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Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:35 pm
by ciwan
Dear Baha'i Friends,

I was wondering why we do not pray in congregation, why was it abolished?


Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:52 pm
by onepence~2
1503. Prayers May be Recited in Unison

"You have asked whether it is permissible for the friends to chant a prayer collectively. There is a difference between chanting a prayer collectively and congregational prayer. The latter is a formal prayer usually led by an individual using a prescribed ritual. Congregational prayer in this form is forbidden in the Faith except in the case of the Prayer for the Dead. While reciting prayers in unison and spontaneously joining in the recitation of the Words of God is not forbidden, the friends should bear in mind the advice of the beloved Guardian on this subject when he stated that:

'... although the friends are thus left free to follow their own inclinations... they should take the utmost care that any manner they practice should not acquire too rigid a character, and thus develop into an institution. This is a point which the friends should always bear in mind, lest they deviate from the clear path indicated in the Teachings.' "
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, February 6, 1975) ... =firefox-a

dh note : ... it would appear that one explanation of why congregational prayer was abolished is that "formal prayer usually led by an individual using a prescribed ritual" has in the past , and perhaps if allowed to continue into the future , veiled the creations from the Creator

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:02 pm
by ciwan
What do you mean by "veil the creations from the Creator."?

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:14 pm
by onepence~2
ciwan wrote:What do you mean by "veil the creations from the Creator."?

hmmm ....

we prefer to speak eloquently ...

so please excuse this post as time restraints requires us to write bluntly ...

congregational prayer . as in , take this cup in remembrance of Jesus
and this is His Blood ... etc ...

has veiled His Creation from the Creator ...

that is to say ... simple forms of congregational prayer can led to superstitious rituals

more later if time permits

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 8:44 pm
by brettz9
Hello Ciwan,

I believe it is related to the abolishment of clergy. There are no "leaders" (besides our Central Figures and now, elected institutions) who have any intercessory or even special leadership as far as devotions, etc. Humanity has matured beyond this, and now such matters are handled by the administration.

However, the exclusion of congregational prayer (a case where someone would lead the prayer) does not mean reading/singing in unison is forbidden, as some have wondered, as the Writings explicitly allow reverent choral music (inside the Temples, no instrumental accompaniment is allowed).

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 8:48 pm
by MontanaDon
onepence~2 wrote:1503.
dh note : ... it would appear that one explanation of why congregational prayer was abolished is that "formal prayer usually led by an individual using a prescribed ritual" has in the past , and perhaps if allowed to continue into the future , veiled the creations from the Creator

Hmm-m-m. OK. In my opinion, congregational prayer puts someone between the individual and God.

BTW, the Orthodox Church prohibits congregational prayer. Even when a priest is reciting a prayer, he is not doing so on behalf of the congregation; rather he is praying and other people are present. That is how Brother Bartelmeus (current chair of the Great Falls Inter-Faith Association) treat the opening prayer at out meetings.

Don C

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2008 11:05 am
by ciwan
So for example, why don't we say our obligatory prayers like muslim?

Or is it just that we are not used to it?

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:24 pm
by nharandi
Muslim prayer is led by an Imam. In my opinion, congregational prayer is prohibited (except for the Prayer for the Dead) because 1) the Baha'i Faith does not have clergy and 2) ritual is minimized as much as possible. Prayer is most importantly, a private matter.

Bahá'u'lláh has reduced all ritual and form to an absolute minimum in His Faith. The few forms that there are - like those associated with the two longer obligatory daily prayers - are only symbols of the inner attitude. -Shoghi Effendi

Also, from Baha'u'llah and the New Era:

Congregational Prayer
The prayers which Bahá’u’lláh has ordained as a daily obligation for Bahá’ís are to be said privately. Only in the case of the Prayer for the Dead has Bahá’u’lláh commanded congregational prayer, and the only requirement is that the believer who reads it aloud, and all others present, should stand. This differs from the Islamic practice of congregational prayer in which the believers stand in rows behind an imám, who leads the prayer, which is prohibited in the Bahá’í Faith.
These ordinances, which are in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh’s abolition of professional clergy, do not mean that He attached no value to meetings for worship. Regarding the value of gathering for prayer, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke as follows:—
Man may say: “I can pray to God whenever I wish, when the feelings of my heart are drawn to God; when I 94 am in the wilderness, when I am in the city, or wherever I may be. Why should I go where others are gathered upon a special day, at a certain hour, to unite my prayers with theirs, when I may not be in a frame of mind for praying?”

To think in this way is useless imagination, for where many are gathered together their force is greater. Separate soldiers fighting alone and individually have not the force of a united army. If all the soldiers in this spiritual war gather together, then their united spiritual feelings help each other, and their prayers become acceptable. (from notes taken by Miss Ethel J. Rosenberg).

Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:24 am
by Fadl
This is a good question, one for which there is probably not one correct answer. However, I have thought about this before, and can share with you some of my thoughts on the abolition of congregational prayer based on some of my experiences of them. I spent some time living in the Middle East, as well as many years studying Islam, and at one time, as part of my self-initiated Arabic and Islamic studies, I studied at an Islamic Invitation school, which was for general education of Muslims, as well as enrolling people in the faith through offering a systematic study of Islam, and Arabic (to read the Qur’an and pray properly). I learned and participated in the Islamic Salat on the occasions that I was at the school, when the afternoon prayer time came. I learned the proper manner of washing, what to do, what to say, and when. Other than the transitional “allah-u-akbar” that the Imam would say between the different positions, the only thing which could be heard was the nearly silent sound of lips mouthing word in Arabic.

I don’t which to suggest for a moment that those believers weren’t sincerely reciting their prayers. But it did make me realize at least one good reason why Baha’u’llah should abolish it. With the system of Imam lead prayer, it seems all too easy for the outward forms of the prayer (ablutions, positions, extra prayers, reverent appearances, etc.) to receive undo emphasis while the more important matters of intentions, inward attitudes, the actual words of the prayers, etc., can get lost altogether. In contrast, in my experiences as a Baha’i saying my obligatory prayers, I have never experienced even the potential for those distractions I experienced praying with Muslims. Don’t get me wrong, praying with the Muslims was a precious experience for me, but I think Baha’u’llah has made our obligatory prayers much more personal and intimate.

On an other note, I wanted to clear a common misconception that I often hear about the Baha'i obligatory prayers. I have heard it said by many Baha’is that we must be alone when we prayer our obligatory prayers. In fact, we don’t have to be alone, but we have to say our prayers alone:

"As to the obligatory prayer: Each one must say his prayer alone by himself, and this is not conditional on a private place; that is, both at home and in the worshipping-place, which is a gathering-place, it is allowable for one to say his prayer; but each person must say his prayer by himself. But if they chant supplications together, in a good and effective voice, that is very good" (Lights of Guidance, 465).

In some ways I think this passage even sheds some light on your question. It seems God wants us to pray from our own hearts and lips and not merely shadow someone praying on our behalf. I think it’s important to understand that we not be alone to find a suitable place to pray. I’m sure many of us prefer to be alone, but I can think of too many occasions where I may have missed a prayer on the excuse that I made to myself: “there’s no place to be alone” before I knew any better. Being alone might be ideal, or, depending on your personality, essential, but it is nice to know it’s not required. It makes it a little easier for us to comply in certain times and circumstances.

I hope you won’t think I was just confessing my sins about missing some prayers! ;-)



Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 5:13 pm
by pilgrimbrent
This is a really interesting question, and I do not recall ever seeing a specific answer in the Baha'i Writings as to why it was abolished. This would be the closest I know of:

"The daily prayers are to be said each one for himself, aloud or silent makes no difference. There is no congregational prayer except that for the dead. We read healing and other prayers in our meetings, but the daily prayer is a personal obligation, so someone else reading it is not quite the same things as saying it for yourself..."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 31, 1949: Bahá'í News, No. 220, June 1949,pp. 2-3; Lights of Guidance, p. 459, #1502)

To me the responses above that say that this is an aspect of abolition of the clergy, makes sense. Baha'u'llah places responsibilities on the individual in this Dispensation.

One more thing about congregational prayer. This does not mean reading any prayer to a congregation -- which happens at every Baha'i meeting. Also, congregational prayer does not mean when people together recite the words of a prayer.

As I understand it, congregational prayer means prayer that is said by one person, while the other people perform the postures associated with that prayer. In Islam, the congregation performs the postures, while the imam recites the prayer for everyone. In the short obligatory prayer the posture is standing and facing the Qiblih. In the long prayer for the dead, the posture is standing (there is no obligation to face the Qiblih, as the House of Justice states in the Notes to the Aqdas). So, this is a congregational prayer, because the congregation is performing the posture, and one person reads the prayer.

Another misconception is that the Prayer for the Dead is "congregational" because all present recite the repetitions of certain verses, such as "We all, verily, are patient in God." However, as the House of Justice makes clear, the entire prayer, including the repetitions, is recited only by one person. No one else speaks a single word at any time during the Long Prayer for the Dead.

Anyway, I agree that this seems to be an aspect of spiritually growing up -- saying our own prayers.


Re: Why was congregational prayer abolished?

Posted: Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:01 am
by Chad
alKafi volume 3 states that salat (prayer) is acceptable next to woman as long as she is not praying. In another Hadith, the Imam, alayhi alSalam, states they can say it together as long as they are ~18 inches apart. Also, I found in a writing of the Bab on that the Bab has said all Hadiths are true. I think it is because the scholars got rid of the incorrect ones during the age of Islam.