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Where do we find true, lasting wealth? We know silver and gold can’t accompany us into the next world—so what can? Baha’is have a prayer for that.
The Baha’i teachings ask every Baha’i to practice daily prayer and meditation. Among all of the thousands of prayers revealed by the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’is use three daily obligatory prayers. Meant to be said alone and in private each day, those prayers have a special power and a unique place in the hearts of all Baha’is.
One, called the short obligatory prayer, goes like this:
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth.
“I testify,” Baha’is pray, “…to my poverty and to Thy wealth.” What does that mean? Baha’u’llah elaborates in another prayer:
Thou art He, O God, Who hath proclaimed Himself as the Lord of Wealth, and characterized all that serve Him as poor and needy. Even as Thou hast written: “O ye that believe! Ye are but paupers in need of God; but God is the All-Possessing, the All-Praised.” Having acknowledged my poverty, and recognized Thy wealth, suffer me not to be deprived of the glory of Thy riches. Thou art, verily, the Supreme Protector, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 134.
The fundamental purpose of all religion, of course, is the spiritual development of the human soul. Along with that spiritual development comes humility, the recognition of our true station in life—that every individual seeks to know and to love the Creator. Humility, then, calls for an acknowledgment of the mystical relationship between God and humanity—the eternal bond that connects us with the One who made us.
To be humble requires a rational, realistic view of yourself. This daily Baha’i prayer carries a powerful reminder of that reality—we are weak and God is strong. In one way, this prayer properly arranges the universe, putting things in perspective for everyone. It tells us that we can never really possess anything, and that God possesses everything. It tells us that possession is ephemeral when it applies to the material and the physical; and that possession is permanent when it applies to spiritual qualities and attributes:
Neither the pomp of the mighty, nor the wealth of the rich, nor even the ascendancy of the ungodly will endure. All will perish, at a word from Him. He, verily, is the All-Powerful, the All-Compelling, the Almighty. What advantage is there in the earthly things which men possess? That which shall profit them, they have utterly neglected. Erelong, they will awake from their slumber, and find themselves unable to obtain that which hath escaped them in the days of their Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised. Did they but know it, they would renounce their all, that their names may be mentioned before His throne. They, verily, are accounted among the dead. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 138-139.
True, lasting wealth, from a Baha’i perspective, means acquiring spiritual and moral distinction:
I desire distinction for you. The Baha’is must be distinguished from others of humanity. But this distinction must not depend upon wealth—that they should become more affluent than other people. I do not desire for you financial distinction. It is not an ordinary distinction I desire; not scientific, commercial, industrial distinction. For you I desire spiritual distinction—that is, you must become eminent and distinguished in morals. In the love of God you must become distinguished from all else. You must become distinguished for loving humanity, for unity and accord, for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world—for faithfulness and sincerity, for justice and fidelity, for firmness and steadfastness, for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world, for love toward every human being, for unity and accord with all people, for removing prejudices and promoting international peace. Finally, you must become distinguished for heavenly illumination and for acquiring the bestowals of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 190.
Those qualities and virtues, because they reside in the human soul, can never be taken from us. They will survive every physical change and alteration, including death. They will transcend this world. They will live forever:
O My servants! Were ye to discover the hidden, the shoreless oceans of My incorruptible wealth, ye would, of a certainty, esteem as nothing the world, nay, the entire creation. Let the flame of search burn with such fierceness within your hearts as to enable you to attain your supreme and most exalted goal—the station at which ye can draw nigh unto, and be united with, your Best-Beloved…. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 323-324.