I was saying one of Bahá’u’lláh’s long Fast Prayers (Baha’i Prayers, p. 236-244) this morning, and I was struck by two things: each paragraph of the prayer tells us who God is; and then what our prayer is to him. Once I stripped away the former, I was able to see what I was actually asking for in this prayer. I wanted to share that with you.
We’re beseeching God:
To cast me not away from the gate of the city of Thy presence
Wow! What would it be like to finally have reached the Heavenly gates and to be rejected by God! I can’t imagine how awful that would be! If the purpose of our lives (through all the worlds of God) is to get closer to Him, I can’t even imagine finally reaching Him and being turned away.
It’s happened before! Think of all the Bahá’ís who walked from Iran to ‘Akká to be turned back by the authorities near the prison; or all the early believers who wanted to see Bahá’u’lláh (Ahmad comes to mind – he was on his way to visit Bahá’u’lláh and was intercepted by a messenger with the Tablet of Ahmad, which asked him to go back and teach).
“After the declaration of Bahá’u’lláh and His further exiles to Constantinople and Adrianople, Ahmad remained in Baghdad. He eventually decided to join his Lord and set out for Adrianople. Upon arriving in Constantinople, he was presented with a letter from the Blessed Beauty which exhorted him to surrender his will to the will of God, to be steadfast and to persevere in the face of opposition. This letter is now known as the Tablet of Ahmad. Returning to Persia, he travelled extensively as a teacher of the Cause.” http://bahai-library.com/yancy_tablet_ahmad
So I’m happy to beseech God that it never happens to me! I don’t know if I’d be strong enough to handle that rejection!
To disappoint not the hopes I have set on the manifestations of Thy grace amidst Thy creatures
Bahá’u’lláh tells us: “The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him”. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8) So we’ve come to expect that the grace is there for us, and we look for evidences of it every day. If it’s our duty to attain it, and we don’t catch our portion each day, the fault lies with us and not with God. So here we are beseeching God to not disappoint us, through our own negligence.
To draw me ever nearer to the threshold of Thy door
Nearness to God is our ultimate purpose. He’s our Companion, and Best Lover, and Divine Physician, and Healer. Just His name provides us with all the healing we could ever ask for. I don’t know about you, but I tend to forget all that! I get caught up in the petty affairs of my day to day life and hurts and disappointments, forgetting to turn to the One person who understands and can “kiss it and make it all better”. I heard Gord Naylor (a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada) give a talk once, and at the end, he said something like: if you pray for paradise, God will give you that, but if you pray for nearness to God, you won’t need paradise! Yes, I beseech Thee to draw me ever nearer! And to not forget you’re there and that I can call on You 24/7!
To suffer me not to be far removed from the shadow of Thy mercy and the canopy of Thy bounty.
I am a sinner. We are all sinners. We need God’s mercy! Imagine having to face our Maker at the hour of our death, knowing all the ways we’ve let Him down. Yes, I beseech Him to keep me under the shadow of His mercy!
To attract me by the fragrance of Thy raiment
I forget to draw nearer to God, so being attracted by His fragrences is a great idea! This morning I was up early for the Fast, rushing to prepare my breakfast so that I had time to eat it before sunrise, when my cat kept circling around my feet, tripping me up, wanting me to pick her up and cuddle with her. After several minutes of ignoring her, I picked her up and we had the love-fest she was looking for. As I was thinking about how neurotic she was, and how demanding of my love, I smelled her fur, drinking her scent deep into my lungs. What occurred to me was that she was trying to give me unconditional love, not the other way round. She was trying to remind me of God’s presence in my life. She was trying to remind me to slow down, to appreciate the moment, and why I was doing the Fast in the first place. It wasn’t meant to be a race against the clock, but a returning to the presence of God. Yes, I believe God was using my cat to attract me in my heedlessness. I beseech Thee to attract me!
To make me drink of the choice wine of Thine utterance.
Wow, this one really jumped out for me this morning. I remembered that old saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. Here we are beseeching God to “make us drink”. Wow! He can do that? Cool!
Please God, let me not just read your Writings lifelessly, but let me drink from them, taking them into every pore of my being, letting them be the life-giving water that sustains me every single day. And please God, don’t let me forget to read the Writings every morning and eve!
To raise me up to serve Thy Cause that I shall not fall back, nor be hindered by the suggestions of them who have caviled at Thy signs and turned away from Thy face.
I know that God wants me to be of service, and sometimes I used to force myself to doing things that go against every fiber of my being. I’m not sure that’s what God wants anymore. I think He wants us to allow Him to direct our movement and our stillness; rather than being up to me to decide what has to be done. It’s a much gentler way of being, and generates a lot more smiles of contentment when He provides the opportunities which I am able to respond to, easily and effortlessly. So I’m beseeching God to keep raising me up to serve.
It’s so easy to let the tumult of those who don’t believe in God to deter me from doing the right thing – from those who suggest the fast is just a suggestion; to those who tell me it’s OK to lie to the government (by working under the table) because the system is corrupt anyway and that it’s OK because “everybody does it.” I beseech God to not hinder my progress by listening to any voice but His!
