Awaiting the Mercy (LOP I, Notes 1-9)

Point of reference: The words in bold print are from the Long Obligatory Prayer; the Roman numerals that follow them in brackets have been arbitrarily assigned for the purposes of this blog to indicate what section of the prayer the words are from (see entry on this site, "Text of the Daily Baha'i Obligatory Prayers, Numbered.") The numbers followed by a single parenthesis that precede the notes and quotations are for internal reference within this blog site.
Whoso wisheth to recite this prayer [I]

1) “…the long Obligatory Prayer should be said at those times when one feeleth himself in a prayerful mood.”

(Baha’u’llah, Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting [IOPF], 1, XI)

Individual understanding of the above verse will vary. The following recollection of Javidukt Khadem, wife of the Hand of the Cause Zikrullah Khadem, describes part of a road trip she took with Hand of the Cause Dorothy Baker. The story leads to a description of how Dorothy Baker prepared for obligatory prayer. We pick up the account with Dorothy driving the car while speaking:
'"I have to do something that I forgot. I promised to pray for Elsie Austin, because she wants to go to Africa, and the door is closed. Will you help me?" And I said "Sure." I did not know what she wanted. She said, "I want to say the 'Remover of Difficulties' 95 times."

'She said it very slowly, and with each word the tears poured down. She didn't even notice me. I looked at her. I had never experienced anything like this. The tears covered her face, and dropped onto her clothes. I did not even count the number of prayers she said, but when she finished she pulled the car over to the side of the road, and she passed out.

'I opened the car door and called, "Dorothy - Dorothy. Please!" After about 10 minutes she opened her eyes, and was so happy! She said, "I am sorry, honey, that I bothered you so much." I asked her, "Is this the way you always pray?" She answered, "Is there any other way?" "Do you always say your prayers like that? Do you say your Obligatory Prayer every day like that?" I asked. She said, "Did you ever read that you must wait to pray until you are feeling spiritual? Every morning I say many prayers, so that I will be spiritual enough to say my Obligatory Prayer."

'That was my trip with Dorothy Baker.'
(Recounted in From Copper to Gold, The Life of Dorothy Baker, by Dorothy Freeman, pp. 272-73)

Whoso wisheth to recite this prayer [I]
2) 'QUESTION: "Concerning the first Obligatory Prayer it hath been ordained, "one should perform it at whatever time one findeth oneself in a state of humbleness and longing adoration": is it to be performed once in twenty-four hours, or more frequently?"

ANSWER: “Once in twenty-four hours is sufficient; this is that which hath been uttered by the Tongue of Divine Command.”'

(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, #82, pp. 130-31)

"One of the three obligatory prayers should be recited. This is an obligation. But individual believers are absolutely free to choose any one of them. There is no particular time of day fixed for the reading of the long prayer."

(10 October 1936 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)

“The beginning of the 24-hour period for the recitation of the Long Obligatory Prayer has not been specifically stated in the Sacred Texts and the Universal House of Justice has not made any ruling on this point.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 17 December 1990)

‘Mr. ___ is aware that the Universal House of Justice has not, to date, defined the beginning of the 24-hour period for the recitation of the Long Obligatory Prayer. He asks what should be done "in the meantime"... Mr. ___ may come to his own understanding on this matter.’

(2 January 1998, Memorandum written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice)

let him stand up and turn unto God
3) 'QUESTION: “Concerning the long Obligatory Prayer, it is required to stand up and "turn unto God". This seemeth to indicate that it is not necessary to face the Qiblih; is this so or not?”
ANSWER: “The Qiblih is intended.”'

(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, #67, p. 126)

turn unto God [I]

4) The above injunction of Baha’u’llah seems to call for visualization:
“When a man commenceth the recitation of the Obligatory Prayer, he should see himself severed from all created things and regard himself as utter nothingness before the will and purpose of God, in such wise that he seeth naught but Him in the world of being.”

(Baha’u’llah, IOPF, Part 1, IX) [Emphasis added.]

"Praise be to God! You have heard the call of the Kingdom. Your eyes are opened; you have turned to God. Your purpose is the good pleasure of God, the understanding of the mysteries of the heart and investigation of the realities. Day and night you must strive that you may attain to the significances of the heavenly Kingdom, perceive the signs of Divinity, acquire certainty of knowledge and realize that this world has a Creator, a Vivifier, a Provider, an Architect - knowing this through proofs and evidences and not through susceptibilities, nay, rather, through decisive arguments and real vision - that is to say, visualizing it as clearly as the outer eye beholds the sun. In this way may you behold the presence of God and attain to the knowledge of the holy, divine Manifestations.”

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 227) [Emphasis added.]

The Long Obligatory Prayer contains the phrases: “turn unto God,” and “turning toward Thee.” God willing, the obligatory prayers help one acquire humility and self-knowledge and aid in preparing for the hour of death, the next life and continued service there.

as he standeth in his place
5) The following account, from an important book in American literature, describes a portion of a vision which came to the seer Black Elk:
“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world.* And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shapes of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

[Footnote] ‘*Black Elk said the mountain he stood upon in his vision was Harney Peak in the Black Hills. “But anywhere is the center of the world,” he added.’

(Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks, Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, p. 43)

Black Elk’s remark included in the footnote above, “But anywhere is the center of the world,” is evoked, for me, by the opening directions to the Baha’i Long Obligatory Prayer, particularly by the phrase “as he standeth in his place.”

Whoso wisheth to recite this prayer, let him stand up and turn unto God, and, as he standeth in his place

6) This, in turn, brings to mind the following recollection of the Guardian’s words shared by Hand of the Cause of God Zikru’llah Khadem:
‘Once I said, “My beloved, it would be good if one would have the honor to come every year [on pilgrimage to the Baha’i shrines in the Holy Land] and—what you say in English—‘square the account,’ our sins and shortcomings, all these things.” The beloved Shoghi Effendi, he turned to me and said, “Let one be anywhere in the world,” [Aside by Mr. Khadem]: (“Now, in the Holiest House of the Baha’i world, in Chile, in South/ North Pole, the Pacific...”) “Let one be anywhere in the world, the moment you turn your heart to Baha’u’llah and His shrine, your prayers are answered.”

'This, I tell you—word for word—what I heard from the Guardian. Anything you have in your heart, concerning anything, any problem, Baha’u’llah is so powerful, He has all the world in His hand. He is the Remover of Difficulties. He answers our prayers. Anything you have in your heart, just, with great sincerity, absolute sincerity, ask, present it to Baha’u’llah, and He’ll answer you.’

(Mr. Khadem’s pilgrim’s note and accompanying reflections were shared and tape recorded at the 1980 Baha’i National Convention in Foundation Hall of the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, Illinois, USA.)

as he standeth in his place, let him gaze to the right and to the left, as if awaiting the mercy of his Lord, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate [I]

7) Here physical actions, standing and gazing to the right and to the left, are called for. Also, the imagination is called into play by the little words “as if.” In performing the Long Obligatory Prayer, eight of the ten human powers would ordinarily be utilized: three of the outward powers and all five of the inner powers.

Abdu'l-Baha defined and described these ten powers:
“There are five outward material powers in man which are the means of perception--that is, five powers whereby man perceives material things. They are sight, which perceives sensible forms; hearing, which perceives audible sounds; smell, which perceives odours; taste, which perceives edible things; and touch, which is distributed throughout the body and which perceives tactile realities. These five powers perceive external objects.

"Man has likewise a number of spiritual powers: the power of imagination, which forms a mental image of things; thought, which reflects upon the realities of things; comprehension, which understands these realities; and memory, which retains whatever man has imagined, thought, and understood. The intermediary between these five outward powers and the inward powers is a common faculty, a sense which mediates between them and which conveys to the inward powers whatever the outward powers have perceived. It is termed the common faculty as it is shared in common between the outward and inward powers.

"For instance, sight, which is one of the outward powers, sees and perceives this flower and conveys this perception to the inward power of the common faculty; the common faculty transmits it to the power of imagination, which in turn conceives and forms this image and transmits it to the power of thought; the power of thought reflects upon it and, having apprehended its reality, conveys it to the power of comprehension; the comprehension, once it has understood it, delivers the image of the sensible object to the memory, and the memory preserves it in its repository.”

(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 56.1-3, pp. 243-44)

“Say: Spirit, mind, soul, and the powers of sight and hearing are but one single reality which hath manifold expressions owing to the diversity of its instruments. As thou dost observe, man's power to comprehend, move, speak, hear, and see all derive from this sign of his Lord within him. It is single in its essence, yet manifold through the diversity of its instruments. This, verily, is a certain truth. For example, if it directeth its attention to the means of hearing, then hearing and its attributes become manifest. Likewise, if it directeth itself to the means of vision, a different effect and attribute appear. Reflect upon this subject that thou mayest comprehend the true meaning of what hath been intended, find thyself independent of the sayings of the people, and be of them that are well assured. In like manner, when this sign of God turneth towards the brain, the head, and such means, the powers of the mind and the soul are manifested. Thy Lord, verily, is potent to do whatsoever He pleaseth.”

(Baha'u'llah, Summons of the Lord of Hosts, pp. 154-55)

let him gaze to the right and to the left, as if awaiting the mercy of his Lord, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate [I]

8) One might ask, ‘How do I gaze to the right and to the left as if awaiting the mercy of my Lord?’ For some, the answer may be found in a phrase in this sentence from a prayer of Abdu’l-Baha:
“In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor and at the hour of dawn my drooping soul is refreshed and strengthened in remembrance of Thy beauty and perfection.”

(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i Prayers, p. 134, 2002 Edition, Baha'i Publishing Trust, Wilmette, IL, 60091, USA) [Emphasis added.]

Aristotle, (384 – 322 BC), stated: “The best way to create a feeling, if you have it not, is to act on every occasion where that feeling is desirable as if you had it already, and you soon will have.”

as if awaiting the mercy of his Lord, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate [I]

I can't resist including this picture, (which is in the public domain), 'Daniel's Answer to the King' by Briton Riviere, a print of which I have in my bedroom. When I look to the left while preparing to say the Long Obligatory Prayer, I see it there, and thus the connection for me. I interpret the seven lions in the painting as representing the 'seven deadly sins.'

Next: "Lord of All Names"

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