Purity of Intentions
The morality of an action depends on the motive from which we act. If I fling half a crown to a beggar with intention to break his head, and he picks it up and buys victuals with it, the physical effect is good; but, with respect to me, the action is very wrong. So, religious exercises, if not performed with an intention to please God, avail us nothing. [Samuel Johnson, p. 219].
How often do we intend to act correctly, resolve to do right, then fall short? How often do we begin with the best of intentions, only to quit half way to the end?
We seem to spend our entire life resolving to do good things, setting goals for ourselves, committing to right conduct and disavowing evil – only to soon excuse or postpone our good intentions.
How often do we attain our goals? Most of us have forgotten hundreds of resolutions and affirmations that we have made throughout our lives.
Our repeated failure to fully act as we would wish must not discourage us. It is the sincere intention that is the essential thing, and this will in time release us from the bondage of habits which at present seem almost insurmountable. [Thomas Troward].
First Step of Our Fast
By fasting, we turn away from physical pleasure and concentrate on matters of faith, seeking to prevent worldly impurities from contaminating our being. Sealed from outside intrusions, the body begins a natural process of inner cleansing. This cleansing prepares the mind and spirit to approach God and to perceive the Divine Reality through sanctified senses.
We fast to attain purity, but even before the fast, our intentions themselves must be pure and sincere. Our mind must be focused on pleasing God and on becoming better, more obedient servants. We must seek this even before the fasting begins, so that we enter the act of fasting clothes in piety and sincerity.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. [Galatians 5:16-17 (NIV)].
Reward of Intentions
Our intention starts our movement toward the Divine. However, we can easily step backward, and revert to being passionate lovers of our transient selves.
The tempting attractions of modern society are potent enemies of our best intentions. Without continual remembrance of God, we have little chance that our intentions will remain pure.
Thou canst but admonish such as fear their Lord unseen [in secret] and establish regular Prayer. And whoever purifies himself does so for the benefit of his own soul; and the destination (of all) is to God. [Quran 35:18].
When our intentions are good and we begin to act on them, we have demonstrated our sincerity, even when we do not finish. We have earned a reward, even if it is just inner satisfaction.
We should continue to strive, fighting our weaknesses with sincerity and conviction, knowing that God is aware of our struggle and will not let it go for naught.
If you want to do something good, do it; and if you cannot do it, then resolve to do it, and you will have achieved the resolution even if you do not fulfill the action itself. Thus a habit, whether good or bad, can gradually and spontaneously be overcome. [St. Peter of Damascus].
Our intentions mold the spirit underlying our thoughts. We may have evil intentions, charitable intentions, or simply act without giving much thought to what we are doing.
At the base of our intentions, lining our thoughts, are our moral and spiritual beliefs. Given adequate authority, these beliefs control our actions and keep us away from regrettable deeds.
The Prophet said, “O people! The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book 86].
The Purest Intention
To advance toward God requires purity, and fasting is a fundamental tool for purification. A pious intention to fast prepares us mentally and spiritually to please God, and this is the purest of intentions.
Before the throne of the Almighty, man will be judged not by his acts but by his intentions. For God alone reads our hearts. [Mahatma Gandhi].
The primary cause of our failures is not our human weakness or lack of discipline, but rather a lack of sincere intentions to please God. Our intentions manifest the reality of our fasting, whether it is a secular or sacred effort. We don’t realize the importance of forming a firm intention to please God.
Imagine a kind of love that is the power of intention, the very energy that is the cause behind all of creation. It’s the spiritual vibration that carries divine intentions from formless to concrete expression. It creates new form, changes matter, vivifies all things, and holds the cosmos together beyond time and space. It’s in every one of us. It is what God is. [Wayne W. Dyer, The Power of Intention].
Intentions are in the deepest, innermost recesses of our private thoughts, where our true feelings about a matter reside. These intentions, though merely half-done deeds and incomplete plans, are not ignored by God, when sincerity of heart is present.
May God strengthen our resolve to do His will. May we stay focused on what is lasting and of true value. May we never lose sight of the Divine Reality, being ever thankful, remembering and trusting God, keeping Him always in our thoughts.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. [Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)].