For well over a century, Bahá’ís in all corners of the world begin their Fast on the 2nd of March. This period of nineteen days is a time of meditation, prayer and spiritual recuperation. The mental and physical discipline it takes to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, is a continual reminder to center our thoughts on God. In fact, for me the Fast is truly a gift, for it is an opportunity to show my love for God, out of gratitude for the bounties showered upon me. It is also a wonderfully effective time to reflect on what true prosperity is.
“The essence of wealth is love for Me;
whoso loveth Me is the possessor of all things,
and he that loveth Me not is indeed of the poor and needy.”
While on His travels in the West, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was often asked about economic happiness, wealth, socialism, and all other forms of thought which various factions of society believe could lead humanity to prosperity. Indeed, we are the richest generation of humanity to live on this planet; in resources, access to knowledge and comfort. Yet, as a people, we are increasingly dissatisfied with our lives. It is human to want to be happy, and those burning questions posed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then are just as relevant as they are today; and His answers just as true and insightful.
Material wealth alone is not sufficient to bring about the prosperity of mankind. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expounded that true prosperity requires both the progress of the material world and the spiritual education of mankind: material progress through the development of laws, regulations, arts and sciences under the administration of just governments, and spiritual education through teaching the divine principles set down by the Word of God. “However, until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy,” He stated, “no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained”.
The key to happiness is therefore universal education; an education that will help us use our immense material resources effectively, while being firmly rooted in the Teachings of the Divine Educator. It must give us the spiritual and moral grounding so that our desire for wealth is conditioned upon noble means of acquiring wealth, and empower us to be responsible for the impact our decisions have on our personal spiritual development and the betterment of society. Material wealth really is the means for building a better world, but this requires a spiritual path to guide us to true prosperity.
We must be like the fountain or spring
that is continually emptying itself of all that it has and is continually being refilled from an invisible source.
To be continually giving out for the good of our fellows undeterred by fear of poverty
and reliant on the unfailing bounty of the Source of all wealth and all good
—this is the secret of right living. 
 Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p.156.
 Selections of the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p.284.
 Directives from the Guardian, p.87.
Photograph: Negeen Sobhani http://www.nineteenmonths.com/mercy/mercy-akka-israel/