Advice for someone beginning to fully explore their faith

Feb 2020
1
England
Hello everyone.

I discovered the Baha’i faith when I was 17 (3 years ago) and have read about it/explored it since but didn’t feel ready to place what I had learnt into my life.
However, two days ago I woke up with a feeling that I just wanted to do better in terms of my faith.
I am in the process of gradually applying certain Baha’i “doctrine”/“law” (I’m not really sure of the right word here). I have reached out to my local Baha’i community and I look forward to them contacting me back.
However, in the time being, I had a few questions and would be so grateful for some answers. Firstly, in terms of obligatory prayer - is it expected all the three prayers are said in a day, or just the one? I know other prayers can be said when one feels the urge, but I was finding conflicting information regarding obligatory prayer.
Also, my biggest vice, alcohol. I am an excessive drinker, the drinking of alcohol is so pervasive in a social way among my age group but I really want to completely cut it out of my life - for my faith and my self. Does anyone have any advice or words of encouragement on how to completely cut it out successfully? Shall I decide today I will never touch the stuff again or shall I phase it out slowly?
And also any general advice for someone who is finally ready to fully embrace the Baha’i faith?
Thank you all so much for your time,
OT
 
Oct 2014
1,840
Stockholm
A general advice: don't be too hard on yourself. Learning to forgive oneself often i a great step forward.

gnat
 
Jun 2014
1,122
Wisconsin
However, in the time being, I had a few questions and would be so grateful for some answers. Firstly, in terms of obligatory prayer - is it expected all the three prayers are said in a day, or just the one? I know other prayers can be said when one feels the urge, but I was finding conflicting information regarding obligatory prayer.
From what i understand, usually it is the Medium Length prayer three times a day, OR the Long Prayer once a day, OR the Short Prayer once a day.

I do the Medium three times a day, personally. I got into the habit of prayer first doing the short once a day, since it was easiest to memorize. Then a while later I did the medium once a day until I had it completely memorized. Then I did the medium three times a day. That, for me, was a good way to ease into the practice.

Also, my biggest vice, alcohol. I am an excessive drinker, the drinking of alcohol is so pervasive in a social way among my age group but I really want to completely cut it out of my life - for my faith and my self. Does anyone have any advice or words of encouragement on how to completely cut it out successfully? Shall I decide today I will never touch the stuff again or shall I phase it out slowly?
I don't think I have enough information to give the best advice. If there is no addiction to be considered I think phasing it out is a fine solution. If there is an addiction or alcohol dependence to be considered: I don't feel I have the medical knowledge to offer good advice, in that situation consult a professional in that field.

But continuing on the assumption that there is not an addiction factor at play, phasing it out seems like a good idea. Maybe, to start, allow yourself to drink but not to a state of drunkenness. Then perhaps phase it out from there.

That's pretty much what I did, though I only ever really drank rum before conversion, and I drank it for the taste and not the intoxication, and rarely drank at all, so for me it was a different situation. I also lucked out in that, since I was drinking primarily for the taste, I could just use rum cake to get the flavor (and before another Baha'i points out that 'Abdu'l-Baha advised against cooking with rum, Shoghi Effendi did explicitly permit cooking with rum extract, which was my workaround.) If you drink for taste, there are a number of ways to still get the flavor without the alcohol.

And also any general advice for someone who is finally ready to fully embrace the Baha’i faith?
Most communities I've interacted with don't just permit a gradual adoption of the Law by new converts, they expect it. Thus, don't worry too much about gradual adoption of these Laws, I don't personally know of any Baha'i who would expect you to instantly adopt everything into practice like a light-switch.
 
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Dec 2012
208
Earth
Greetings OT99.

You wrote:

"I had a few questions and would be so grateful for some answers. Firstly, in terms of obligatory prayer - is it expected all the three prayers are said in a day, or just the one?"

