Introduction


“The vitality of men’s belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it?”

(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, XCIX, p. 200)

“As regards the questions about the proper use of the Long Obligatory Prayer: All the writings of the Faith may be read and should be read for the instruction and inspiration of the friends. This includes the specific prayers.”

(Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 17 February 1955, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States)

Photo © Baha’i International Community

Obligatory prayer is the first specific ordinance prescribed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, which Baha'u'llah revealed in Akka around 1873. “We have enjoined obligatory prayer upon you…”

This study will cross-reference some of the sacred Writings and authoritative guidance pertaining to the subject and text of the daily Baha'i obligatory prayers. It will also survey some of the available background information and Baha'i commentary pertaining to the obligatory prayers. The real blog part will interject when I mix in my thoughts and tentative understandings in an effort to explore possible allusions and highlight some of the images and themes in the prayers.

This online site is intended primarily for Baha'is and those close to the Faith. I hope that it will be able to hold the interest of those with different levels of Baha'i experience and knowledge and entice their participation. The challenge will be to provide enough basic foundational information for those who are new to the Faith to feel included, while offering enough fresh insights to make it worthwhile for veteran Baha'is.

Fortunately, these days most new Baha'is learn right away the importance of first focusing on the text of the Creative Word. As Farzin Aghdasi remarked regarding the Ruhi Book 1 workbook, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit, one of the primary lessons it holds is, "Not to speak until God hath spoken." And veteran Baha'is have become more aware than ever of the value in constantly reviewing fundamentals and studying even the most familiar Writings for new meanings and understanding.

If you are not acquainted with the Baha'i Faith and have happened upon this site, here are two excellent places to learn something about where this is all coming from:
http://www.bahai.org/

The Depths The three daily obligatory prayers were published together and became known as the “Tablet of Obligatory Prayers.” The extent of their depths is beyond mortal comprehension.
“Know thou that in every word and movement of the obligatory prayer there are allusions, mysteries and a wisdom that man is unable to comprehend, and letters and scrolls cannot contain.”

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Compilation of Compilations, Volume II, p. 233)

The above statement by Abdu'l-Baha exposes the challenges inherent in presuming to even scratch the surface of the obligatory prayers. More than a rational pedagogical process is needed if we are to mine their riches.
“O SON OF WORLDLINESS!
...sweet is the holy ecstasy if thou drinkest of the mystic chalice from the hands of the celestial Youth.”

(Baha'u'llah, Persian Hidden Words, No. 70)


“Baha'u'llah has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer to merely accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality, which he can acquire chiefly by the means of prayer. The Baha'i Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Baha'u'llah, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing.”

(From a letter dated 8 December 1935 written of behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer. The Compilation of Compilations, Volume II, p. 238) [Emphasis added.]


"No form of literature in the whole world is less objective than prayers. They are things of motion, not of repose. They are speeches addressed to a Hearer; they are medicine applied to a wound; they stir the worshipper and set something in his heart at work. That is their whole purpose."
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, “The Prayers of Baha’u’llah,” The Baha’i World, Vol. IX, 1940-1944, p. 795)


Next: "Some Background"

3 comments:

  1. One of the most inspirational and thought provoking blogs I have seen. Your special way of introducing various concepts, then connecting the thoughts about them to various selections from other sacred texts is inspiring and edifying. I hope you continue this work. Sincerely, stephen Maghzi ADER

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  2. I agree. This is amazing . I have been sharing it with my friends. Thank you very much!

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