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A couple of weeks ago, I felt very agitated and couldn’t focus on my tasks or continue with my day, so I did what I often do: I distracted myself by cleaning the house and saying prayers as I did my chores.
A friend who was visiting me, asked: “Shouldn’t you sit quietly and focus when you pray?”
When she said that, I thought of one of my favorite stories of Abdu’l-Baha. In the story, he is walking the streets of Baghdad chanting his prayers. Focused solely on the holy words of the prayers, he does not realize his belongings are being stolen from him.
When I read this story, I smiled with recognition. It seems easy to get lost in deep prayer. When I was growing up, and even today, my mother chants prayers while cleaning the house, and she, too, gets lost. She taught me to pray by reminding me of these words of Abdu’l-Baha:
The worshipper must pray with a detached spirit, unconditional surrender of the will, concentrated attention and spiritual fervor … Automatic, formal prayers which do not touch the core of the heart are of no avail.
When my mother prays, she told me, she tries to concentrate her whole mind on the holy words.
This isn’t easy for everyone, and takes some practice. Luckily, my home was always filled with prayer. While other children were lulled to sleep by songs their parents sang, I had the great bounty of drifting off to sleep as my mother prayed aloud, her prayerful melodies like a song echoing through the house. Through sleepless nights, illness, and other hardships, her praying eased my mind and heart and gave peace to my soul. It was just as Abdu’l-Baha said, “Endeavour your utmost to compose beautiful poems to be chanted with heavenly music; thus may their beauty affect the minds and impress the hearts of those who listen.”
As I grew up, I got used to the refreshing touch of the life-giving breezes of the word of God that so often moved through the rooms of our home, and, gradually, I began to understand more about the power of intoning the verses of God, and its spiritual effects.
I have experienced the magic of Baha’i prayers many times. Through prayer, God has sent His grace to those around me by means of miraculous events. One of these events was my cousin’s recovery from surgery. The whole family gathered to pray together for the success of a kidney transplant – my young cousin’s last hope.
The surgery was underway when we gathered at my grandfather’s house to pray. Our collective prayers gave us the power to get through that hard night. Intoning the verses of God offered us strength and hope. As the night passed, our voices grew louder and our conviction firmer. I could feel the magical power of prayer galvanizing my being. As that feeling increased, I remembered the advice of Baha’u’llah:
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.
I believe those prayers also gave my cousin the strength to fight for her life. The surgery was successful, and her body accepted the new kidney. Against all odds, she survived. At the time, I thought of this verse by Abdu’l-Baha: “The Word of God may be likened to the life-giving breezes of the divine springtime. When chanted in spiritual tones, it bestoweth the breath of life …”
The way I grew up established in me the habit of turning to the verses of God. I learned that the effect of intoning the verses of God cannot be explained in words, but only felt in the heart. Praying – especially when I use the Baha’i prayers from the Bab, Baha’u’llah, and Abdu’l-Baha – gives me a feeling of peace and security, eases my mind, and assures me that the Creator is looking after me.