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At a time when many people are stressed about current affairs, anxious from isolation, and distraught about the health of their loved ones, I’m reflecting on the power of prayer to calm our minds, heal our bodies, and revive our spirits.
As Abdu’l-Baha, the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i writings and the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha'i Faith, said in the early 1900s, “There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer.” That’s likely because while we pray, we are conversing with God.
Scientifically, we know that prayer has been proven to have a positive influence on our health. I know that prayer isn’t like making a selection at a vending machine — we aren’t guaranteed to get what we have in mind. But Abdu'l-Baha wrote, “It behoveth the servant to pray to and seek assistance from God, and to supplicate and implore His aid. Such becometh the rank of servitude, and the Lord will decree whatsoever He desireth, in accordance with His consummate wisdom.”
Baha’is believe that the prayers of the Manifestations of God, or prophets, have the most power and potency because they revealed God’s word. Baha’u’llah wrote, “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth.”
And the central figures of the Baha’i Faith revealed thousands of prayers for us to say on every subject ranging from protection and aid and assistance to spiritual growth and healing. Lately, I've been reflecting on prayer's ability to heal.
One night in October 2015, my dad had a severe intracranial hemorrhagic stroke. Earlier in the evening, he had momentarily lost his vision while driving home from a trip to the grocery store but managed to make it home safely. We think he might have had a stroke then. But he didn’t tell anyone about his symptoms, thinking that he was just experiencing an unusually painful migraine. The nurses said that he would have gone to bed and died that night if my sister, Michelle, hadn’t come home early to cook — which was unusual for her at the time — and the smell of her food made my dad very nauseous. He came out of his room and started vomiting in the bathroom, which made her realize that something was very wrong.
My sister rushed him to the hospital. Once there, the nurses saw that his blood pressure was off the charts — he needed to be seen immediately.
I’d left home two months earlier for my first year of college, and my mom happened to be traveling out of state. A blood vessel ruptured under my dad’s skull, resulting in a massive hemorrhage. His chances of surviving and regaining consciousness were slim. Someone with such a severe stroke would typically remain in a coma, and if they woke up, they would never be the same. But, because we believed in a power greater than us to heal him, we knew we shouldn't feel helpless.
Like people from many faith backgrounds, Baha’is understand that there is healing in reciting the verses of God and calling Him to mind. Baha'u'llah revealed the following prayer for healing:
Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
After talking to the doctor, my mom flew back immediately when she heard how serious it was. She then got on Facebook one night and started a prayer campaign.
“I knew that his condition was very serious — it was bigger than me — and I needed all the prayer help I could get,” my mom says.
She felt spiritually inspired to specifically call for 1,000 prayers to be said for my dad’s healing and recovery. Over the next month, the amount of love and support my family received from strangers and friends alike was truly touching and beautiful. We don’t know exactly how many prayers were said for him. But from the comments on her Facebook post, we know that hundreds of people on at least four continents were praying around the clock. One of the sweetest moments was when one mother posted a photo of her elementary school-aged son stopping in the middle of his birthday party to pray for my dad’s healing — and his friends joined in.
Not only does prayer create “mindfulness and celestial feelings,” but it also “engenders the susceptibilities of the higher intelligence,” as the Baha’i writings say. Prayer gave my family the wisdom and strength that we needed to be effective advocates for my father. For example, my mother stayed by my father’s side for a minimum of 20 hours a day. She slept in a chair next to his hospital bed and didn’t leave unless other close family members were there.
“I didn’t want him to wake up confused and not be able to recognize anyone in the room,” she tells me.
She made sure that my dad was only surrounded by people who loved him and would be optimistic about his healing. She also researched the medications they wanted to put him on, and ensured the nurses didn’t give him foods that would compromise his health.
We were hopeful and grateful as we saw him regain consciousness and become more coherent as his condition improved.
Despite all that, his recovery was not a certainty. I’ll never forget one moment when my other sister, Teisha, and I were sitting beside his hospital bed, and I suddenly began to feel uneasy and felt a strong urge to pray at that second. I told myself that I would pray in a little bit.
Minutes later, my dad’s heart rate flatlined. Teisha screamed for the nurses, and they came with pads to shock his chest until his heartbeat returned. The minute he was alive again, I recited a prayer called the Tablet of Ahmad, which Baha'is believe is one of the most powerful and potent prayers to say when we are in difficulty. Baha'u'llah wrote that we should:
Chant it during thy days and withhold not thyself therefrom. For verily, God hath ordained for the one who chants it, the reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds. These favors have We bestowed upon thee as a bounty on Our part and a mercy from Our presence, that thou mayest be of those who are grateful.
By God! Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity, God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions.
I recited this prayer in his hospital room every day with unwavering faith and confidence that he would be healed. Sometimes, I said the Tablet of Ahmad aloud with other family members, and other times, I said it quietly to myself. After every time I said this prayer, I thanked God for any progress that my father made and asked Him for my dad’s continued recovery. As I recited this prayer, I felt that God was truly dispelling my sadness and removing my father’s afflictions.
The Baha'i writings say that if we hold a “thought or picture without wavering, we may possibly bring things to pass.” After a month went by, my father was able to walk out of that hospital with assistance. It would take several more months of recuperating at home for him to be nearly fully healed and recovered.