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Our understanding of prayer has developed over the ages—every time God has sent a great prophet to the world, we have learned more about the prodigious power of prayer.
The prayers we say are not for God’s benefit, but for ours. We pray, not because God needs to hear the words that we pray, but because we need to hear ourselves expressing our love for God and inviting Him into our lives. We have learned that prayer isn’t just a hollow set of repeated words to go along with a particular rite or ritual. Prayer is not just the garment worn on the Sabbath—it is the garb of everyday life. Prayer is as personal and individual as we are, and God receives not just the words we offer, but our actions, feelings and thoughts as well.
The Baha’i teachings recommend developing a practice of daily communion with the Creator:
At the dawn of every day [the true seeker] should commune with God, and with all his soul persevere in the quest of his Beloved. He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 194.
The state of prayer is the best of conditions, for man is then associating with God. Prayer verily bestoweth life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 202.
Pray to and seek assistance from God, and … supplicate and implore His aid. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a tablet translated from the Arabic.
Prayer helps to connect us with our Maker. His abiding love surrounds us at all times, but we have to take the initiative through prayer to experience it and develop our relationship with Him. Regardless of the forms it may take, the most fundamental element of prayer is the remembrance of God. In whatever way we choose to do it, the most significant thing we can do is to remember our Creator.
The impulse to prayer is a natural one, springing from man’s love to God. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by J.E. Esselmont in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 94.
The core of religious faith is that mystic feeling which unites man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. – Shoghi Effendi, letter to an individual Baha’i, December 8, 1935.
Our prayerful words can take many various forms. Whether the words are whispered or sung, recited from memory or spoken spontaneously; whether the prayers entreat or praise, beseech or supplicate, God hears them all. There is, however, a special power in reading aloud or reciting the words revealed by God—that is, the words of the prophets. This is why they are chanted and sung in every language around the world. They are the best lyrics to the music of life, for they have a powerful, transforming effect on our souls:
Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul. Thus have the mysteries of the Revelation of God been decreed by virtue of the Will of Him Who is the Source of power and wisdom. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 295.