Concentration and the Will To Pray

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The following is a passage about prayer from Prelude to the Guardianship, by Riaz Khadem, Chapter 6, ‘In the Service of the Master, Summer 1919,’  pp. 78-79. It is based on a youthful Shoghi Effendi’s notes, as recorded in his diary, of Abdu’l-Baha’s response to a question:

…man cannot stimulate and awaken others if he is speechless and inactive. His prayer can only bring a change through divine power. However, as soon as the person puts his thoughts into action his hearers can be inspired.

Regarding the condition of prayer, the Master said that the best time for prayer is at dawn and dusk.  When one is not in a receptive mood and is rather immersed in one’s worldly affairs, he can pull himself into the condition of prayer by an act of will:

By a force of will and an effort of mind, man turns his attention to God, to His knowledge, His wonderful creation, His wisdom and His Omnipotence, and then by thinking frequently and deeply of Him, attains the state of Love, of desire for prayer, of  supreme ecstasy. But sometimes one finds that the divine power and not human effort transports man into that condition.

[The following are two extracts from an unsigned transcript of a talk given by Hand of the Cause of God Abu’l-Qasim Faizi in Sydney, Australia, on November 29, 1969. It was discovered in the archives of the Baha’is of Nevada County, California, among the papers of the late double Knight of Baha’u’llah, Elise Schreiber Lynelle.]

‘Now I will quote some of the traditions of Islam. He [Baha’u’llah] says Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad said, I never looked at anything except I saw God behind it, in front of it, and in it. [See The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 102.] This was the successor of the Prophet Muhammad. I tell you about his power of concentration when he stood for prayer. When you study wrestling or boxing the coach always says that you must concentrate on one person, never pay attention to the thousands who are spectators. At the time of worshipping also, we must do this exercise. Concentrate our whole attention, our whole soul, our mind to God Himself. At first it is very difficult. We cannot do it even one second. When we are praying to God our minds roam in the market, buying things, selling things, buying pieces of land, buying skyscrapers and selling them. Suddenly we see the prayer is over, and our mind has been somewhere else. Baha’u’llah knows this, and that is why He made it obligatory prayer. You are obliged to repeat it day after day. It is a spiritual discipline we must follow, and the time will come when we can really concentrate.

‘The same Ali received a poisonous arrow in one of the fights that they had in Arabia—in his leg. They wanted to pull it out but couldn’t because it was too painful. At such a moment they would all turn their attention to the Prophet, go to Him and say, “What shall we do? Ali is in pain and we don’t know what to do.” He said, “Wait until noontime. When he stands for prayer, pull it out!” He stood for prayer and when he prostrated, they pulled it out. Ali did not feel it at all because his full attention had been concentrated on God and on his prayer.


“To me, many of the hard problems of all the religions of God have been explained by the Bab, very easily. He brought these things from heaven to earth, and said this is what it means…

“Why do we pray? The Bab says, when we pray, what do we take to God? What do we talk to Him of, what do we offer Him? Do you offer your knowledge? He is the Source of knowledge. Do you offer Him your wealth? Do you offer Him your strength, the strength of body or mental strength? All these things are not even worthy of being mentioned in the sight of God.

“Therefore, why do we pray? The Bab says, I will give you an example. Suppose you want to go and visit a king. You will go here and there and ask many people: what is it that the king does not have in his treasury? I would like to take it as a gift to him. And, for instance, suppose somebody will say if you take a moonstone, he does not have it, then you will take it.

Now, if you take the whole treasure of the world, God has it. The whole knowledge of the world—He is the source of it. Strength? He is the source of Power. But the Bab says, as I advise you and tell you, there is one thing that God does not have in His treasure house, and that is NOTHINGNESS. Take your nothingness to Him. When you sit down in front of Him and pray, have an attitude that you are nothing as compared with God. You take that attitude and He says this will immediately be accepted.

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