Compiled by Marlene Macke, St Marys, ON, Canada
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Passing of Arthur,” Idylls of the King
“In A.A. we have found that the actual good results of prayer are beyond question. They are matters of knowledge and experience. All those who have persisted have found strength not ordinarily their own. They have found wisdom beyond their usual capability. And they have increasingly found a peace of mind which can stand firm in the face of difficult circumstances.” – Bill W., Came to Believe, p. 19
What is Prayer?
“The traditions established the fact that in all Dispensations the law of prayer hath constituted a fundamental element of the Revelation of all the Prophets of God.” – Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 39
“ And prayer is more than an order of words, the conscious occupation of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.” – T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets
“ The state of prayer is the best of conditions, for man is then associating with God. Prayer verily bestoweth life, particularly when offered in private and at times, such as midnight, when freed from daily cares.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 202
Prayer is a ladder by which everyone may ascend to Heaven. – Muhammad, cited in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 88
“Prayer is conversation with God.” – Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 88
The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. – Abdul’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 368
Why do we pray?
“Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn night unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, CXXXVI, p. 294
“Know thou, verily, it is becoming in a weak one to supplicate to the Strong One, and it behooveth a seeker of bounty to beseech the Glorious Bountiful One. When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to Him and seeks bounty from His Ocean, this supplication brings light to his heart, illumination to his sight, life to his soul and exaltation to his being.
“During thy supplications to God and thy reciting, “Thy Name is my healing,” consider how thine heart is cheered, thy soul delighted by the spirit of the love of God, and thy mind attracted to the Kingdom of God! By these attractions one’s ability and capacity increase. When the vessel is enlarged the water increases, and when the thirst grows the bounty of the cloud becomes agreeable to the taste of man. This is the mystery of supplication and the wisdom of stating one’s wants.” – Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, pp. 92-93
Remembrance of God is like the rain and dew which bestow freshness and grace on flowers and hyacinths, revive them and cause them to acquire fragrance, redolence and renewed charm.” – Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude, p. 13
“If one friend loves another, is it not natural that he should wish to say so? Though he knows that the friend is aware of his love, does he still not wish to tell him of it? … It is true that God knows the wishes of all hearts; but the impulse to pray is a natural one, springing from man’s love to God.” – Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 94
How should we pray?
“… Pride not yourselves on much reading of the verses or on a multitude of pious acts by night and day; for were a man to read a single verse with joy and radiance it would be better for him than to read with lassitude all the Holy Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Read ye the sacred verses in such measure that ye be not overcome by languor and despondency. Lay not upon your souls that which will weary them and weight them down, but rather what will lighten and uplift them, so that they may soar on the wings of the Divine verses towards the Dawning-place of His manifest signs; this will draw you nearer to God, did ye but comprehend.” – Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Paragraph 149
“The most acceptable prayer is the one offered with the utmost spirituality and radiance; its prolongation hath not been and is not beloved by God. The more detached and the purer the prayer, the more acceptable is it in the presence of God.” – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 77
“A short prayer pierceth heaven”. – St. Augustine, cited in Prayer: A Baha’i Approach, p. 20
“The reason why privacy hath been enjoined in moments of devotion is this, that thou mayest give their best attention to the remembrance of God, that thy heart may at all times be animated with His Spirit …. Let not thy tongue pay lip service in praise of God while thy heart be not attuned to the exalted Summit of Glory, and the Focal Point of communication.” – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 93
“Prayer need not be in words, but rather in thought and action. But if this love and this desire are lacking, it is useless to try to force them. Words without love mean nothing. If a person talks to you as an unpleasant duty, finding neither love nor enjoyment in the meeting, do you wish to converse with him?” – Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 94
What can we pray for?
“It behoveth the servant to pray to and seek assistance from God, and to supplicate and implore His aid.” – Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude, p. 14
“O handmaid of God! Prayers are granted through the universal Manifestations of God. Nevertheless, where the wish is to obtain material things, even where the heedless are concerned, if they supplicated, humbly imploring God’s help – even their prayer hath an effect…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 161
“It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents. Thereupon God’s call will be raised: “Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!” Blessed is he who remembereth his parents when communing with God. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 94
Can we expect our prayers to be answered?
“What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall receive them.” – Mark, Chapter 11:24
“Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth.” – Matthew, Chapter 7:8
But we ask for things which the divine wisdom does not desire for us, and there is no answer to our prayer. His wisdom does not sanction what we wish. We pray, “O God! Make me wealthy!” If this prayer were universally answered, human affairs would be at a standstill. There would be none left to work in the streets, none to till the soil, none to build, none to run the trains. Therefore, it is evident that it would not be well for us if all prayers were answered. The affairs of the world would be interfered with, energies crippled and progress hindered. But whatever we ask for which is in accord with divine wisdom, God will answer. Assuredly!” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 247
When should we pray?
“Recite ye the verses of God every morn and eventide.” – Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, P. 149
“These children are even as young plants, and teaching them the prayers is as letting the rain pour down upon them, that they may wax tender and fresh, and the soft breezes of the love of God may blow over them, making them to tremble with joy.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 115
Recommended Reading for additional information on the theme of Prayer:
Baha’u’llah and the New Era, by J.E. Esslemont
Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude, compiled by the Universal House of Justice
Prayer: A Baha’i Approach, by William & Madeline Hellaby
Came to Believe: The spiritual adventure of A.A. as experienced by individual members