Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

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TheCatLady
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Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby TheCatLady » Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:29 pm

Hi all,

The title may be confusing, so quick explaination - I have not declared, I am in my period of investigation, and still trying to figure a lot of things out. Just so you understand where I am coming from in these (probably odd) questions, I have never at any time in my life been part of an organized religion. I have gone from Athiest, to Agnostic, to Confused, to "unofficial" Baha'i, and hopefully the next step is to declare, but I don't know when I'll feel comfortable in doing so.

So, this is pretty much my first year like this, and therefore my first fast. I wanted to ask some questions, but I think I'll start with my questions/feelings about prayer.

Like I said, I have never been part of an organized religion. Through the past years in my "confused" stage, I have believed in God and sort of "talk" to him in my own way. At the end of the night I ask for help, and thank Him, and just kind of talk. But, the Baha'i Faith has actual formal prayers. I'm just... I feel awkward saying them. There is one I really love saying, but I just kind of feel like.... I'm reading a script. So, what is your opinion on what I should do? I mean, like... is it manditory to say these prayers EXCEPT the obligatory prayers. And how can I get the feeling I need out of these prayers... how can I really put all of my heart and soul into saying it. Infact, I've found myself feeling weird just sitting by myself and talking aloud, and I'm wondering... can I say this internally or do I have to speak aloud? I know these are terribly odd questions, but I just... I've never really prayed before. I feel like a 4 year old in a 20 year old body, asking... really stupid questions. So, any advice you can give me on the prayer would help a lot. I don't want to say that I feel like I'm doing it "wrong" because... what is wrong in your personal relationship with God? So... ahhh! I'm just confused.

Then there is the fast. The Baha'is I listened to at an Ayyam-i-Ha tea party yesterday seemed so... well, "into it". What I'm trying to say is that they feel that this is a very spiritual time for them. I just... how do I feel that way about it?

Infact, how do I feel spiritual and close to God at all? Here's how I'm feeling- everything I've read makes complete sense; the oneness of religion, God, and human kind. That seems more like the "logical" aspect for me. But... I feel like I'm lacking the spiritual, like... how do I feel something really awesome about all of this. I don't know what I am expecting... just, I feel like I'm doing something wrong, or I'm not getting something all the other Baha'is are getting. So, please explain what makes the Fast so spiritual for all of you, how do you go about it. Also, how do you go about praying, and meditating and all of that. I live in a very negative household, so, it's very difficult to have a lot of time to meditate and reflect without it being inerupted with someone shouting or cursing. Infact today I prayed in my car... in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Ugggh! Sorry there is a lot to this. I just need some advice, and to hear others stories, and just... some kind of direction to go.

Thank you all so so much!

Truth
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Location: Oz

Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby Truth » Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:13 am

Hey cat lady,

I'll be honest with you, the first time i ever fasted, i didn't get that spiritual feeling you talk about till after the fast. I had the same experience when i went on pilgrimage. I had heard all these stories of people being overwhelmed in the shrines. I didn't get any of that, but it was after i left that i realized how much it affected me.
Both the fast and pilgrimage i have extreme fond memories of. The memories of the fast have me looking forward to the next one each time.

Everyone reacts to things differently, don't expect to react in the exact same way another person does. Your relationship with God is individual! Cherish it, because no one gets to experience it the same way you do! :)
No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!

Ian Mayes
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby Ian Mayes » Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:53 pm

Heya Cat Lady,

I appreciate reading your message here. Honesty and candor are things that I really enjoy. And given that I myself am "not officially" a Baha'i yet, I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here.

