Welcome to the Month of Might 171 – on Prayer
In this issue
Nearness to God
Glory be to Thee, O my God! Thou hearest Thine ardent lovers lamenting in their separation from Thee, and such as have recognized Thee wailing because of their remoteness from Thy presence. Open Thou outwardly to their faces, O my Lord, the gates of Thy grace, that they may enter them by Thy leave and in conformity with Thy will, and may stand before the throne of Thy majesty, and catch the accents of Thy voice, and be illumined with the splendors of the light of Thy face. Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. None can withstand the power of Thy sovereign might. From everlasting Thou wert alone, with none to equal Thee, and wilt unto everlasting remain far above all thought and every description of Thee. Have mercy, then, upon Thy servants by Thy grace and bounty, and suffer them not to be kept back from the shores of the ocean of Thy nearness. If Thou abandonest them, who is there to befriend them; and if Thou puttest them far from Thee, who is he that can favor them? They have none other Lord beside Thee, none to adore except Thyself. Deal Thou generously with them by They bountiful grace. Thou, in truth, art the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 72)
‘Abdu’l-Baha Teaches Mountfort Mills How to Pray
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in New York, He called to him Mountfort Mills, an ardent Bahá’í and said “If you will come to Me at dawn tomorrow, I will teach you to pray.”
Delighted, Mr. M arose at four and crossed the city, arriving for his lesson at six. With what exultant expectation he must have greeted this opportunity! He found ‘Abdu’l-Bahá already at prayer, kneeling by the side of the bed. Mr. M followed suit, taking care to place himself directly across.
Seeing that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was quite lost in His Own reverie Mr. M began to pray silently for his friends, his family and finally for the crowned heads of Europe. No word was uttered by the quiet Man before him. He went over all the prayers he knew then, and repeated them twice, three times – still no sound broke the expectant hush.
Mr M surreptitiously rubbed one knee and wondered vaguely about his back. He began again, hearing as he did so, the birds heralding the dawn outside the window. An hour passed, and finally two. Mr. M was quite numb now. His eyes, roving along the wall, caught sight of a large crack. He dallied with a touch of indignation but let his gaze pass again to the still figure across the bed.
The ecstasy that he saw arrested him and he drank deeply of the sight. Suddenly he wanted to pray like that. Selfish desires were forgotten. Sorrow, conflict, and even his immediate surroundings were as if they had never been. He was conscious of only one thing, a passionate desire to draw near to God.
Closing his eyes again he set the world firmly aside, and amazingly his heart teemed with prayer, eager, joyous, tumultuous prayer. He felt cleansed by humility and lighted by a new peace. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had taught him to pray!
The “Master of Akka” immediately arouse and came to him. His eyes rested smilingly upon the newly humbled Mr. M. “When you pray”, He said, “You must not think of your aching body, nor of the birds outside the window, nor of the cracks in the wall!”
He became very serious then, and added, “When you wish to pray you must first know that you are standing in the presence of the Almighty!” (Annamarie Honnold, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, no. 27, p 131-2)
How Dorothy Baker Prayed
The following recollection of Javidukt Khadem, wife of the Hand of the Cause Zikrullah Khadem, describes part of a road trip she took with Hand of the Cause Dorothy Baker. The story leads to a description of how Dorothy Baker prepared for obligatory prayer. We pick up the account with Dorothy driving the car while speaking:
‘”I have to do something that I forgot. I promised to pray for Elsie Austin, because she wants to go to Africa, and the door is closed. Will you help me?” And I said “Sure.” I did not know what she wanted. She said, “I want to say the ‘Remover of Difficulties’ 95 times.”
‘She said it very slowly, and with each word the tears poured down. She didn’t even notice me. I looked at her. I had never experienced anything like this. The tears covered her face, and dropped onto her clothes. I did not even count the number of prayers she said, but when she finished she pulled the car over to the side of the road, and she passed out.
‘I opened the car door and called, “Dorothy – Dorothy. Please!” After about 10 minutes she opened her eyes, and was so happy! She said, “I am sorry, honey, that I bothered you so much.” I asked her, “Is this the way you always pray?” She answered, “Is there any other way?” “Do you always say your prayers like that? Do you say your Obligatory Prayer every day like that?” I asked. She said, “Did you ever read that you must wait to pray until you are feeling spiritual? Every morning I say many prayers, so that I will be spiritual enough to say my Obligatory Prayer.”
‘That was my trip with Dorothy Baker.’ (Dorothy Freeman, From Copper to Gold, The Life of Dorothy Baker, p. 272-73)
Rowshan means light and is the maiden family name of cousins Payam Beint and Na’im Cortazzi from England. They grew up as close as brothers and surrounded by the love and music of their Bahá’í families. Payam and Na’im perform all instruments and vocals; and have found that singing Bahá’í prayers and meditations helped them to memorize. Their music from the Bahá’í Writings has been described as timeless, ethereal and other-worldly.
The intention behind the album “Rowshan” was to create a recording that taps into the spirit and atmosphere of the Baha’i prayers and readings; and which also created a unique sound incorporating their own musical influences and style of playing. Something about this album has really struck a chord with people, but they haven’t let their fame go to their heads. In fact, they both feel quite removed from it now, because it doesn’t feel like their work. The words of Bahá’u’lláh transcend them both.
In this month’s selection, we hear them sing the Arabic Hidden Word 40, with images of space from NASA:
Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face.
Bahá’ís everywhere are called upon to host devotional meetings that are open to all. How can we do this? What does a devotional meeting look like? How does the devotional meeting fit into the pattern of Bahá’í life?
In this book, The Devotional Meeting, we look at
* the devotional life of the individual
* the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár
* planning devotional meetings
* using music and arts
and discover more than 50 examples of devotional meetings from all parts of the world.
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Seven Valleys Counselling
Seven Valleys is an individual initiative, inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. This company provides a global network of Baha’i therapists, psychologists and counselling professionals; qualified and experienced; who work independently with registered users of their site. They have been selected for their professional ability, high ethical standards, and personal qualities. Their practitioners work with individuals, couples and families of differing ages and cultures, on a wide range of challenges and personal issues.
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Your newsletter is a gift. I was completely in tears when I read that story about what Abdu’l-Baha said to the woman who had lost her daughter. I will look forward to the newsletter every month! (Jessie Lane)