Achieving our true spiritual station and practicing justice is a tall order, and will be extremely difficult to achieve without prayer.
Prayer has the power not only to transform our fundamental attitudes toward difficulties, but also to assist us in thinking clearly and identifying the causes of problems. Simply remaining unruffled isn’t enough. If we desire to make the world a better place, we will have to help solve the problems we encounter.
This rare problem-solving ability requires the ability to differentiate between symptoms and causes, because until we determine the root of a problem we cannot devise a plan of action for its solution. Undoubtedly the school administrator in the playground scenario we discussed in the last essay in this series will probably attempt to treat the symptom. But simply telling bullying children to stop being cruel or even threatening punishment will likely not be sufficient to eradicate the behavior. The behavior is not the cause of the problem; usually the real difficulty lies in the beliefs and attitudes that gave rise to the behavior.
As children, we learned our attitudes, beliefs, values, and perceptions by watching the behavior of our parents and peers. Despite the contradictory advice we may occasionally have received, the only reality we knew was the example of what we saw. This we logically accept as the standard. So when the school administrator calls an offending child into the office and admonishes him with mere words that are not supported by personal example, nothing is likely to change. The only lesson the child is likely to learn is to be more careful in his cruelty—to hide it from the authorities. After all, the child didn’t see anything wrong with what he was doing; he was only following the example set by others and playing a game of winners and losers.
This taunting behavior has been the playground standard for a very long time, and it will continue to be if there is no counterexample among us to teach otherwise. A positive example is the solution to the problem.
Despite whatever pronouncement the school may make on the subject, the daughter who learns to say “No, thank you” and becomes a positive example can be the most powerful agent of change on the playground. With a kind, sincere, and calm demeanor, and with an idea of the task at hand, this child can influence what games get played by demonstrating a new kind of behavior. It may take a long time for the cruelty to disappear, perhaps many years. But we don’t just solve problems for ourselves—we solve them for the generations of little girls and boys yet unborn:
The Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 8.
Be thou neither grieved nor despondent over what hath come to pass. This trouble overtook thee as thou didst walk the path of God, wherefore it should bring thee joy. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 238.
While a man is happy he may forget his God; but when grief comes and sorrows overwhelm him, then will he remember his Father who is in Heaven, and who is able to deliver him. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 50.
Patience, prayer and acquiring a longer view of things will do a great deal for us in coping with difficulties. If we put our faith in God at all times, good or bad, we will find ourselves better able to manifest these qualities.
Prayer can help us view our lives as a collaborative effort between God and ourselves, which makes it easier to see that there are things which are our responsibilities and others that only God can perform. It is a little bit like moving a stalled vehicle. Our job is to push the vehicle ahead while God steers. If we don’t take action and work to overcome our problems, we may not be able to see what God is doing to help us and steer us in the right direction. Metaphorically, God can be turning the steering wheel, but if the vehicle is not moving because we are not putting forth enough effort, we will not see the guidance and direction our Creator is offering. Turning to God will always help to solve our difficulties. Prayer has the ability to overcome the inertia of the stalled vehicle of our lives.
Millions of members of the Baha’i Faith all over the world find comfort in using this short prayer to invoke God’s help during difficult times:
Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding! – The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 28.
When difficulties arise in our emotional and physical well-being we must seek God’s help. Turning to God helps dispel our sadness. Prayer has the power to help us change our attitudes about the circumstances that come our way. Another prayer from the Baha’i writings can help to change our demeanor from sorrow to joy:
Remove not, O Lord, the festal board that hath been spread in Thy Name, and extinguish not the burning flame that hath been kindled by Thine unquenchable fire. Withhold not from flowing that living water of Thine that murmureth with the melody of Thy glory and Thy remembrance, and deprive not Thy servants from the fragrance of Thy sweet savors breathing forth the perfume of Thy love.
Lord! Turn the distressing cares of Thy holy ones into ease, their hardship into comfort, their abasement into glory, their sorrow into blissful joy, O Thou that holdest in Thy grasp the reins of all mankind!
Thou art, verily, the One, the Single, the Mighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 23.