The Life of the Spirit: Prayer
The following article is from bahai.org. Photo copyright © Bahá’í International Community
Just as our bodies require nourishment to develop properly, we need regular prayer for our spiritual sustenance and health. Prayer is food for the soul; it deepens the love of God in our hearts and draws us closer to Him.“There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer…The most blessed condition is the condition of prayer and supplication.”1 To live in a state of prayer entails not only uttering sacred verses in moments of devotion; it suggests, too, that throughout the day we should turn our hearts towards God.
Prayer in its highest form is a pure expression of loving praise for God. “The true worshipper, while praying, should endeavour not so much to ask God to fulfil his wishes and desires, but rather to adjust these and make them conform to the Divine Will. Only through such an attitude can one derive that feeling of inner peace and contentment which the power of prayer alone can confer.”2 Yet it is also natural that we would often beseech and supplicate God for assistance. After such prayer, we would reflect and act upon what appears to be the best way forward and then see if our efforts are confirmed. We need to have complete trust in the mercy of God and be certain that He will grant that which is best for us.
In moments of private contemplation, of course, we often use our own words to commune with our Creator. But in the Writings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’ís find numerous prayers of surpassing beauty that give true expression to their innermost thoughts and feelings—prayers which may be used both in their personal devotions and at their gatherings. Indeed, meetings in which the various affairs of the community are discussed commonly begin and end with prayer.
Bahá’u’lláh invested a few prayers with special power. These include three obligatory prayers revealed by Him: a short prayer of a few brief lines, which is to be said between noon and sunset; a medium obligatory prayer of several verses, which is to be recited in the morning, at noon, and in the evening; and a long prayer, which is to be recited once in twenty-four hours. Bahá’ís choose to say one of these three prayers each day.
It is also a common practice for Bahá’ís in localities throughout the world to gather together in centres or in one another’s homes with their friends and neighbours to offer prayers. In addition to providing opportunities for the participants to read aloud and listen to the recitation of extracts from Holy Scriptures and other illuminating passages, these devotional gatherings often include uplifting music and song. Such meetings serve to awaken spiritual susceptibilities within the participants and promote patterns of community life which are infused with the spirit of devotion.