For the past year or so I have felt this great desire to radically change my life around and also have a much stronger and more solid spiritual component in my day-to-day life. As a result of this journey, I came across the writings of Mahatma Gandhi. Although he is not a Baha'i I am much impressed and inspired by what he has to say about religion and prayer. Here are two quotes from him about prayer that could hopefully address what you are asking here:

"Prayer is an intense longing to have communion with our maker. It is an effort not of the intellect but of the heart. Communion with God may come soon or it may take years or even ages. It is enough if the effort is sincere and heart-felt."

and

"Prayer is not to be performed with the lips, but with the heart. And that is why it can be performed equally by the dumb and the stammerer, by the ignorant and the stupid. And the prayers of those whose tongues are nectared but whose hearts are full of poison are never heard. Those who would pray to God must cleanse their hearts."

This then brings up the question - what about the words given in the Baha'i prayers? I can relate to your feeling awkward with the prayers, for I myself grew up in a Baha'i family and for the longest time I did not have an appreciation for these prayers. The way that I see it now is that the words in the prayers are an external way to focus your attention on God. With the mind being what it is, the next task to be accomplished after beginning the prayers are to match your internal focusing of attention onto God at the same time that the words of God are spoken.

Often we go about our lives speaking words and doing actions unconsciously, blindly thrashing about without being aware of what we are doing or why. I value the Baha'i prayers as ways to remind me to bring more focus & intentionality to my attempts to commune with God. If one is to go about saying the words of the prayers, one's mind will inevitably ask "why am I doing this?". It is at that moment that your heart can then honestly respond: "I am doing this to get closer to God." The door is then open for your inner and outer expressions to match up. In other words, when you are in touch with your own authentic desire to be closer to God, while at the same time saying the words of the prayers, at that moment both internally and externally you are expressing your desire to commune with God.

As far as your developing the inner strength of mind to aid you in being able to get better at praying and meditating, there is something that I would like to recommend. There are these meditation courses that take place all over the world where they teach people how to meditate. The name of them is "Vipassana Meditation", and they are donation-based ten day courses that instruct you in the basics of meditation as well as Buddhist philosophy. Prayer is not a part of the course, however on the last day they do teach you a prayer, they just don't call it that. I highly recommend the experience as a way for you to develop your own self-discipline and strength of mind. The web-site can be found at: http://www.dhamma.org/

I hope this all helps, and I wish you all the best!

- Ian

TheCatLady
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby TheCatLady » Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:38 am

Thank you both for your responces on prayer, they were very helpful! I am feeling better already about that, especially after saying the Fasting prayer this morning. But, I wanted to ask- do Baha'is have to pray three times a day? I know that I have to say an obligatory prayer once a day (and 3 times for the medium), but I'm wondering... say I picked to say the short obligatory prayer, would I then have to say one in the morning and one at night in addition to that? Or am I misunderstanding? And is it okay to pray more than 3 times a day? I find myself wanting to say "Refresh and gladden my spirit" whenever I'm having a trying time throughout my day.

I also wanted to ask a bit about the Fast. I have never fasted before in my life, so day one was pretty hard, and I know today will be too because I ate too fast and too little. What kind of food should I eat in the morning to substain me all day? Also, I felt really guilty yesterday because I did start to focus on my hunger. Now, I was at work, and I can't just sit down in the middle of the floor and pray, and it's quite hard to find anywhere to go to focus on these sorts of things- so if I'm feeling particularly hungry and want to whip out my prayer book for some assistance, how should I go about doing that at Wal-Mart? Haha, odd question, I know. Also, I'm feeling guilty for some reason because as soon as the sun went down I grabbed for a candy bar, which... I don't know, it feels wrong. I just knew I wouldn't be able to eat for another hour and a half and I was freaking out. I know it was my first day ever but I feel bad. How did all of yours firsts fasts go, and should I feel bad? How can I make myself stop thinking about how hungry I am, and what should I eat in the morning?

Thannks so much for all of your help along my journey :)

AdibM
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby AdibM » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:17 am

Hi CatLady,

I'm pressed for time so I can only address the first question right now: the Medium Obligatory prayer is the only Obligatory prayer that must be said three times a day. The Short one is to be said between noon and sunset, and the Long one can be recited at any time throughout the day, but one is only required to say either of those once over the course of 24 hours.

