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Have you ever wondered why people pray? Prayer and meditation have an important place in all of the major world religions, but why? Does God need our prayers?
If the Supreme Being who created us is the “All-Loving,” “the Most Compassionate,” and embodies so many other virtues, why do we need to ask for His mercy – or for anything else, for that matter? Isn’t it already given?
The Baha’i writings offer answers to those crucial questions.
One who performeth neither good deeds nor acts of worship is like unto a tree which beareth no fruit, and an action which leaveth no trace. Whosoever experienceth the holy ecstasy of worship will refuse to barter such an act or any praise of God for all that existeth in the world.
In the Baha’i Faith, however, worship isn’t defined as simply sitting quietly and communing with the Holy Spirit – worship also includes actions, especially work done in the spirit of service to humanity. Baha’u’llah wrote:
It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others. … When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.
For Baha’is, worshipping God – whether in the form of quietly reading and reciting a prayer or working for others in the spirit of service – gives us a way to connect with the infinite, to communicate with, praise, and love our Creator. It allows us, just as every child does, to express what we feel for our ultimate parent. As Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, wrote:
For a lover, there is no greater pleasure than to converse with his beloved, and for a seeker, there is no greater bounty than intimacy with the object of his desire. It is the greatest longing of every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God to find time to turn with entire devotion to his Beloved, so as to seek His bounty and blessing and immerse himself in the ocean of communion, entreaty and supplication. Moreover, obligatory prayer and fasting produce awareness and awakening in man, and are conducive to his protection and preservation from tests.
With our Creator’s confirmation, we can be kind to ourselves and also to others; we can share these bounties and blessings with those right around us, and on a bigger scale, with the world.
Prayer can bring light to our hearts.
Abdu’l-Baha said, “When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to Him and seeks bounty from His Ocean, this supplication brings light to his heart, illumination to his sight, life to his soul and exaltation to his being.” This light provides the source of happiness and hope, and can guide us through dark times in our own lives and in the life of the world.
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So, if you’re ever confused about the purpose of prayer or have any doubts about the point of praying, just remember that prayer and selfless service give you a way to connect with a greater power. You can have a lovely conversation with God and you can do it whenever you want, wherever you want. Every human being needs that kind of conversation.