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TAGS: Obligatory prayer, Long; Prayers and Meditations of Bahaullah (book)
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Abstract:
Brief study guide for and review of this collection of 184 passages selected by Shoghi Effendi for the book.
Notes:

Introduction to a Study of Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh

by Anonymous

1964-12

This volume of 184 prayers and meditations, revealed at different moments during the 40-year-long banishment of Bahá'u'lláh from His homeland, is an anthology selected by the beloved Guardian and originally translated for publication and devotional use during the American first Seven Year Plan. The words that Shoghi Effendi then wrote, in April 1938, are surely as relevant now as ever they were then: 'COMMUNITY ... BELIEVERS... MUST AT SO CRITICAL STAGE IN FORTUNES DECLINING CIVILIZATION SEEK PURGE GALVANIZE THEIR SOULS THROUGH DAILY PRAYER AND MEDITATION THAT CAN BEST SUSTAIN THEM IN DISCHARGE TASK STILL INITIAL STAGE DEVELOPMENT.' '... SUMMONING THEIR AID VITALIZING INFLUENCE PRAYERS MEDITATIONS WHICH AUTHOR THEIR FAITH HIMSELF REVEALED LET THEM DELEGATES VISITORS ALIKE DRAW NIGH UNTO BAHÁ'U'LLÁH THAT HE MAY DRAW NIGH UNTO THEM.' Indeed, the Guardian had 'every hope that the perusal of such a precious volume will help to deepen more than any other publication, the spirit of devotion and faith in the friends, and thus charge them with all the spiritual powers they require for the accomplishment of their tremendous duties towards the Cause.'

Since fewer than half the contents of this book are available within the covers of any other three Bahá'í books taken together, we need to ponder well if we have so far either not taken steps to possess a copy or if we posses a copy but do not constantly peruse it.

True, the volume contains the Obligatory Prayers, the Tablet of Visitation, the short Healing Prayer, the special prayers connected with the Intercalary Days, the Fast, Naw-Rúz, Ridván, dawn and death, as well as those prayers we so want to have by heart as soon as we meet them in our own more familiar smaller prayer book. But how much more there is to feed our hunger for spiritual information and spiritual sustenance! Surely every chief aspect of Bahá'í principle and teaching is reinforced in a new way - the colloquy and relationship between the Supreme Revelator and His Creator; the bewildering power of the Almighty, His attributes and exaltation above the realm of being; the relative unreality of creational existence, yet the tender acceptance by a loving God of all that His creatures can offer in praise and service; the brutal facts of everyday living of the early believers, in exile and at 'Akka, and the contrast with the Covenant breakers; the exhortation and reminders to those same believers in which Bahá'u'lláh Himself also indicated that His tribulations served but to advance His Cause - these are but a few of the themes.

The prayers include about a dozen written as if from a woman's heart, and many paragraphs well within the range of a child's appreciation. There are also a great many that are intimate to Bahá'u'lláh Himself but yet help us in our own self-knowledge and spiritual development. Then too there are a half dozen lengthy meditations which are unique in the whole range of written records of man's spiritual adventure. The two longest (No. 176 with 49 paragraphs and No. 184 with 22 paragraphs) contain some of the most astonishing, loveliest and most challenging statements in all Bahá'í literature. Consider the content, cadences and completeness of the opening paragraph of 176 or the breathtaking truth of the necessity of the 'letters of negation' set out in 3 of 184, or the transcendent vision contained in 5 and the paean of vital thanks in 9 of that same prayer.

There are so many ways of reading and enjoying the contents of this precious book that it seems wrong to suggest any, yet some people may be grateful at least for some springboards to their own further plunging into the Ocean's depths. Although each prayer stands by itself as a perfect whole, and should be perused and studied thus, yet there are also other ways of diving for pearls.

(a) A study of the attributes of God, their variety, range and cogent cumulative effect. Some may be new to us and can richly reward meditation, e.g. 'the Enlightener of all creation' (47), 'the Source and Centre of my soul' (111), 'the King of eternity and the Quickener of every mouldering bone' (38), 'the Fountain of my life' (88), 'the Well-Spring of all Lights' (43), 'the Help in Peril' (54), 'Lord of the Judgment Day' (55), 'Whom nothing whatsoever can frustrate' (14), 'the Supreme Helper' (6) and many others.

(b) Selection of a specific Bahá'í teaching such as the transcendent unity of God, man's essential impotence, the Covenant, progressive revelation of the Word of God, the Báb and His promise then tracing it through the book and allowing the cross comparison of the passages so found, each similar yet different, to play upon and enrich each other, adding meaning and value.

(c) The perfect blending of the different kinds of prayer (some have identified nine such kinds), especially in the Long Obligatory Prayer and its remarkable thematic variations, its unity in diversity, its changes in pitch and intensity, in depth and scope.

(d) A straight search for perfectly phrased, astonishingly logical and gloriously fuller amplification of truth in gemlike utterances that occur all through the book, e.g. 'the light of Thy tenderness' (1), 'the Law that streameth from the good pleasure of Thy will' (11), 'Whose love is my begetter' (98), 'Whose love is the radiance of my heart' (104) 'O Thou Who art my God and throbbest within my heart' (44), 'nearness to Thee is the true life of them who are Thy lovers' (55), 'the wine of Thy tender mercy' (12), 'the living waters of Thy love' (6).

(e) The soul-moving range of Bahá'u'lláh's own expression of Himself and His circumstances, e.g. His return to Baghdád from self-imposed wandering in the wilderness (145), His humility before the servants of God and their tie with the Creator (179), His readiness for every sacrifice (111), the vexing troubles afflicting Him and those with Him and their effect (151), beautiful statements of the purpose and the effect of sacrifice (65, 91).

(f) The simple felicity of phrasing and the cadences are often most stirring and invite the reminder that prayers are aided by adding the sense of hearing to the sense of sight in conformity with the sense of the Word. Some examples: nos. 10, 29, 150 especially 2 and 5, 161 and also 133, 155, 171, 172 and 173 that may already be familiar. In passing we may note the universality of the actual words used, their concreteness and divine simplicity of meaning.

(g) Whole paragraphs of most memorable content occur in many of the prayers, and each of us may like to build his own private anthology of them. Some that stand out are
58 3, 4, 8; 10 1; 11 3; 12 1; 31 1, 2; 38 12; 74 3; 93 3; 97 2; 102 3; 105 4; 108 5; 116 1; 123 1; 135 3; 140 2, 5; 150 2, 5; 156 2; 161 2; 176 17, 18, 39; 178 3,4,6; 179 4,5.

(h) A particularly interesting study is the concept of 'remembrance of God' and the meanings it gathers to itself in the different contexts of its appearance, e.g. 37 2; 56 6, 7; 78 1; 79 3; 85 3; 101 5; 107 1; 114 6; 176 28. To quote one passage: 'Enable us, O my God, to live in remembrance of Thee and to die in love of Thee, and supply us with the gift of Thy presence in Thy worlds hereafter' (85 6).

Among the most comforting statements are the sure promises of answer to prayer (154 2; 161 2) and assurances that He will never forsake us (10 3; 169 2) 'How can I choose to sleep, O God, my God....' (172).

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