Annotation: Baha’i Prayers

Perhaps this isn’t true for others, but I have discovered that after one hundred and fifty pages of prayers expounding on the glories of the Almighty, my eyes just started to glaze over. By the end of the 267 page collection, I was frankly beginning to think that if God is so damn great, then maybe He could afford to be a bit more modest. I realize that is a bit unfair: prayers are meant to be taken in relatively small doses, not read through as a book.

The particular version I read through is the one I was given in 1989 by my parents. Despite having read specific prayers out of it on many occasions, I’d never actually read through the entire thing. Though not immediately relevant to the topic, I would like to say I was quite impressed with the binding and typography in this book: it is significantly more readable than many other more modern books, in my opinion. I think typography is to some degree a lost art, form taking precedence over function in recently published novels and magazines.

Baha’i Prayers is a collection of prayers from the three major individuals from the Faith: Baha’u’llah, The Bab, and Abdu’l-Baha. It’s organized first by type of prayer (obligatory, general, or occasional), and then by topic. The topic categories are somewhat arbitrary (“Forgiveness” discusses God forgiving you for the sins you’ve done, for instance, rather than supplicating to find the strength to forgive), but beyond trying to figure out whether the category was talking about what you were asking for or asking for more of, it actually was pretty reasonably arranged.

There are a few prayers that I am particularly fond of. First and foremost is one that is called the Remover of Difficulties: “Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!” (The Bab 28). I’ve found this to be particularly useful as a litany or mantra, because of how short it is. It provides something to focus on rather than whatever it is that is troubling you. Frankly, I think it is the prayer that I most identify with (in an ideal world, anyway). The general sentiment I get out of this prayer is that sometimes you just need to let go and let things work out on their own (let God handle it). It’s a philosophy I find I agree with pretty strongly: we free up far more time for things we WANT to do, if we stop stressing over the things that we DON’T want to do. (That is not to say that you can choose to not do them: the point of a prayer like this is to help put you in the right mindset to get through something, not to just avoid it with the belief that someone else will do it.)

Another prayer that I found interesting (and had not realized had been included) was the Tablet of the Holy Mariner, which is considered to be the primary writing on mysticism in the Baha’i Faith. It has a different arrangement than the other prayers and writings I’ve seen, done more as a form of epic poem or parable. The story it tells is broken up, however, as each line is separated by the phrase, “Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!” I found the story interesting, though convoluted at the end (I reread the passage three times, and I’m still having a bit of trouble following it). Particular passages leave me intrigued as to what exactly Baha’u’llah meant when he wrote it. It is a topic better devoted to its own essay, however, so I’ll only point out one in particular, before I move on:

They have desired to ascend unto that state which the Lord hath ordained to be above their stations.
Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!
Whereupon the burning meteor cast them out from that abide in the Kingdom of His Presence,
Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious! (Baha’u’llah 224)

Given my penchant for science fiction and extrapolative history, this passage (and the rest of the piece) really just fascinates the hell out of me. It suggests a far more robust past than we currently give our ancestors credit for (despite the monumental amount of information that we lost in the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, and the numerous book burnings that have occurred over the past two thousand years in both eastern and western civilizations).

This is an excellent collection of Baha’i prayers. It is not all of them, but it is a fairly respectable number, and successfully captures the breadth of topics and the style of Baha’i prayers. There is a capacity for spiritual exploration here found by reflecting on various prayers, but I will say again: it is far better in small doses than it is read straight through.

Baha’u’llah, et al. Baha’i Prayers. Baha’i Publishing Trust.