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Sometimes, I catch myself praying with a specific outcome in mind, beckoning life to move me towards what I imagine to be best.
My idea of the “right outcome” for a situation can be so specific that sometimes I struggle to accept different answers to my prayers than I originally imagined.
Whether I entirely miss the signs or actively ignore them, I can struggle to accept an undesired outcome. If I accept or notice a nudge in a different direction, I realize I have to detach from what I want, and that’s not always easy.
I like to view prayer as a conversation with God. The Bible says:
Ask, and it will be given to you seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. – Matthew 7:7.
The Baha’i writings say:
Each bosom must be a telegraph station – one terminus of the wire attached to the soul, the other fixed in the Supreme Concourse – so that inspiration may descend … and questions of reality be discussed. Then opinions will coincide with truth; day by day there will be progression. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 183.
Through prayer, I can connect to God and hope to receive divine guidance. I can ask the souls who are no longer in this world, and I can open my heart and mind to the support they may provide. But when I become attached to the outcome I hope for, it can be difficult to hear over the noise of my own perception of a situation.
It’s not that I want to completely erase all my own thoughts, but it’s important to find ways to weed out unfounded attachments from true insight. Through the “aha” moments that come with reflective meditation and sincere prayer, I can better differentiate between thoughts rooted in fear, anxiety, and illusion, and thoughts rooted in intuition.
The Baha’i teachings say:
The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 121.
Radiant acquiescence goes beyond simply detaching from one’s own expectations, but involves doing so with joy, trusting that any situation will provide one the opportunity to grow. The best outcome may not always feel the best in the moment – instead, radiant acquiescence means that one does not only accept what God wants but accepts it with joy, gratitude, and trust:
The source of all glory is acceptance of whatsoever the Lord hath bestowed, and contentment with that which God hath ordained. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 155.
Often, when I pray, I’m not asking for clarity, but rather for some circumstance to change. Sometimes, that change turns out to be something that feels unbearably painful or uncomfortable.
When I ask God to end a test, sometimes the answer to my prayers is “not yet.” But as difficult as this can be, tests and challenges provide opportunities to strengthen certain virtues. Although struggles sometimes don’t clear up immediately, the knowledge that tests lead to strength keeps me afloat. It brings me clarity of mind that allows me to move through life with more fluidity and joy.