And one can pray as much as they want throughout the day; there is no limit to the amount of times we can connect upwards, and it's a beautiful fact. :)
"To be a Bahá'í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood." -- `Abdu'l-Bahá

coatofmanycolours
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby coatofmanycolours » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:53 am

Catlady; You might enjoy the New Day Calendar. It is a desktop Baha'i Calendar and tells you the time,
each day, for sunrise and sunset. The nice thing is that it is not a regular calendar with Baha'i dates added.
It shows the 19 Baha'i days and also the Baha'i days of the week, which each begin at sunset. You will
see the day jump at sunset of the place you live. You follow the instructions to set your location, as this
determines sunset and sunrise times.

I want to memorize the Baha'i days of the week:

Jalal, Jamal, Kamal, Fidal, 'Idal, Istijlal and Istiqlal (which is friday, the Baha'i day of rest).

-Peter

Here is the link:

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Scheduling ... ndar.shtml

Truth
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Location: Oz

Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby Truth » Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:02 pm

Hey Cat Lady,

This post might not make too much sense as i'm slightly delusional from dehydration! ;)

AdibM already commented on prayer. The obligatory prayer is to be said daily (with the medium 3 times in the day), but there is no minimum or maximum requirement for other prayer, that is left up to you.

Is there a park near where you work? We've got a couple of parks near my workplace where i can go to pray if i need to, so that's where i usually head. We've also got a server room that has restricted access that i have access too (as i work in IT) but i'm assuming you may not have that option! ;)

In relation to nutrition, that is definitely somewhere i may be able to help! Firstly, don't feel guilty about feeling hungry or thinking about food. Once the body starts going catabolic (burning body mass as fuel), it sends you triggers to try and get you to fuel your body. To be honest, my thoughts about being hungry then trigger thoughts about why I'm doing it in the first place, which triggers thought about God. It also reminds me of the rest of humanity, the majority that live below the poverty line that no doubt experience this sort of nutrition day in day out.
Considering this is your first fast, and it was your first day, the fact that you got through it, alone is awesome!
Anyway, in relation to your breakfasts and dinners....
Breakfast needs to consist of slow release carbs and proteins with a bit of fats. One of the many good carbs to choose is oats. It's a slow release carb which gives you fuel to burn over a longer period of time, rather than having a spike then getting hungry in an hour! A slow release protein to protect muscle from being used as fuel (your body will take fat stores instead) is a casein protein like cottage cheese. Once again, it's a protein that slowly releases into your system at a gradual period. Both the foods i mentioned are like being on a drip but they don't really last that long in the whole scheme of things! The last thing I'd suggest is maybe a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. It has double the amount of calories in it carbs and protein has which gives you an extra few calories to burn during the day. Oh. And make sure you drink plenty of water!
Now for breaking the fast, having a candy bar is probably not the most nutritional thing you can consume after fasting, but there's certainly nothing stopping you. Once the sun sets, you're free to consume what you want! Some of us youth here get together to break the fast and get a few pizzas. Once again, not the most nutritious thing, but it's up to you! I usually like to once again, grab something nutritious with some good quality slow release carbs, some good protein, with some fresh vegetables. The combinations are endless! Last night i grabbed some thai food with a friend for instance.

Personally, I'm finding the fast quite challenging. I train a lot, so I'm used to eating about 6-7 meals a day and consuming 4000 calories while drinking around 3-4 liters of water a day. I stop training for the fasting period and obviously cut down my meals quite considerably, so it has a fairly heavy effect on me. I still look forward to it all.

Anyway Cat Lady, don't feel guilty about anything, you're doing everything right and you're doing it well! Make sure to keep us updated during the fast on how you're going! :)
No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!

TheCatLady
Posts: 17
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:51 am

Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby TheCatLady » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:46 pm

Thank you all for your answers on the prayers! For some reason I got it in my head that I had to pray three times a day, but I think that just came from the confusion when finding out about the obligatory prayers and the fact that the medium one, if said, must be said three times. So, thanks for clearing that up!

