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 On a Song and a Prayer – Meditations by George Townshend for Parents

December 14, 2022, in Articles > Books, by

When new parents first come across a prayer beginning with “Fill thou, O God, our home with harmony and happiness” they might well make it a regular part of their private devotions.

It is no wonder. It says everything we want for our family.

The words of the prayer have even become lyrics of a well-loved Baha’i song too. Here it is in full.

Fill Thou, O God, our home

with harmony and happiness,

with laughter and delight,

with radiant kindliness and overflowing joy,

that in the union of our hearts

Thy love may find a lodging place,

And Thou Thyself mayst make this home of ours

Thine Own!

But if anybody starts looking for this prayer among the Baha’i Writings they will not find it.

The author was, in fact, Irishman George Townshend (1876-1957), 1 one of the greatest literary figures of the Baha’i Faith, and one of only 50 Baha’is named a Hand of the Cause of God.

Although George Townshend’s prayers, poems or meditations do not occupy the same station as the sacred Baha’i texts, I understand they may nevertheless be offered by individual Baha’is as part of their devotions.

George Townshend was a cherished co-worker of the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957). His chief contribution was to employ his wonderful abilities with the English language to assist with the Guardian’s translations of the Holy Writings.

What many Baha’is may not realise is that there are many other prayers and meditations written by George Townshend which are of the highest literary standard, inspiring those who read and recite them with their soaring spiritual thoughts, sweet sentiments, and ardent resolutions.

Let us just focus on a few of his 29 prayers and meditations written “For Father and Mother”. They appear in full in a little treasure of a book called The Mission of Baha’u’llah 2 which has all sorts of other gems as well.

In the prayers and meditations he has gifted us, Mr Townshend approaches the experience of parenthood from many directions.

One meditation gives the wise advice to cherish the moments we have with our children.

While they are at your side, love these little ones to the uttermost. Forget yourself. Serve them; care for them; lavish all your tenderness on them. Value your good fortune while it is with you, and let nothing of the sweetness of their babyhood go unprized… Childhood is but for a day. Ere you are aware it will be gone with all its gifts for ever.

But never fear, because our relationship with our babies can remain as they progress through life, as Mr Townshend writes in a farewell to the babyhood of his son, Brian. 3

And though all the years, you and I, please God, will be the closer friends and comrades because we have loved each other so dearly in the baby-days gone by.

Mr Townshend reminds us in a meditation addressed to a child that we cannot compel them to learn the lessons which we teach them.

You must choose for yourself. Your mother and I are trying—as best we may—to follow the leading of that Guidance, and it is our hope and prayer that you will travel with us.

He gives parents a prayer for the protection of our children:

O watchful and loving Lord! Keep our little ones this day under Thy protection. Permit no evil influence to reach or come near them. Preserve them from illness, from accident, and from all mishap. And in the evening bring them home to their rest in safety and happiness.

So touching are the sentiments expressed in many of his prayers and meditations, that many devoted parents are bound to weep with emotion before they have read them all.

Take this excerpt for example:

Little one, little one of my heart, I am thy first love and the first to give thee a heart in love. When I come near, thou smilest and stretchest out thy little hands. And when I lift thee to me, thou foldest thine arms about my neck, and pressest thy smooth cheek to mine, calling me love names in thy baby-talk… I kneel, and beg of Him Who answers every prayer that through the coming years He will make ever more deep and sweet this early love of ours.

Mr Townshend wrote this ode for his baby daughter, Una (1923-2003), whom Shoghi Effendi later appointed a Knight of Baha’u’llah for being the first Baha’i to reside in Malta. 4

O little one, my Una, April’s child, thou breath of the spring wind embodied!

The bluebells cluster about thy knees; overhead the giant beech trees spread their half-unfolded leaves; across the meadows the cuckoo calls, and from the distant bog comes the curlew’s lonely cry.

How happy art thou, leading the revel of the woods, their native queen, for whom a thousand springs have come and gone to weave thy flower-beauty, and to find their meaning and perfection in these fresh lips and laughing eyes of thine.

O little one, joys more rare than these await thy wakening heart! A richer spring has cast its bounty at thy feet, a greater glory shines from another Heaven.

And never morning breaks nor evening falls but lovers’ prayers go forth to beg the early vision of God’s Golden Age for thee who playest here thinking all happiness is already thine!


If this article has whet your appetite, you can read more about Hand of the Cause George Townshend or purchase a copy of The Mission of Baha’u’llah from a variety of book retailers, directly from its publishing company, George Ronald, or from Bahaibooks.com.au if you’re in Australia.

Footnotes & Citations
  1. For a biography see George Townshend by David Hofman. Oxford: George Ronald, 1983[]
  2. The Mission of Baha’u’llah and Other Literary Pieces. Oxford, George Ronald, 1952, reprinted 1976[]
  3. 1920-1988. Brian assisted his father with his correspondence.[]
  4. Baha’i World News Service. “Historic role in Ireland and Malta. Retrieved from https://news.bahai.org/story/234/[]
Posted by

Michael Day

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.
Michael Day

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