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The Accessibility of Communal Prayer

Makeena Rivers | May 2, 2019

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Makeena Rivers | May 2, 2019

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

About a month ago, a friend invited me to pray with a group on a Sunday morning.

As we waited for our Ubers together after a party, we got to talking. He mentioned that some of his friends come together to say prayers on Sunday at his dad’s place. I told him to send me the details and that I’d try to make it. Conveniently enough, the apartment was only a fifteen-minute walk from my place.

Sunday morning rolled around, and one of my good friends was over. We’d had a sleepover and assumed that come morning we would split ways, but as I was getting ready it occurred to me that she might enjoy joining me to say prayers with a small group of people. I texted the friend who’d invited me, and he graciously said she was welcome.

Since we didn’t all know each other, we introduced ourselves before jumping into singing and praying. The prayers were beautiful: a combination of scriptures from many faiths, chanting, poetry, singing and drums, with meditative pauses in between. We finished after about an hour and a half, and then spent some time cracking jokes and getting to know each other. The tone for my day was set: it was a reflective, prayerful, grounded, and clear day.

Before I left, the host gave me her phone number. She was interested in keeping in touch and opening her space more regularly for worship and song. Three of us started a group chat, and about a month later, we held another devotional.

I asked my friend if she’d share some of her thoughts on our devotional and she shared these sweet thoughts:

“As of late, I’ve been craving some spiritual connection. I’ve attempted meditation, prayer, reading my horoscope, going to church—literally anything to satiate my need for divine intervention. When my Baha’i friend invited me to a devotional, I didn’t know what to expect. I had a lot of questions—“would I be accepted? What do I say? How do I pray?” When I entered the living room of our host, I felt the sort of reverence for the divine that I had only felt in churches and temples. But this was someone’s home. And there were no spiritual leaders—just friends gathered to share a word.

“It was more than beautiful, and it brought me to tears. People shared spiritual words about love and justice. Others shared songs. I don’t remember exactly what I shared, but I remember it being something about reverence for the divine. It had been a while since I had experienced such peace in my spirit. I’m grateful for having been invited into the space by my friend and by the other Baha’is, and I look forward to many more devotionals.”

Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, described this sense of peace perfectly:

Know thou that supplication and prayer is the water of life. It is the cause of the vivification of existence and brings glad tidings and joy to the soul. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 5, p. 302.

As I reflected on this process, I realized that sometimes we assume that worshiping God communally requires the presence of an authority figure. Many of us grew up viewing communal worship as something that happens exclusively in a church, mosque, or temple—but our ability to come together to pray and honor a higher power is right at our fingertips. Those of us who have easy access to technology can search for scriptures, prayers, or writings online, and those who don’t can bring books or say words from the heart. The capacity to come together and pray is within each one of us. When talking to God, there are no hard and fast rules.

These kinds of things don’t have to take so much time and thought. This devotional, which will now happen on a monthly basis, came about simply because one of my friends wanted to pray with their family and friends in one space. Through a short conversation, we decided that this felt good and that we should do it again, and so we did. We put together a short selection of prayers, gathered in a home, and served the super light refreshments that we had. The outcome? Our souls were nourished.

The state of prayer is the best of conditions, for man is then associating with God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 202.

Many Baha’is hold devotionals like the one we have in our Bushwick community, and invite folks of all different faith backgrounds. You don’t have to be Baha’i to create a space to pray: if you aren’t Baha’i, you can reach out to the Baha’i community in your area to find devotionals like the one we have, or you can simply collect a group of friends and invite them to pray with you. We are all worthy of spiritual healing and sustenance.

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  • Fari Hay
    May 4, 2019
    Thank you. This sounds a lovely idea.
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