Tag Archives Prayer

What is Obligatory Prayer and Why is it Important?

Photo: Victor Bezrukov via Flickr

Prayer, according to the Baha’i Faith, is central to one’s spiritual existence. It is the means by which creation communicates with the Creator.There are numerous prayers revealed by Baha’u’llah, the Bab and ‘Abdu’l- Baha, and each of these prayer express our innermost needs and offer us guidance, in a way that our own words can’t.

In addition to the many revealed prayers, there are also the daily obligatory prayers – revealed by Baha’u’llah – which are to be recited individually and privately, every day. Individuals can choose from one of three prayers – the short obligatory prayer to be said between noon and sunset, the medium obligatory prayer to be recited three times a day, or the long obligatory prayer to be recited anytime during the course of the day.

Bahá’u’lláh states that “obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God”. Abdu’l-Bahá affirms that such prayers are “conducive to humility and submissiveness, to setting one’s face towards God and expressing devotion to Him”, and that through these prayers “man holdeth communion with God, seeketh to draw near unto Him, converseth with the true Beloved of his heart, and attaineth spiritual stations”.

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The Poetry of Prayer

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One of the first Baha’is I ever met exalted in his faith, claiming enthusiastically: “It’s the complete package!”

I now know what he means.

At the centre is a towering spiritual figure, Baha’u’llah. Then there are inspiring teachings that seem so clearly the remedy for this age and blueprint for the future. And don’t let me forget– there are astoundingly beautiful holy places.

Then there are the prayers. Oh, the prayers. They are like the bow that ties together the complete package.

Here are some excerpts to illustrate what I mean.

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4 Ways to Achieve Prayerfulness

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When I first became a Baha’i, the concept of obligatory prayer was new to me. I went from only saying prayers when I needed divine intervention to rescue me from impending academic doom (i.e. every semester, during exam period) to trying to fulfil the various spiritual obligations for a Baha’i life. Obligatory prayer, 95 Allah’u’Abhas, reading from the scriptures at morning and night, remembering to bring myself to account each day – talk about a spiritual regime! For an undisciplined soul like mine, it felt like spiritual boot camp!

Nearly two years later, I still find myself struggling – particularly with obligatory prayer.

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The Prayer Book

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When I became Baha’i, the concept of prayer wasn’t new to me. I had been raised with the knowledge that prayer is an important component of our spiritual growth and a means of drawing nearer to God. Although I had been taught to say the Lord’s Prayer and reflect on it as the model of prayer that Jesus had revealed, my personal experience of prayer had generally been limited to spontaneous prayer – that is, the act of saying whatever came to mind based on what I felt I needed to ask for, like a child would to a parent.

So when I came across my first Baha’i prayer book, I remember finding the concept of reading prayers that had been revealed (instead of just saying whatever came to mind) to be somewhat foreign and very interesting. The typical Baha’i prayer book consists of a collection of prayers revealed by the Bab, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and usually categorises them under headings such as “Aid and Assistance”, “Children”, “Detachment” and so forth, depending on the content of the prayers. I remember looking through the categories in my prayer book, somewhat bemused.

Which section should I turn to when I want to pray for a difficult situation with a friend? What about a desperate prayer for help specifically for a person about to sit an exam that she hadn’t studied enough for because she was too busy watching funny videos of cute kittens on Youtube the night before? For someone who had spent her life only really praying in times of need, the prayer book with it’s numerous categories of revealed prayers confused me. It truly was a foreign concept.

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