The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
We certainly know what we want to happen when we see a police officer approaching the rear of our car with a ticket book in hand. Then there are the material wants and wishes that we carry around with us, either on a mental list inside our head, on actual pieces of paper or on our phones. These goals have probably been carefully considered, with pros and cons weighed many times. Finally, we have our deepest wishes that spring from the desperation of a broken heart. Whatever the situation, we may have become quite convinced that we know what is best for our life and the lives of our loved ones. After all, who would know better?
Now, there’s only one final step. It’s to call for the assistance of God. So, we pray earnestly and sincerely, asking for our desired outcome. However, when the answer appears to be “no”, how do we respond? For those of us who get a deserved speeding ticket, despite offering a short panicky prayer, there is probably irritated acceptance. We usually understand our consequence as just. However, when we have diligently prayed for the things we feel we need for our lives, and don’t get them, our ability to accept can become more problematic. And, if the offered prayer asks for health or life itself, far beyond any material consideration, our heartbreak can become a barrier to our relationship with God. Our Faith is tested because whatever conclusions we draw will always be from within the perspective of our limited individual human understanding.
But we ask for things which the divine wisdom does not desire for us, and there is no answer to our prayer…. But whatever we ask for which is in accord with divine wisdom, God will answer. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 246.
When God answers prayers, His context is not limited to this material world, or to what we feel is in our best interests at any given time. He has knowledge of the past, present and future. He knows what will develop and strengthen our souls to fulfill our spiritual destinies here on earth, and to prepare us for the eternity that awaits us after death. His realm encompasses the entirety of creation, and moving it toward the apex of its development. These things simply exceed our comprehension. We will never have the ability to fully grasp them.
The challenge? To put aside our own egos and acquiesce to the will of God:
O SON OF SPIRIT! Ask not of Me that which We desire not for thee, then be content with what We have ordained for thy sake, for this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 8.
Contentment may be difficult to achieve. However, we have an analogy to draw from. Loving parents will not grant their child’s every wish. They have already lived their children’s future and are aware of the results that spring from certain actions. A “no” is not intended to punish or deny, but ideally comes out of love and a wider knowledge and perspective of the world. The goal is to protect the young from things that are contrary to their own welfare and to prepare them for the life that lies ahead. A child who is very ill may pray for an end to a medical treatment that results in pain and discomfort, but will lead to an eventual cure. Loving parents remain steadfast even when they witness the suffering of their child. In relationship to God we are also as His children and are subject to His spiritual remedies which will benefit our eternal life. It is God’s mercy to us that He does this:
The highest development of man is his entrance into the divine Kingdom, and the outcome of this human existence is the nucleus and essence of eternal life. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 335.
Despite the outcome of any of our prayers, the Baha’i teachings promise they are never in vain. If we persevere, we will always receive the heavenly assistance necessary to accept God’s will and the wisdom of it. In a prayer written by Abdu’l-Baha, He concludes, “O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself”. With our understanding of this, and the faith that God alone has the perspective of eternity, our Faith will reward us with the contentment that follows every sincere prayer.