A Road Leading unto God?

"In this connection it hath been deemed necessary to mention such traditions as have been recorded regarding the blessed and honored city of 'Akká, that haply thou mayest, O Hadi, seek a path unto the Truth, and a road leading unto God."

For those of us living in Northern Tasmania, an opportunity to take the 'road to God' to the Baha'i Holy Places in Akka (Acre) in modern day Israel is a rare, often literally a once in a lifetime, experience. We did our best to substitute something suitable, the hand made road up to Ralph's Falls pictured above. It wasn't, I suppose, a road to God except in the sense that "Whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God." (Qur'an) but it did seem a place where we might feel the presence of Layli.

The Falls are a place of green mossy forest. The height attracts rain which keep the vegetation green.

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Memory of the power of prayer

Today a dear friend posted an old photo on Facebook; a photo which brought memories of one of the first and most concrete experiences of the power of prayer I’ve ever had.

It was the end of the summer of 1991, a summer which brought the Baha’i Faith to my hometown, when a group of Baha’i youth, having served for a year at the Holy Land and before their return to the United States, blessed my home (and hometown) with their presence, and stayed for the summer to share their love for Baha’u'llah.

To celebrate the joy of our friendship, we organized a trip to the Rila Mountain, to visit the Rila Monastery and the Seven Rila Lakes. The hike was long and quite exhausting for we arrived at the mountain lodge way past sunset but the vista in the morning was well worth it. We said morning prayers near the lake and after some snacks started decending down the mountain slopes to the closest village where we could catch a bus back to the city.

What was our surprise when we saw the last bus pass us without even stopping. What used to be an adventure turned into an anxious concern, as we had to deliver safely home on time, as promised, a group of youth whose parents had entrusted us with.

Then somebody suggested we say prayers (I remember thinking, “You guys are totally out of your mind! How would a prayer help,  when we need a bus?”):

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Morning Prayers

I’m putting my hand to translating some prayers, in the hopes of putting together a daybook of devotions at a later date inshallah. I’ve chosen to use the slightly archaic ‘King James’ style language, simply because it is what I loved growing up. I am going through trying to find appropriate prayers to translate, but here are a few I have started off with:

الْحَمْدُ للهِ الَّذِي أَحْيَانَا بَعْدَ مَا أَمَاتَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ

All praise be unto God Who bestoweth upon us life after He causeth us to die, and unto Him is the return.

لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدَ، وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ. سُبْحَانَ اللهِ، وَالْحَمْدُ للهِ، ولَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ، وَاللهُ أَكْبَرُ، وَلَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللهِ العَلِيِّ الْعَظيِمِ، ربِّ اغْفِرلِي

No god is there save God alone Who hath no peer. His is the dominion,
unto Him be all praise, and His power is supreme over all things.

Glory be to God! Praise be to God! No god is there save God, and God is the Most Great. There is no power nor strength except in God, the Most Exalted, the Most Mighty. O Lord, I beg Thee to forgive me.

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Piercing Heaven

Several years ago, in my meanderings through spiritual literature, I ran across the saying "A short prayer pierceth heaven." It kind of caught my attention, because sometimes I had a attitude of "If a little prayer is good, then a whole lot is better" -- which isn't necessarily the case. Thinking about it, mini-prayers are probably the most natural way to pray, which we do without thinking about it. If we hear of a friend of relative in the hospital we'll say -- either out loud or to ourselves -- "Oh, God, let them be all right." I don't know about other mothers, but a short one-sentence prayer asking God to look after one or the other of my children bubbles up naturally when circumstances warrant.

I've never been a big user of the Baha'i prayer book. I always say the obligatory prayers, and I have a few short, memorized favorites. The written prayers are beautiful and inspiring -- and I preferred them to the kind of extemporaneous prayer I grew up with, when I was in a group. A single person praying for a group always felt wrong to me, but Baha'i prayers belong to all of us. On my own, however, it was often difficult for me to find a prayer that says what I really want to say. And what I want to say is usually pretty simple and direct. Almost always, before I go to work, I say "Oh, God! Make me a good teacher today. Let me give the children what they need." Then, I'll add a couple of names of God, just like you find at the end of Baha'i written prayers.

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Pray for good government

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In many Christian churches, and in Sunni Islam in particular, prayers for the ruler or government are a routine part of collective worship. Bahais too are told to pray for their rulers. But we do not seem to be comfortable with it: how often is a prayer for the government part of a Baha’i meeting? Perhaps some background will help.

In his Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Baha’u’llah quotes the Gospel passage “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” and from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…”. Between these two citations, he places a prayer:

“O God, my God, and my Master, and my Mainstay, and my Desire, and my Beloved! I ask Thee by the mysteries which were hid in Thy knowledge, and by the signs which have diffused the fragrance of Thy loving-kindness, and by the billows of the ocean of Thy bounty, and by the heaven of Thy grace and generosity, and by the blood spilt in Thy path, and by the hearts consumed in their love for Thee, to assist His Majesty the Shah with Thy power and Thy sovereignty, that from him may be manifested that which will everlastingly endure in Thy Books, and Thy Scriptures, and Thy Tablets. Hold Thou his hand, O my Lord, with the hand of Thine omnipotence, and illuminate him with the light of Thy knowledge, and adorn him with the adornment of Thy virtues. Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee, and in Thy grasp are the reins of all created things. No God is there but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Bounteous.”

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