There are so many studies that link the power of gratitude to an emotive state of happiness, and many people are seeking to implement acts of gratitude in order to find a more fulfilling life. What is gratitude? An act of gratitude is the process or practice of giving thanks or showing appreciation for things that matter in your life; it can be your family, friends, job opportunities, living conditions, the list goes on. Through a daily act of gratitude, for example waking each morning and writing down five things you are thankful for, we seem to appreciate life more. But what if we are looking at gratitude too simplistically? What if gratitude is more than saying thanks for the material world and is, in fact, prayer – our most important spiritual practice?
The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. The greatest happiness for a lover is to converse with his beloved, and the greatest gift for a seeker is to become familiar with the object of his longing; that is why with every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God, his greatest hope is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate before his Beloved, appeal for His mercy and grace and be immersed in the ocean of His utterance, goodness and generosity.
Besides all this, prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and conducive to protection and preservation from tests . . .1
I am new to the Baha’i Faith, especially in comparison to many people who have practiced this beautifully profound faith for most of their lives. And in the process of becoming accustomed to the words of Baha’u’llah and deepening my own belief and understanding, I have begun the practice of daily obligatory prayer. As a person who came from no previous faith and would imagine himself as a bit of a new age “spiritualist”, I had my own hesitations and prejudices towards the act of prayer. In my mind, it was an outdated practice and I didn’t like to think I had to do this activity each day, for fear of conforming to an old way of thinking. However, what I found through investigating the practice further is that this daily activity, albeit a more profound version than our previous example of writing down five things we are grateful for, is what science is now telling people to practice for a more joyful and fulfilling life. The act of prayer, for me, is a process of daily gratification – one where I get to look to the incomprehensible essence of God through the words of Baha’u’llah and give thanks for the life I am experiencing in His name. What I have found is that the act of giving thanks to our Most Great Source, to this place of unconditional love, is far more gratifying than just that of saying thanks for my material possessions.
In recently reading the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book of Baha’u’llah’s Writings, I came across this passage that resonated deeply with these new ideas. Baha’u’llah says:
Say: God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure; would that ye might perceive it! But for the key, the Treasure would to all eternity have remained concealed; would that ye might believe it! Say: This is the Source of Revelation, the Dawning-place of Splendor, Whose brightness hath illumined the horizons of the world. Would that ye might understand! This is, verily, that fixed Decree through which every irrevocable decree hath been established.2
What resonated the most from these words is that He says “God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure; would that ye might perceive it!” Could it be that here He speaks of both the love of the Prophet and also of “Love” itself? For it has been hidden and is the key to the treasure. With this perception, I wonder, what if our daily acts of gratitude, our prayers, are our connection not just to the incomprehensible grandeur of God, but to the essence of love itself? What if one of the main attributes of understanding God in this life is to understand and connect to love?
To understand God, in part, as love, we only have to look at the words of Baha’u’llah:
O Son of Being! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.3
Abdu’l-Baha also states in a talk:
…be as one soul in many bodies, for the more we love each other, the nearer we shall be to God.4
With this recent insight in mind, I believe that the practice of daily prayer is not just a communion with God, but a way to give physical and spiritual thanks to the All Knowing and All Powerful, and to the true essence of love, which is the basis for our whole existence. I have come to believe that daily prayer is the ultimate practice of gratitude that allows us to remain connected to our highest selves, to our Creator, and to assist us with manoeuvring each day through this human experience.