June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages. These gatherings are open to all and are intended to embrace that attitude of prayer and practice of devotion that is universal to all religions.
Some Thoughts on My Favorite Prayer for Protection
If you were going to ask me to dive into the treasury of Baha’i prayers and select my favourite jewel, I would say that I love too many to be able to select just one. But if you insisted, I would choose the prayer that is my favorite at this particular moment.
I had been looking for prayers for protection (haven’t we all?) and came to the very last one in that section of my prayer book. In this prayer, which I’ve quoted in full at the bottom, Abdu’l-Baha rises above my already heightened expectations, and soars in the sublime regions attained only by the divinely inspired poets. Surely this prayer illustrates this wonderful tradition quoted by the blessed Bab in The Dawn-Breakers:
Treasures lie hidden beneath the throne of God; the key to those treasures is the tongue of poets. 1
I want to point to some parts of the prayer that thrill and inspire me but with the provision that these are just examples. It would surely reward you if you read and recite the prayer for yourself to find many other facets of this shining gem. Just the opening salutation is enough to pick you up and fill you with joy:
O Thou kind and loving Providence!
In these testing times, it is surely important for our progress and happiness to focus on this description of our Creator. And when we see the rising interest today in the concepts of world unity, of organized cooperation being so important in a global society, we will recognize in the following words what is emerging out of our current travail.
The anthems of divine unity are being chanted and the ensigns of celestial might are waving.
And when we read accounts of what the youth are doing in such beleaguered countries as Italy, we will witness the truth of these inspired lines.
The beloved of the Lord, with their musk-scented breath, burn like bright candles in every clime, and the friends of the All-Merciful, even as unfolding flowers, can be found in all regions. Not for a moment do they rest; they breathe not but in remembrance of Thee, and crave naught but to serve Thy Cause.
If we think that Abdu’l-Baha has already reached the peak of His poetic powers with those words, we are not yet aware of the magnificence that is coming.
With mystic flowers they adorn the walks of the Garden of Reality; as swaying cypresses they line the riverbanks of the Divine Will. Above the horizon of being they shine as radiant stars; in the firmament of the world they gleam as resplendent orbs. Manifestations of celestial grace are they, and daysprings of the light of divine assistance.
It becomes difficult to contain my emotions at this point in the prayer as Abdu’l-Baha delivers these images to us. The Master then asks God that we may all stand firm and steadfast so that
…from the ocean of Thy grace a mist may rise, that the kindly showers of Thy love may bestow freshness, and the zephyr waft its perfume from the rose garden of divine unity.
The prayer asks the Almighty to “shield us and be our refuge”, warns us against negative forces, and then moves to the climax of our supplication. (And if you haven’t heard it already, The Licata Brothers sing this excerpt beautifully in this Baha’i Blog Studio Session.)
O Thou divine Providence, preserve and protect us! O Thou Who art our Shield, save us and defend us! Keep us beneath Thy Shelter, and by Thy Help save us from all ills.Thou art, indeed, the True Protector, the Unseen Guardian, the Celestial Preserver, and the Heavenly Loving Lord.
Here is just one sentence from the extended version that you could consider during this current worldwide crisis.
Study the Tablet of the Holy Mariner that ye may know the truth and consider that the Blessed Beauty hath fully foretold future events.
Indeed, I think that the study of this prayer, and its longer version, and the Tablet of the Holy Mariner could lead us to understand more about what our future holds during these uncerain times.
Here is my favorite prayer for protection quoted in full:
O Thou kind and loving Providence! The east is astir and the west surgeth even as the eternal billows of the sea. The gentle breezes of holiness are diffused and, from the Unseen Kingdom, the rays of the Orb of Truth shine forth resplendent. The anthems of divine unity are being chanted and the ensigns of celestial might are waving. The angelic Voice is raised and, even as the roaring of the leviathan, soundeth the call to selflessness and evanescence. The triumphal cry Ya Baha’u’l-Abha resoundeth on every side, and the call Ya ‘Aliyyu’l-‘Ala ringeth throughout all regions. No stir is there in the world save that of the Glory of the One Ravisher of Hearts, and no tumult is there save the surging of the love of Him, the Incomparable, the Well-Beloved.
The beloved of the Lord, with their musk-scented breath, burn like bright candles in every clime, and the friends of the All-Merciful, even as unfolding flowers, can be found in all regions. Not for a moment do they rest; they breathe not but in remembrance of Thee, and crave naught but to serve Thy Cause. In the meadows of truth they are as sweet-singing nightingales, and in the flower garden of guidance they are even as brightly-colored blossoms. With mystic flowers they adorn the walks of the Garden of Reality; as swaying cypresses they line the riverbanks of the Divine Will. Above the horizon of being they shine as radiant stars; in the firmament of the world they gleam as resplendent orbs. Manifestations of celestial grace are they, and daysprings of the light of divine assistance.
Grant, O Thou Loving Lord, that all may stand firm and steadfast, shining with everlasting splendor, so that, at every breath, gentle breezes may blow from the bowers of Thy loving-kindness, that from the ocean of Thy grace a mist may rise, that the kindly showers of Thy love may bestow freshness, and the zephyr waft its perfume from the rose garden of divine unity.
Vouchsafe, O Best Beloved of the World, a ray from Thy Splendor. O Well-Beloved of mankind, shed upon us the light of Thy Countenance.
O God Omnipotent, do Thou shield us and be our refuge and, O Lord of Being, show forth Thy might and Thy dominion.
O Thou loving Lord, the movers of sedition are in some regions astir and active, and by night and day are inflicting a grievous wrong.
Even as wolves, tyrants are lying in wait, and the wronged, innocent flock hath neither help nor succor. Hounds are on the trail of the gazelles of the fields of divine unity, and the pheasant in the mountains of heavenly guidance is pursued by the ravens of envy.
O Thou divine Providence, preserve and protect us! O Thou Who art our Shield, save us and defend us! Keep us beneath Thy Shelter, and by Thy Help save us from all ills. Thou art, indeed, the True Protector, the Unseen Guardian, the Celestial Preserver, and the Heavenly Loving Lord.
Michael Day is the author of "Journey to a Mountain", "Coronation on Carmel" and "Sacred Stairway", a trilogy that tells the story of the Shrine of the Bab, as well as a photo book “Queen of Carmel" on the same topic. He also authored the 2021 publication "Fragrance of Glory: An account of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha". He was a journalist for daily newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. Then, from 2003-2006, he was the editor of the Baha’i World News Service at the Baha’i World Centre. Now based in Benowa, Gold Coast, Australia, he is researching and writing on aspects of Baha’i history.
Jim (April 4, 2020 at 5:55 PM)
Happy & Joyous Naw’ruz to you and your family.❣️❣️
Ya Baha’ul’Abha…Ya Aliy’ul’Ala ❣️❣️
Loved this post Michael
Geoffrey Mohan (March 3, 2021 at 9:14 AM)
Excellent, Michael, I loved this.
You’re the man.
Grant Hindin Miller (April 4, 2020 at 10:13 PM)
I am very glad about that, Grant. Thanks for letting me know.
Michael V Day (April 4, 2020 at 7:00 PM)
Most beautiful, clarifying and inspiring. I was not familiar with this most beautiful of prayers. Thank you.
Phyllis Ruocco (March 3, 2021 at 9:00 AM)