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