Today was a lot easier then yesterday. I prayed this morning, and I really think I felt it, probably by the fact that I was bawling my eyes out while smiling while saying the prayer! I don't know what it was, but the words were so beautiful and touching, and I really felt why I was doing this. I will admit that when I first woke up and was making breakfast, I did get grumpy with my parents and bit mean. But when I prayed, I realized what I had done and went and appologized right away! It's only day two, so I don't know what will come, but I feel more confident in what I am doing, and happy about it and refreshed!

I will definately try to eat some oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow, and hopefully that can hold me pretty well. I had some eggs, a peice of bacon, and a peice of toast today along with a vitamin and some St. Johns Wort (for keeping me happy!) and that actually seemed to hold me over pretty well. My tummy did rumble, but I didn't really think too much about being hungry- even sitting next to a friend who was eatting and offering me cookies, haha.

But, the prayer questions reminded me of something else I wanted to ask (Thank you all for helping me so so much through all of my odd-ball questions! It means so much!), and that is about the Greatest Name. I know that Baha'is are supposed to recite it 95 times a day. Is that obligatory? And, what does it mean? Can someone give me a bit of an explaination on it, because all of the things I've read about it seem somewhat confusing. Why do Baha'is recite it 95 times a day? And, finally, how do you pronounce it?

Thank you!! You're all wonderful and so helpful! :)

brettz9
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby brettz9 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:44 pm

Your questions are very natural, and not strange at all.

You might be interested in the section on prayer in the book, Baha'u'llah and the New Era (pp. 88-100). This contains a number of quotations (or at least statements attributed to 'Abdu'l-Baha) which may be helpful. Along similar lines are the mini-compilations at http://bahai9.com/Prayer and http://bahai9.com/Meditation as well as the longer one at http://bahai-library.com/?file=hornby_l ... ance#nnnXL (click on a link to go that quote).

As far as reading non-formal prayers, this is encouraged too (also covered in the above-mentioned book chapter):

Beg everything thou desirest from Baha'u'llah
If thou art asking faith, ask of Him.
If thou art yearning after knowledge, He will grant it unto thee.
If thou art longing for the love of God, He will bestow it upon thee.
He will descend upon thee all His blessings.

('Abdu'l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. IX, no. 9)


In summary, we also can recite obligatory prayers (or Allah'u'Abhas) silently, though reading prayers out loud is often encouraged (there's a quote in Star of the West which I don't have at hand, but also in the book mentioned earlier).

We are required to recite the Writings every morning and evening, but the amount is up to you (Baha'u'llah says one verse said with joy is better than reading all of the Holy Books with lassitude), and the morning and evening recitations do not need to be of prayers. The Hidden Words are actually encouraged for this purpose--very short expressions on which we can contemplate.

AUTOMATIC, FORMAL PRAYERS WHICH DO NOT TOUCH THE CORE OF THE HEART ARE OF NO AVAIL.

(Letter of 19 October 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, at http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file= ... est_name#2 )


And as others have said, we can more than one prayer, including more than one obligatory prayer, if we wish.

As far as finding time for prayer outside/at work, the concept of obligatory prayer is far from penetrating U.S. culture at least to the point that accommodations are made for saying it. These obligatory prayers are to be recited individually, and although it's not required to be in a private spot when saying them, saying it in front of others might, of course, not always be appropriate. You might, however, consider speaking to your employer about it if there is no logical place to use.

