote.  We do trust that we have spiritual forces at our disposal, which is why we pray, both individually and collectively in our devotional gatherings.

What I often forget, though, is that we Bahá’ís are members of a community “whose world-embracing, continually consolidating activities constitute the one integrating process in a world whose institutions . . . are . . . dissolving”; and that we alone “can recognize . . . the Hand of the Divine Redeemer that traces its course and controls its destinies; and that we alone are aware of the silent growth of that orderly world . . . whose fabric we ourselves are weaving.

I so often take for granted that my puny efforts are weaving the fabric of the new world order.  I forget that my little efforts at prayers and the core activities and other undertakings of our Bahá’í community are being supported by spiritual forces I can call on, at all times.  Remembering that is what keeps me going.

Knowing that the Hand of the Divine Redeemer is tracing the course of world events and controls its destinies, I can relax and I am grateful!

 

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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Promoting Spiritual Growth

The consultative process itself promotes personal growth and collective solidarity, indispensable elements in true development.  (Bahá’í International Community, Report on Rural Poverty Alleviation Efforts in Asia and the Pacific, Focusing on Activities for Disadvantaged Women, paragraph 6.1.2.)

As someone committed to personal growth, I found this quote linking consultation to personal growth and its indispensability to the community development work fascinating.  True personal growth is not about buying a book and letting it sit on your shelf at home or attending a seminar and feeling like you’ve accomplished something.  The Faith teaches us that growth is so much more than that.  Transformation involves the knowledge of God and acquiring virtues.  The closer we come to God, the more severe our tests become and continuing to make a commitment to staying close to the Covenant and committing to make each day better than the day before can be difficult, especially if we allow ourselves to get distracted by the changes and chances of a rapidly declining old world order.

I’m coming to really appreciate how prayerful reflection in consultation with others can help us take our spiritual growth to the next level, by helping us set realistic and attainable goals, create plans to achieve them and identify and resolve problems as they arise.  Consultation can help us recognize and describe our feelings, give and receive feedback and recognize assumptions. Consultation helps us explore our identity, talents and potential, as well as dreams and aspirations. It develops us physically, mentally, spiritually and intellectually.  The more we improve and the closer we come to God, we will eagerly want to use our full potentials to benefit ourselves and others. New skills and talents will be discovered. Old relationships will be strengthened and new ones easily formed.  All of this works together to give us a boost in self-image and self-confidence.

Personal growth expands our frame of reference to include the people around us instead of becoming more self-centered. As our world expands, so does our awareness of the possibilities and opportunities around us. This possibility mindset fills us with an attitude of eager anticipation as we start each new day.

Knowing the benefits of consultation to growth and development, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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