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You can’t pray a lie. – Mark Twain
The only decent activity in the world is to pray for everyone, in solitude. – Jack Kerouac
I thank You God for this most amazing
day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes. – e. e. cummings
A few years ago a friend of mine, who believed in God but had no particular Faith, sincerely asked me: “Why should I pray?”
What a great question, I thought.
I had about a hundred answers for him.
Here’s the first one: because God epitomizes strength, and we human beings epitomize weakness. Each individual person is a relatively powerless creature, susceptible to the vagaries of fate and accident and disease and sudden death. We pass through this life in a relatively short span; we struggle to provide for ourselves and our families; we can only contain a limited amount of knowledge and experience; we have a finite capacity for wisdom and insight; we lack the panoramic perspective necessary to see the big picture. As physical beings, mammals with finite powers and abilities, we’re limited in so many ways. Where we are weak, God is strong:
It is a law of God’s creation that the weak should lean upon the strong. Those to whom you turn may be the mediators of God’s power to you… But it is the One Holy Spirit that strengthens all men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 97.
Our real potential power, I told my friend, lies in our spiritual capacities. We can transcend our natural human weakness if we tap into the enormous and unlimited spiritual potential latent in our souls. Once that connection happens, when we call on the One Holy Spirit Abdu’l-Baha refers to, we can gain tremendous spiritual strength:
Know thou, verily, it is becoming of a weak one to supplicate to the Strong One, and it behoveth a seeker of bounty to beseech the Glorious Bountiful One. When one supplicates to his Lord, turns unto Him and seeks Bounty from His Ocean, this supplication is by itself a light to his heart, an illumination to his sight, a life to his soul and an exaltation for his being.
Therefore, during thy supplication to God… consider how thine heart is cheered up, thy soul delighted by the spirit of the Love of God, and thy mind becomes attracted to the Kingdom of God! By these attractions, one’s ability and capacity increase. When the vessel is widened the water increaseth, and when the thirst grows the bounty of the cloud becomes agreeable to the taste of man. This is the mystery of supplication and the wisdom of stating one’s wants (i. e., praying). – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 302.
The Baha’i teachings say that spiritual charge occurs when we find our connection to our Maker:
O thou spiritual friend! Thou hast asked the wisdom of prayer… 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. 367.
My wife and I, in our daily morning prayers, always seek to immerse ourselves in that ocean. We often say this prayer from Baha’u’llah, addressed directly to God:
My God, Whom I worship and adore! I bear witness unto Thy unity and Thy oneness, and acknowledge Thy gifts, both in the past and in the present. Thou art the All-Bountiful, the overflowing showers of Whose mercy have rained down upon high and low alike, and the splendors of Whose grace have been shed over both the obedient and the rebellious.
O God of mercy, before Whose door the quintessence of mercy hath bowed down, and round the sanctuary of Whose Cause loving-kindness, in its inmost spirit, hath circled, we beseech Thee, entreating Thine ancient grace, and seeking Thy present favor, that Thou mayest have mercy upon all who are the manifestations of the world of being, and deny them not the outpourings of Thy grace in Thy days.
All are but poor and needy, and Thou, verily, art the All-Possessing, the All-Subduing, the All-Powerful. – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 100.