Prayer and Devotional Life


Further Considerations

Prayers and Healing

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.

(Report of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words as quoted in J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 93) [77]

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 supplicate, humbly imploring God’s help—even their prayer hath an effect.

O handmaid of God! The prayers which were revealed to ask for healing apply both to physical and spiritual healing. Recite them, then, to heal both the soul and the body. If healing is right for the patient, it will certainly be granted; but for some ailing persons, healing would only be the cause of other ills, and therefore wisdom doth not permit an affirmative answer to the prayer.

O handmaid of God! The power of the Holy Spirit healeth both physical and spiritual ailments.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, no. 139) [78]

Spirit has influence; prayer has spiritual effect. Therefore, we pray, “O God! Heal this sick one!” Perchance God will answer. Does it matter who prays? God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable. He answers the prayers of all His servants. He answers the prayer of this plant. The plant prays potentially, “O God! Send me rain!” God answers the prayer, and the plant grows. God will answer anyone.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912 (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2007), p. 345) [79]

Ultimately it is God’s will destined for us that will be established, but we are assured that prayer for the sick is efficacious and is often answered. It may take time, but we should have faith.

(From a letter dated 8 November 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [80]

He is delighted to hear you are now fully recovered and again active in your important work for the Cause. However, you should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It—the body—is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation. We don’t have to pray and meditate for hours in order to be spiritual.

(From a letter dated 23 November 1947 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [81]

The Guardian is happy to learn that the prayers of the friends had such a beneficial effect on the healing of Mr. .... Prayer is a ladder on which the soul ascends into Heaven. It is the link with the spiritual realms, and if used with true dedication, brings the spiritual forces to the aid and assistance of the believers in this world.

(From a letter dated 28 March 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to individual believers) [82]

The Importance of Memorization

We should memorize the Hidden Words, follow the exhortations of the Incomparable Lord, and conduct ourselves in a manner which befitteth our servitude at the threshold of the one true God.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet—translated from the Persian) [83]

When your hearts are wholly attracted to the one true God you will acquire divine knowledge, will become attentive to the proofs and testimonies and will commit to memory the glad-tidings concerning the Manifestation of the Beauty of the All-Merciful, as mentioned in the heavenly Scriptures. Then ye shall behold how wondrous are His confirmations and how gracious is His assistance.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet—translated from the Persian) [84]

The Guardian was truly pleased to note that you have already started reading some Bahá’í books, and would specially advise you to endeavour to commit to memory certain passages from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, and in particular, some of His prayers. This training would undoubtedly be of tremendous help to you in your future studies of the Cause, and would also serve to considerably deepen and enrich your own spiritual life at present.

(From a letter dated 10 April 1939 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [85]

The Object of Our Devotion

While praying it would be better to turn one’s thoughts to the Manifestation as He continues, in the other world, to be our means of contact with the Almighty. We can, however, pray directly to God Himself.

(From a letter dated 27 April 1937 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India and Burma) [86]

You have asked whether our prayers go beyond Bahá’u’lláh: it all depends whether we pray to Him directly or through Him to God. We may do both, and also can pray directly to God, but our prayers would certainly be more effective and illuminating if they are addressed to Him through His Manifestation, Bahá’u’lláh.

Under no circumstances, however, can we, while repeating the prayers, insert the name Bahá’u’lláh where the word “God” is used. This would be tantamount to a blasphemy.

(From a letter dated 14 October 1937 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [87]

In regard to your question: we must not be rigid about praying; there is not a set of rules governing it; the main thing is we must start out with the right concept of God, the Manifestation, the Master, the Guardian—we can turn, in thought, to any one of them when we pray. For instance you can ask Bahá’u’lláh for something, or, thinking of Him, ask God for it. The same is true of the Master or the Guardian. You can turn in thought to either of them and then ask their intercession, or pray direct to God. As long as you don’t confuse their stations, and make them all equal, it does not matter much how you orient your thoughts.

(From a letter dated 24 July 1946 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [88]

If you find you need to visualize someone when you pray, think of the Master. Through Him you can address Bahá’u’lláh. Gradually try to think of the qualities of the Manifestation, and in that way a mental form will fade out, for after all the body is not the thing, His Spirit is there and is the essential, everlasting element.

(From a letter dated 31 January 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [89]

… the Spirit of God reaches us through the Souls of the Manifestations. We must learn to commune with Their Souls and this is what the martyrs seemed to have done, and what brought them such ecstasy of joy that life became nothing. This is the true mysticism, and the secret, inner meaning of life, which humanity has at present drifted so far from.

(From a letter dated 28 July 1950 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Manchester, England) [90]

As regards your question: Bahá’u’lláh is, of course, not God and not the Creator; but through Him we can know God, and because of this position of Divine Intermediary, in a sense, He is all (or the other Prophets) we can ever know of that Infinite Essence which is God. Therefore, we address ourselves in prayer and thought to Him, or through Him to that Infinite Essence behind and beyond Him.

(From a letter dated 4 June 1951 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to individual believers) [91]

We must not pray to the Guardian as to God; whoever we turn to when we pray, we must have the correct concept of the station of that person: Bahá’u’lláh as the Supreme Manifestation of God, the Master as the Perfect Man, the Centre of the Covenant, the Guardian as his functions are defined in the Master’s Will. The friends need only read the Writings; the answers are all in them; we have no priests in this Faith to interpret or answer for us.

(From a letter dated 23 April 1957 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [92]

Hide note