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Abstract:
Some details on the history of a popular prayer. Includes comments on the authenticity of published compilations of Abdu'l-Baha's talks Some Answered Questions, Paris Talks, and The Promulgation of Universal Peace.
Notes:
First posted at Planet Baha'i [delphiforums.com] on 2010-09-18; original recipient, and source, unknown. Based on some errors in punctuation (which have been corrected), the following text appears to have been hand-typed from another source.

Authenticity of prayer "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit"

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice

2006-06-05
M E M O R A N D U M

To: The Universal House of Justice
Date: 5 June 2006
From: Research Department

Authenticity of prayer "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit.."

The Research Department has studied the issue raised by Mr. ... in his email of 20 April 2006 addressed to the Bahá'í World Centre. Mr. ... attaches to his email a copy of a memorandum dated 12 July 1998, which he supposes was prepared by "the Research Department to the Universal House of Justice".

The memorandum in question deals with the subject of the authenticity of the prayer "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit". It concludes with the statement that "the authenticity of the prayer in question cannot be verified at this time." Apparently surprised by this statement, Mr. ... decided to refer the matter to the United States Bahá'í Publishing Trust for its comment. He was informed that the Universal House of Justice had approved the new edition of the prayer book, and although a number of changes had been made at the instruction of the House of Justice, no guidance was provided in relation to the removal of this particular prayer. In light of the Publishing Trust's response, Mr. ... seeks confirmation of his view that "the Universal House of Justice considers this prayer to be authentic; otherwise it would not have permitted it to be printed in the prayer book."

By way of introduction, the Research Department wishes to confirm that the copy of the memorandum dated 12 July 1998 attached to Mr. ...'s email was, indeed, prepared by it. The memorandum was subsequently transmitted by the House of Justice to the individual believer who had raised a question concerning the authenticity of the prayer "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit."

Before addressing Mr. ...'s specific query, it is useful to call attention to an important general principle, namely, that the authenticity of our Scripture is tied to the existence of original written texts. In a letter dated 23 March 1987 written on behalf of the House of Justice, the criterion for establishing authenticity is clarified in relation to talks by 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

We read,

The following excerpt from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly dated 24 October 1947 distinguishes those talks and utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which are considered scripture.

Nothing can be considered scripture for which we do not have an original text.

The original of Some Answered Questions in Persian is preserved in the ...[1]; its text was read in full and corrected by 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself. Unfortunately, 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not read and authenticate all transcripts of His other talks, some of which have been translated into various languages and published. For many of His addresses included in The Promulgation of Universal Peace and Paris Talks, for example, no original authenticated text has yet been found. However, the Guardian allowed such compilations to continue to be used by the friends.[2] In the future each talk will have to be identified and those which are unauthenticated will have to be clearly distinguished from those which form a part of Bahá'í Scripture. This does not mean that the unauthenticated talks will have to cease to be used — merely that the degree of authenticity of every document will have to be known and understood.

With regard to the status of the prayer, "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit", as indicated in the 1998 Research Department memorandum, referred to above, all attempts to locate the original text of the prayer have, so far, proved unsuccessful. In the absence of the text it is not possible to authenticate, completely, the prayer in question.

As to Mr. ...'s question concerning the Universal House of Justice's perspective on the status of the prayer and its inclusion in the U.S. Bahá'í prayer book, while the Research Department has not, to date, been able to identify any precise information to this subject, we provide for his consideration an extract from a letter dated 6 June 2004 written on behalf of the House of Justice that appears to pertain, in a general way, to his question. The letter was written in response to a question from an individual believer concerning two slightly discrepant translations of the prayer and the believer's request for guidance concerning which translation should be used. From the answer, it is evident that the House of Justice is aware of "the degree of authenticity" of the passage, i.e., the fact that, as yet, the original text of the prayer has not been located. It also permits the continuing use of the prayer. The letter states, Regarding the two English translations of a prayer attributed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá beginning with the line "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit", the text of this prayer in the original has not been found and the friends should feel free to use either version.

Notes

  1. A word is missing here; perhaps it should read "International Archives"? [J.W., 2013]
  2. A letter dated 9 March 1977 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer states that the ruling of the Guardian concerning the use of such compilations also applies to the use of "Star of the West".
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