As far as fasting, there is http://bahai9.com/Fasting or http://bahai-library.com/?file=hornby_l ... ce#nnnXVII . You may particularly be interested in this subpage which attempts to summarize the purposes of the Fast (with links to the quotations upon which the summary was based): http://bahai9.com/Fast_-_purposes_of and this one for the motives of Fasting: http://bahai9.com/Fast_-_motives_for_obeying . As you can see there, one of the purposes of the Fast is to reflect on the suffering of the Manifestations of God and the poor, so being a little hungry and being somewhat aware of it is probably a good thing! Of course, that doesn't mean going to any extreme, as this is even explicitly forbidden by Baha'u'llah. And no need to feel guilty on however you wish to break the fast (unless it is by drinking alcohol or something!--which strange to say, I've heard of one Muslim doing!)

One funny anecdote I heard from Mr. Furutan, Hand of the Cause of God, was that when other Hands of the Cause were talking about the wonderful dreams they had about 'Abdu'l-Baha or so on, he said that he hadn't had any dreams, but that he and the Guardian were like 'this' (making a gesture twisting his figures together). It made me think of how spirituality is really a practical matter. As with love, it is more of a state of action and attitude, than it is necessarily a feeling. Also, as Ian eloquently pointed out, taking the steps can lead to the "door" being "open for your inner and outer expressions to match up".

As far as your question about praying in a negative environment, while the quiet time may give you some tranquility, and that may well rub off on others in your environment, 'Abdu'l-Baha says that going off to a monastery, etc., is not a real test of spirituality, as the real challenge comes from being in this world, but not becoming drawn into its negative aspects. The real world is our laboratory where we practice the teachings we study in private. A car is a fine place to pray/meditate/study. You may see this famous Baha'i prayer beginning "Blessed is the spot...": http://bahai-library.com/compilations/prayers/BP-1.html which praises the mention and praise of God in a diversity of places.

Reciting Allah'u'Abha 95 times a day, preceded by ablutions (hand-and-face washing), optionally along with your reading of the obligatory prayer, is obligatory now. You may get some idea of why it is required and also how it is to be read by reading http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file= ... atest_name (and possibly http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_furt ... aqdas.html ). Some details on it are summarized at http://bahai9.com/Recitation_of_95_All% ... Abh%C3%A1s . It is spelled, in the Bahá'í transliteration system, as "Alláh'u'Abhá". The 'a's without accents are pronounced like 'a' in 'cat', the 'á's (with the accents) are pronounced like 'a' in 'father', while the 'u' is more pronounced like 'o'. The first 'h' makes the accented 'a' before it to be more aspirated (more air released).

By the way, while we're overloading you with information, don't feel obligated to take it all in at once (but if you ask, you may just get what you asked for)! :) And as far as the actions themselves, once you get into the habit, it becomes much more natural and fits in with the flow, especially once you realize that besides God being Merciful in general, He specifically allows exceptions, such as reading silently if one wishes, not fasting for those doing hard labor (or being in labor), etc. :) Of course, you may find comfort and joy in doing more, and indeed, in normal circumstances, as 'Abdu'l-Baha says:

...no comfort is greater and no happiness is sweeter than spiritual comprehension of the divine teachings. If a man understands the real meaning of a poet's verses such as those of Shakespeare, he is pleased and rejoiced. How much greater his joy and pleasure when he perceives the reality of the Holy Scriptures and becomes informed of the mysteries of the Kingdom!

— `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 460


best wishes,
Brett

TheCatLady
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby TheCatLady » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:25 am

Brett,

Thank you so, so much for that wonderful post! When I have a bit more time I will go check out those links you gave me, and I'll also go ahead and get a copy of "Hidden Words" and "Baha'u'llah in the New Era" like you suggested. :) Thank you for taking all that time to put together all of that great information, and making me feel better and little bit more at ease about all of my millions of questions floating around in my mind, haha. You are great :)

Take care!

brettz9
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Re: Prayers/Fasting for "Not Offical" Baha'i

Postby brettz9 » Thu Mar 05, 2009 10:48 am

My pleasure, TCL...

I think you'll be very glad for getting those two books...

Hopefully you won't ever lose your questions--what I'd say are the engine of knowledge and growth and the sign of an unfettered spirit...

best wishes,
Brett


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