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The previous essays in this series on a new way to pray have emphasized the Baha’i teachings on prayer and action. Baha’u’llah said “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning,” so Baha’is try hard to transform their daily lives into beautiful prayers, expressed primarily through their actions.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Baha’is have no traditional written prayers. In fact, the Baha’i writings contain a magnificent treasure trove of powerful prayers, written by Baha’u’llah, the Bab, and Abdu’l-Baha themselves. Baha’is use those prayers every day–whether in silent, mindful reflection; spoken aloud or even chanted or sung—to attempt to strengthen the mystical connection between the soul and God.
The Baha’i writings say that daily prayer causes “awakening and mindfulness,” generating love in the soul of the prayerful:
The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. The greatest happiness for a lover is to converse with his beloved, and the greatest gift for a seeker is to become familiar with the object of his longing; that is why with every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God, his greatest hope is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate before his Beloved, appeal for His mercy and grace and be immersed in the ocean of His utterance, goodness and generosity. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 368.
Praise be to God, thy heart is engaged in the commemoration of God, thy soul is gladdened by the glad tidings of God and thou art absorbed in prayer. The state of prayer is the best of conditions, for man is then associating with God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 201.
The Baha’i teachings recommend an immersive, consistent practice of private prayer that includes meditation and reflection on our lives at the beginning and end of each day:
…Every day, in the morning when arising you should compare today with yesterday and see in what condition you are. If you see your belief is stronger and your heart more occupied with God and your love increased and your freedom from the world greater, then thank God and ask for the increase of these qualities. You must begin to pray and repent for all that you have done which is wrong and you must implore and ask for help and assistance that you may become better than yesterday so that you may continue to make progress. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 6, p. 68.
Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.
My prayer for you is that your spiritual faculties and aspirations may daily increase, and that you will never allow the material senses to veil from your eyes the glories of the Heavenly Illumination. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 94.
Baha’is also say daily obligatory prayers and can accompany them with a wealth of inspiring Baha’i prayers for spiritual guidance, for family, for children, for assistance, for compassion and unity and gladness. But importantly, Baha’u’llah cautions us against overburdening ourselves with prayer, and urges us to pray with joy:
Recite ye the verses of God every morn and eventide… Pride not yourselves on much reading of the verses or on a multitude of pious acts by night and day; for were a man to read a single verse with joy and radiance it would be better for him than to read with lassitude all the Holy Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
Read ye the sacred verses in such measure that ye be not overcome by languor and despondency. Lay not upon your souls that which will weary them and weigh them down, but rather what will lighten and uplift them, so that they may soar on the wings of the Divine verses towards the Dawning-place of His manifest signs; this will draw you nearer to God, did ye but comprehend. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, pp. 73-74.