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Man must attach himself to an infinite reality, so that his glory, his joy, and his progress may be infinite. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 136.
Do you pray only when you want or need something?
That seems pretty normal—but prayer can also celebrate the gifts from God we already enjoy. Those happy, grateful prayers can truly lighten and enlighten our souls. That’s why it’s a good idea to pray not just when times are tough, but also when everything feels wonderful and the happiness of the moment leads us to laugh and smile.
Praying to God when we’re happy enables us to see the joyful things in life from a spiritual perspective. It helps us to meditate on the active role God and God’s beautiful creation already takes in our lives. I wish all of us learned to pray that way–but unfortunately the opposite seems more common. Most of us wait for periods of hardship to turn to God in prayer. When we only pray in times of trouble, and never pray when we’re happy, we miss out on a richer experience of spirituality, and miss seeing how God’s blessings surround us in both good times and bad.
God created the universe. Through the laws of physics that govern this universe, the Creator made the Earth beneath our feet, the air we breathe, and the water that makes up over 60% of our bodies. Beyond our existence itself, we have a great deal to celebrate–we live in a time when religion is being renewed, science is advancing rapidly, and the scattered peoples of the world are gradually realizing we all share a common destiny.
In a talk in New York on the 12th of June 1912, Abdu’l-Baha gave these reasons for being deeply grateful to God:
In brief, [God] has supplied all the necessities of life although we did not ask for any of these great gifts. With pure mercy and bounty He has prepared this great table. It is a mercy which precedes asking… Therefore, these glad tidings should cause you to soar in the atmosphere of joy forever and ever. Render continual thanks unto God so that the confirmations of God may encircle you all. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 188-189.
Consider how many things must go right in order for humans to thrive. In a universe almost entirely empty, dark, and unimaginably cold, we live on a molten piece of rock we call the Earth, orbiting the Sun at a comfortable enough distance that water can exist in a liquid state. Daily sunlight and billions of years of evolution have produced vibrant ecosystems supporting an enormous variety of life, including human beings. When we are born into this world we are surrounded by family and other members of society who can take care of us and rear us into adulthood. And as science advances, humanity has generated the knowledge we need to secure our prosperity upon the Earth. What a remarkable gift, that such favorable conditions for human flourishing exist in the universe. Astronomers, physicists and cosmologists agree, and use the term “fine-tuned universe” to refer to the fundamental physical constants that allow matter, elements or even life to exist.
So when we’re enjoying the companionship of friends, a satisfying meal, or a beautiful landscape, we have good reason to thank God. The causes of our happiness point backwards to the love and care of our Creator. The world, no doubt, has its share of epidemics, famines, natural disasters, and plain bad luck. But we also have each other to help us. For all those reasons, we can all feel deep gratitude to God for the natural conditions that sustain us.
So let’s pray when we’re happy. Let’s form a connection in our mind between all the things that make life worth living and the generosity and love God has shown us by creating the universe. Let’s show the world that religion offers humanity something joyful and life-affirming. We can acknowledge these gifts by making a point of worshipping and thanking God whenever something delights us or makes us happy. We don’t even have to speak our prayers of joy out loud. When the thought of God’s generosity comes into our mind, and we express in our own way our gratitude towards our Creator, it can increase our happiness and bring us even more joy.
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