To enable me to gaze on the Daystar of Thy Beauty
This reminds me of the “Best Lover” analogy again. When you’re in love you want to gaze forever into your lover’s eyes. It’s hard to imagine doing that with an invisible Lover, but that is just what God is calling on us to do. I think that’s why He gives us such rich poetic language all through the Writings, but especially in this prayer, to help bring out gaze back to the only One of any importance to our existence. I beseech Thee to remember to turn to Thee first, before turning anywhere else for solace and comfort.
To supply me with the wine of Thine utterance.
He’s certainly done that through all of His Writings and His laws and injunctions, which He tells us are His “Choice Wine”. So it’s there for anyone with “eyes to see”. I beseech Thee to keep my eyes open, so that I can dip into Your supply room!
To graciously aid me to do what Thy will hath desired and Thy purpose hath manifested.
Life just works better when I take my orders from God and not from anyone else. Recently when I was feeling hard done by at work; feeling overworked and underpaid, and resentful of a task that had been sent my way, I realized that my money doesn’t come from my job. It comes from God! My job is to be of service to my employer. His job is to give me enough money to satisfy my needs. I beseech Thee to enable me to do Thy Will; to stay attentive to Your Will in the midst of the tumult of so many people pulling at me for my attention.
To grant that I may die to all that I possess and live to whatsoever belongeth unto Thee.
A bumper sticker I saw recently comes to my mind. It said: “He who dies with the most toys, wins”. This is the attitude of many people mired in materialism. But we can’t take any of it with us when we die. We can only take what we make of our souls. So much of my time and attention is taken up by my material wants – will I make enough money this month to buy that “thing?” What do I need to buy next to make my life easier or to be like everyone else? How can I do this job I need to do without this “thing”? It’s all coming from my lower nature. It keeps me trapped in the prison of self, and takes me away from achieving the purpose of my existence, which is to know and worship God. I beseech Thee to enable me to let go of all attachment to material things; to trust that You will give me everything I need, when I need it and not a minute before, so that I can focus on Your Will for me today.
To aid me to remember Thee amongst Thy creatures and to extol Thee amidst Thy people
We all need to teach the Faith. It won’t grow and spread and God’s purpose in sending a new Manifestation won’t be achieved unless we do. The peace we long for in the world will be delayed if we don’t teach. I get so caught up in my life that I often forget, so I’m beseeching Thee to aid me to remember!
To remove me far from whatsoever Thy will abhorreth
Take backbiting, for example! It’s all around me. I can’t walk into my apartment building without hearing it, and it causes me physical pain. Please remove me far from it, so I can’t get caught up in it!
To draw me nigh unto the station wherein He Who is the Dayspring of Thy signs hath shone forth.
We know there are different stations in the next world, and that the highest station is Nearness to God. Everything we do in this world will take me closer or further away. It reminds me a little of the game “Snakes and Ladders” which I played as a child. If I land on a ladder, I can climb up to the next station. If I land on a snake, I slide all the way down it’s back, several levels lower. I may be showing my age – there are probably many more sophisticated versions of video games and computer simulations known by those of a younger generation, but hopefully you get my point! I beseech Thee to let me climb the ladders and avoid the snakes!
To make known unto me what lay hid in the treasuries of Thy knowledge and concealed within the repositories of Thy wisdom.
Don’t we all want to know what’s in Pandora’s Box? Don’t we all want to know what comes next? I beseech Thee to let me know what’s in store for me, and to keep my eyes focused on what I need to partake of Your Treasures.
To number me with such as have attained unto that which Thou hast sent down in Thy Book and manifested through Thy will.
I imagine a pregnant woman, longing to meet her child. The first thing she does after it’s born, is count the fingers and toes and to make sure it’s perfect. The first thing the doctor does is test it on an “Apgar” scale, to make sure it’s perfect. We have very little effect on the condition of the baby at birth. Much of it is determined by God’s Will. In this world though, we seal our fate in the next world by the choices we make here. God is watching, wanting to give us His Heavenly Treasure. He wants to number us among His Perfect Creations. I beseech Thee, to guide my choices towards this end.
To write down for me with Thy most exalted Pen what Thou hast written down for Thy trusted ones and Thy chosen ones.
My time in this world has been largely disappointing, and I desperately long for the next world to be better. I beseech God to write this down for me; to grant me my most cherished desire!
To write down for everyone who hath turned unto Thee, and observed the fast prescribed by Thee, the recompense decreed for such as speak not except by Thy leave, and who forsook all that they possessed in Thy path and for love of Thee.
It sounds like there are bounties for three kinds of people being talked about here:
- Those who observe the Fast
- Those who speak only what God prompts them to speak
- Those who detach themselves from everything in their love for God
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be numbered in all of these categories? I beseech thee!
To cancel the trespasses of those who have held fast to Thy laws, and have observed what Thou hast prescribed unto them in Thy Book.
Finally we’re asking Him to cancel all of our sins; all of the ways we’ve fallen short in our duty, and we can do this, knowing that we have held up our part of the bargain by keeping the Fast. Please God! I beseech Thee!