The Baha’i teachings ask Baha’is to pray daily – and the emphasis on prayer includes a daily practice of meditation, as well.
Meditation is not the emptying the mind of all thought, as some believe. True meditation focuses the mind on the subject and not the details of a problem, concern or interest without external distractions.
Meditation is an art which takes practice to perfect. The more people use meditation, the more they discover its power to restore a sense of tranquility and purpose. It is during this meditative period that people wait for the inspiration which will come.
Inspiration comes both from within and without. As many artists have tried to describe, inspiration is received rather than found. One passage in the Baha’i writings explains inspiration this way:
This faculty [of meditation] brings forth from the invisible plane the science and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly. Through this faculty man enters into the very Kingdom of God … Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit … Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself; in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves … It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers; the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed. The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror: if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore, if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly objects he will be informed of these. But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained … May we indeed become mirrors reflecting the heavenly realities, and may we become so pure as to reflect the stars of heaven. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks
But prayer and meditation, for Baha’is, don’t become an end in themselves. Instead, they lead to the next stage: volition. Volition means summoning the willpower to put into action the ideas and inspiration received during prayer and meditation.
Personal volition is vital if the individual is to be successful. Faith is also required. Each person must acquire an attitude of mind which believes that the inspiration combined with willpower makes action possible. In this sense, faith is akin to visualization. The individual should be able to see the idea implemented, and behave as if it has already been achieved.
Finally, prayer, meditation and volition must lead to action. The purpose and product of the prayer and meditative process is the practical application of the inspiration the individual has received. This process is a problem-solving mechanism for the individual, and the source and avenue of inspiration to the artist and scientist, the writer and professional person.
The Baha’i teachings take a unique view of this process – starting out with supplication and inner reflection, which leads to the development of volition, which then leads to real action in the world. In this way, we transform our prayers from worship into reality:
In the Baha’i Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are (counted as) worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks
For Baha’is, it is not sufficient to pray diligently for guidance, and then do nothing. Our prayers, followed by meditation, have to transform into action itself.