Only one prayer, but it can be anyone of the three. Do note that the Short Obligatory Prayer is said between midday and sunset, the Long Obligatory Prayer can be said at any time between sunset and sunset, this is because the Bahá'í day begins at sunset, not midnight. The Medium Obligatory Prayer is however said three times a day. They are all unique in their own way and as it is not possible to say that one is more important than the others. A number of Bahá'ís in the western world choose to start with the Short Obligatory Prayer. It is an excellent choice in my view. Do however appreciate that it is actually much more challenging to recite than the other two because it is so much easier to forget. This is because the time window is so much shorter. So it helps to get into habit with it. A number of Bahá'ís simply recite it after they have washed their hands before lunch, because this way it can easily becomes habitual. The Long Obligatory Prayer should be started before joints start to ache because it is accompanied with a serious of movement. Sometimes it needs to be adjusted to account for a persons disability, but this is much easier to do than some realise. It is an exercise in its own right. Gentle, but it can help to counter the negative aspects of ageing. As people enter their 50s they tend to gravitate more towards this prayer because they start to see how it can help to benefit them.

"Also, my biggest vice, alcohol. I am an excessive drinker, the drinking of alcohol is so pervasive in a social way among my age group but I really want to completely cut it out of my life - for my faith and my self. Does anyone have any advice or words of encouragement on how to completely cut it out successfully?"

I would always recommend that a person that drinks excessively cuts it out with the support of a medical professional like a doctor. This is because it is a highly addictive substance and it can make a persons body more dependent on it than they might realise. I know a number of Bahá'ís that just stopped drinking only to end up obtaining a number of medical problems later in their life. So it is important to do this gradually while being kind to yourself at the same time too. Do understand that you can obtain some drinks like beers that are not fermented with alcohol. They are delicious and are very popular in Iran. So understand that you do not need to cut beer out of your life, you just need to drink unfermented beer instead. Indeed when I visited some male Bahá'í friends in the U.K., when unfermented beers started to become more popular, a few had formed their own Bahá'í beer drinking club and built a shed at the bottom of their garden just to embracing this new beer drinking passion. Your culture and personality does not change when you accept a new religion. So learn to embrace who you really are because while your character might change, your personality will not. Your personality is more important than you might realise. This is why you should never try to shut it out of your life when you choose to become a Bahá'í.

As a general rule as long as a Bahá'í does not violate the law of the land, they cannot harm the good name of the Bahá'í Faith. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom possess a very mature attitude towards this subject matter. So when you choose to make your declaration to them, something you can do in writing directly should you wish to do so, feel free to explain any difficulties that you might wish to share with them. They will help to protect you from any mean spirited Bahá'í. This is why it is so healthy to have a good relationship with these trustees.

In short your private life is your own and this will not change just because you are a Bahá'í. So understand that no one has the legal right to pry into your personal life. Just the act of joining the Bahá'í Faith will qualify you to become a member. Becoming a Bahá'í is so much more than learning how to give up alcohol and you will understand this in time. It is about making a spiritual transformation. This is lifelong process, so try to see that taking alcohol in the full scheme of things is really a very minor issue. As you learn to develop you will truly learn to do things that you never thought you could possibly achieve.

If you would like a snapshot of how people became Bahá'ís in the U.K. then I would encourage you to read some of their testimonies written here UK Baha'i Histories As you read through them you will begin to see that a number of Bahá'ís faced similar challenges to yourself. While the story of Mr Dean has not been published yet, he was an alcoholic living homeless on the streets. The very first words he uttered to a Bahá'í that attempted to share the Faith with him was, in his own words, a series of Anglo-Saxon expletives! His body was so severely damaged by alcohol he had to be very particular with what he consumed. Of all the foods in world, he could not eat Persian food. So when visiting Persian Bahá'ís that had spent all day preparing the food, he used to ask them if they could send someone out to pick up some fish and chips with vinegar and salt on them instead. This is about the greatest insult anyone could offer to a Persian Bahá'í in the U.K. So everyone, no exceptions, have lessons to learn on the journey.

Here is wishing you well on the next stage of your journey.

Earth
 
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