Long Obligatory Prayer Considered

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Among other ways of viewing it, the Long Obligatory Prayer can be seen as a sequence of divinely-revealed avenues of opportunity for addressing God. It is quintessential worship--the Word of God incorporating mystic invocation, testimony, supplication, praise, thanksgiving, reflection, lamentation, confession and creative visualization through the language of revelation utilizing linguistic devices such as metaphor, alliteration, meter and repetition, and reinforced by symbolic gestures and postures.

The Long Obligatory Prayer offers us a glimpse from the divine overview of existence; we are given a vision of creation from an omniscient perspective. It is a crystalline template of righteousness, laying out for us the proper priorities, the true order of things. We are presented with Reality.

In the course of praying the prayer one states, "Thy love, O my Lord, hath enriched me, and separation from Thee hath destroyed me, and remoteness from Thee hath consumed me."

This being "consumed" and this "separation" may sound like an unfortunate condition indeed. However, these are the very words that Baha'u'llah uses elsewhere to describe

"...the City of Love and Rapture, whereupon the winds of love will blow and the breezes of the spirit will waft. In this station the seeker is so overcome by the ecstasies of yearning and the fragrances of longing that he discerneth not his left from his right, nor doth he distinguish land from sea or desert from mountain. At every moment he burneth with the fire of longing and is consumed by the onslaught of separation in this world."

(Baha'u'llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 28) [Emphasis added.]

Baha'u'llah goes on to refer to obedience, sacrifice, detachment and love in describing the City of Love and Rapture and states of it,
"Blessed indeed are they that have attained unto such a station, for this is the station of the ardent lovers and the enraptured souls."

(Baha'u'llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 29)

The conjunction of "Thy love," with "separation," and "remoteness" in the same sentence of the Long Obligatory Prayer correlate perfectly, when considered in the context of the City of Love and Rapture.
Perhaps a purpose of the Long Obligatory Prayer is to help the worshiper catch sight of this City, or transport there and experience it, so that, God willing, eventually--or instantaneously--one settles there.


The pattern of the verses with the prescribed motions, such as kneeling and raising the hands, divides the prayer into sections or movements. As a consequence, this long prayer is more manageable for memorization. The flow of the Long Obligatory Prayer is further expedited by the suggestive transitions between sections.

For instance, it is natural to assume a humble posture after repeating the Greatest Name three times. One bows down after each of the first two sequences of repetitions; one prostrates one's self after the third sequence of reciting the Greatest Name three times, near the end of the prayer.

After a passage that ends with the exclamation "O Creator of the Heavens!", one raises one's hands three times, exclaiming each time "Greater is God than every great one!" in a further logical continuation of expression. This, as one might expect, is followed by kneeling and bowing one's forehead to the ground for further praise and testimony...and so it goes.

Some sections have a reflective interlude quality that can remind the supplicant of the significance of what he or she is engaged in – these meditations are woven into the prayer and can rivet the worshiper’s awareness. Although all parts of the prayer proffer the distilled essentials of communion, some passages seem especially to have a summary aspect.

The Baha’i calendar, among a multitude of other constructs that could be considered, can be used to illustrate the revelatory range and depth of the Long Obligatory Prayer. The Baha’i calendar names each of the nineteen months of the Baha’i year after an attribute of God. Each of these aspect glimpses or attributes in the calendar—-Splendor, Glory, Beauty, Grandeur, Light, Mercy, Words, Perfection, Names, Might, Will, Knowledge, Power, Speech, Questions, Honor, Sovereignty, Dominion, and Loftiness—-is also manifested or propounded in the Long Obligatory Prayer. Perhaps not so obvious is the month of Questions. It too is exemplified, however, by an essential question that is asked in the course of reciting the Long Obligatory Prayer: “Who, otherwise, am I...?"

The vast depth of the Long Obligatory Prayer makes it a consummate vehicle for submersion in humble, emotional communion with God. Like a starry midsummer night sky, the Long Obligatory Prayer invites one to ponder and experience awe.
"The stars bear witness to My truth; bear ye likewise witness thereto."

(Baha'u'llah, Tabernacle of Unity, p. 67)

Next: "Awaiting the Mercy"

1 comment:

  1. this is such a great insight and motivating to read before saying the long obligatory prayer.