Devotional Meetings and Prayer
True prayer brings joy, gives strength to overcome difficulties, lifts the mind away from daily cares, and confers inner peace.
"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."
This vision of what prayer can do implies more than a dry and formal recitation of words. The Báb wrote:
"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."
This concept of prayer surpasses the traditional notion that prayer is merely presenting a list of personal wishes to the Creator. Rather, the Bahá'í teachings present prayer as a means for drawing nearer to God and for seeking to harmonise our hopes and plans with God's will. Prayer helps us develop a radiant confidence that is not dependent on success or failure, good fortune or calamity.
To pray for good health, assistance in solving problems, the welfare of loved ones, and so forth, is natural, and a fitting expression of our dependence on the blessings of God. But when things do not turn out as we would like, it is also fruitful to pray for understanding of the wisdom behind events and for the ability to accept difficulties as well as blessings. This is the key to contentment.
Prayer offered in a dynamic spirit is energising and does not engender a passive approach to life. In fact, prayer is only meaningful when it is lived out in action and converted into tangible results. The clarity of mind that comes through prayer leads to better choices and more effective actions.
Prayer is not a substitute for material solutions. For example, if one is ill, it is necessary to see a doctor, as well as to pray for healing. The skill of the doctor can be seen as one of the means through which the prayer is answered. At the same time, the upliftment of prayer can aid the healing process, as the body's powers of recovery are greater when a person is in good spirits.
In the Bahá'í Faith prayer is practised in various forms, including daily obligatory prayer, other personal prayer, and collective worship by way of devotional gatherings and community events.
Obligatory prayer is the daily performance of one of the three special prayers which Bahá'u'lláh provided for this purpose – one of which is brief and simple, another being somewhat longer, and the third being of about ten minutes’ duration when said aloud. Obligatory prayer is one of the few set forms of worship in the Bahá'í Faith.
Daily obligatory prayer and fasting at a certain time of year are core religious duties of a Bahá'í. Adherence to these spiritual disciplines has a special potency in helping a person to draw nearer to God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote:
"While reciting the Obligatory Prayer, one converseth intimately and shareth secrets with the true Beloved. No pleasure is greater than this, if one proceedeth with a detached soul, with tears overflowing, with a trusting heart and an eager spirit. Every joy is earthly save this one, the sweetness of which is divine."
The obligatory prayers are said individually not as a group or congregation. In their personal devotions Bahá'ís may choose from the numerous prayers written by the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá on a wide variety of themes. Sometimes Bahá'ís may use their own words to pray, but the prayers that form part of the Bahá'í Holy Writings are especially uplifting, eloquent and wide-ranging in the thoughts and emotions they express, so are used often.
As well as their personal prayers Bahá'ís often gather together as families or communities to pray and to read from the holy writings. Bahá'í Houses of Worship have been built in various parts of the world for the purpose of collective worship, and more will be built in the future. 'Abdu'l-Bahá explained:
"The wisdom in raising up such buildings is that at a given hour, the people should know it is time to meet, and all should gather together, and, harmoniously attuned one to another, engage in prayer; with the result that out of this coming together, unity and affection shall grow and flourish in the human heart."
Yet prayer may be offered anywhere, for any spot on earth is blessed "where mention of God hath been made and His praise glorified."
Devotional meetings are held all over the country in homes, Bahá'í centres and hired venues, where people come together to pray and meditate. Devotional meetings often feature readings and prayers from other Faiths and are open to all. For many, devotional meetings provide an opportunity for peace, reflection and revitalisation.
To find out where and when devotional meetings are happening in your area, please contact the Bahá'í National Office.