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Throughout American history, American presidents have ended their public speeches with the benediction, “God bless America!”
Baha’is have two prayers for America, requesting God’s blessing on its leaders. Those prayers ask the Creator to help our national leaders somehow make the most enlightened decisions, both for America’s sake and for the sake of the rest of the world.
In 1933, The Baha’i Magazine (formerly Star of the West) published one of two known Baha’i prayers for America, in the form of a provisional translation. No authorized translation of this Baha’i “Prayer for America” has been released to date.
In the interim, the following provisional translation, from the original Arabic, has been provided by Joshua Hall:
He is God
O my God, O Thou Who confirmest every just and equitable sovereignty in ever-abiding majesty, everlasting might, eternal continuance, inviolable stability, steadfastness and glory! By the bountiful effusion of Thy providential care, confirm every government that deals justly with its peoples, every sovereignty ‘neath whose ensigns Thou shelterest the impoverished and the powerless.
I beseech Thee by the outpourings of Thy holiness and the showers of Thy munificence, to aid this equitable government, which hath outstretched its pavilions over far-reaching and diverse states, and hath made justice its testimony in its civilized and splendid domains.
O God, aid Thou its armies and legions; make its word persuasive; strengthen its defenses; safeguard its honor; reveal its prestige; spread abroad its influence; and raise aloft its flag, by Thy might which conquereth all things and Thy power which is effulgent in the realm of creation. Thou confirmest whomsoever Thou willest. Thou art verily the Omnipotent, the Almighty. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Baha’i Magazine, Volume 24, Issue 9 (December 1933), page 258, provisional translation by Joshua Hall.
Abdu’l-Baha’s Prayer for America not only expresses the hope and wish that America would enjoy a favorable reputation internationally, but that its noble founding ideals and principles would enjoy considerable influence in the global community of nations. The Baha’i teachings point out that such influence cannot be won by might or the force of arms, but by righting what’s wrong in the world, even if done so out of enlightened self-interest.
In other words, positive influence ideally comes about by way of proactive leadership in such ways as championing human rights; respecting national self-determination; recognizing and protecting territorial sovereignty; encouraging democratic representation; and promoting international cooperation and unity—scientific as well as political.
That said, you may notice that there’s nothing distinctively “American” about this particular prayer. Indeed, it is a universal prayer for the spiritual support of any “just and equitable sovereignty”—which includes every duly constituted government that strives to govern in the public interest, for the commonweal, and for the welfare of one and all.
The Baha’i-inspired “Prayer for America” is universal, egalitarian, cosmopolitan — and, most important of all, non-partisan.
This unique prayer makes the venerable presidential benediction—“God bless America!”—more possible, more immediate, and more realizable, by encouraging each of us to do our part to heal the racial, religious, class, gender and other divisions, barriers, and inequities that the United States of America and many other nations haven’t yet fully addressed.
So, if you are inspired to do so, you’re welcome to recite this “Prayer for America” in the privacy of your home—or in the civic sphere of a public meeting.
May “God bless America” even more effectively, under the ideal moral and spiritual power and influence of this Baha’i Prayer for America. After all—in the United States of America, “United” is our first name.
The authors express their appreciation to Adib Masumian for his helpful suggestions in enhancing and fine-tuning Joshua Hall’s provisional translation of Abdu’l-Baha’s “Prayer for America.”