Prayer is…a lot. Prayer is a lot of things. Things we will never comprehend or fully understand. But some are clear. Some are evident. Some we must not be remiss in meditating about and making use of.
Prayer is communion with God. Prayer is the channel through which we open our tender, fragile, delicate human hearts to our Lord. Hearts which He has singled out as His throne:
“All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory.”—Bahá’u’lláh
Hearts which in their delicateness and fragility often go astray.
“We go through life hitching our wagons to stars that fall; whereupon we are miserable, and lasso the next ones. Our leaves shrivel, our moons wane, the marbles we build our statues of are crumbled. Only God is always strong, always there, always permanent. Only God is worthy to be worked for. And to achieve this detachment from everything except God we require prayer.” —Marzieh Gail, Dawn over Mount Hira
We all struggle with our existence. To understand ourselves and to understand one another. Yet it seems that ‘finding ourselves’ is not something we can actually do on our own. Shoghi Effendi explains that the more we search for ourselves the less likely we are to find ourselves; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that the master key to self-discovery is self-forgetfulness. But this task of forgetting ourselves is very difficult. Especially living immersed in a social reality that begs to differ all the time.
We are exposed to music, television, films, books and popular thought that insist on the promotion of self as the key to happiness, that tell us “self-help” is “within our reach!” And then provide us with easy a+b=c formulas in self-help books and manuals to achieve just that. But do they really work? Probably not, or else why would keep buying the manuals? We’re not satisfied yet.
Prayer and service, however…Prayer and service help us discover our true selves. In prayer we ask God to help us be detached. Not to fulfill our every whim and desire but to help us align our will to His. His infinitely superior, infinitely wiser, infinitely more beneficial will. And as we align our will to His, the mystery of “who am I?” and “why am I here?” begins to reveal itself. The thing about this ‘mystery’ is that it does not ever seem to become permanently clear.
Many of us weave in and out of clarity, of acute awareness of who we are why we are here; or at the very least, of the discipline to fulfill our high purpose in this life.
Prayer, like any other habit, must be exercised daily or else it degenerates. With increased use we become more adept at it, and with decreased use we become more likely to forget why we pray at all. So we begin to lessen the habit and lessen the habit until it no longer forms part of our reality. Then we begin to roam the self-help aisles in our mega-bookstores and indulge ourselves in thoughts and actions that centre around our own ‘happiness’ all the while neglecting the true fountain of joy in this life. Nearness and servitude to God. Nearness and servitude to His servants.
Each and every one of us, no matter how high or low our station in life, need to serve one another and care deeply about the welfare of each and all. But maintaining this level of consciousness can be difficult without the assistance of prayer. Additionally, prayer and meditation often make clear the ‘how’. How do we assist one another? How do we grow closer to God?
Though there is much more that could be said on prayer, a final point that I feel must be included is that of cleansing our hearts. Benjamin Franklin apparently kept a notebook with all his sins in it, but Confucius said, ‘I can do as my heart lusteth and never swerve from right’. The more we pray, the more we align our will to the Divine; the more we polish the rust from off our hearts and allow our desires to be such as will lead us to joy, to well-being — to God.
Amir Haghighi is well known for his powerful renderings of traditional Persian songs and his exquisite chanting of persian Bahá'í prayers.
Singer/Songwriter Munirih Sparrow performing a live recording of her song "Mighty Sea" on the summit of Mt. Doug, Victoria BC.
A beautiful song performed and composed by Luke Slott based on Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh.
"You wish me to take some food, and I am going?" He gave them a beautiful look. His face was so calm, his expression so serene, they thought him asleep.
This life is like the roots of a plant, not its fruit. That is in the future.
Mr. Hartmut Grossmann's talk about the power of prayer with a pinch of humour.