A Bahá’í Perspective: Prayer enriches the soul

Flora Teckie

PRAYER is a means of communicating with our Creator. Prayer enriches us spiritually and is a primary tool for our spiritual development.
Some of us may be asking whether there is need for praying, because God is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. He knows what we want and what we need. Then why should we pray?
“If one friend loves another, is it not natural that he should wish to say so? Though he knows that that friend is aware of his love, does he still not wish to tell him of it? It is true that God knows the wishes of all hearts; but the impulse to pray is a natural one, springing from man’s love to God”, say the Bahá’í Writings.
We pray for various reasons: to praise God, to thank Him for all His bounties and blessings – and not only when we need something or we have difficult times in our lives. If a child approaches his father only when he is in need of funds or when he is in trouble, how would his father feel?
“In the highest prayer,” the Bahá’í Writings affirm, “men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear Him or hell, or hope for bounty or heaven. …When a man falls in love with a human being, it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the Name of God when one has come to love Him. . . The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God”.
Prayer is food for the soul. Our soul needs regular nourishment, in the same way as our body needs to be fed daily and regularly. If we are starved for some time we do not feel the hunger pangs any more. The same is true for our soul. If we do not communicate with God through prayer regularly, we may not feel the necessity of doing so; yet our soul is in need of this nourishment to remain healthy and strong.
Prayer and meditation are primary tools for our spiritual development. We commune with God through prayer and receive guidance through studying the Words of God. The process of spiritual development requires moral choices, often involving challenges. Through ardent, sincere and regular prayers our souls will be strengthened and we can more easily overcome challenges and obstacles in life. When we pray it is important to centre our thoughts and our innermost being on God and forget what is going on around us. We should reflect on the words we say. The mere repetition of words is of no value. Sincerity of heart and concentration of mind is what matters most. Praying with sincerity draws spiritual blessings that flow from the source of love and mercy to humanity.
Bahá’í Writings encourage individuals to be both deeply spiritual and highly practical. While encouraged to pray and meditate every day, at the same time, we are to be engaged with the world at large. Service to humanity, for example, is viewed among the highest priorities in one’s life.
“Prayer and meditation are very important factors in deepening the spiritual life of the individual, but with them must go also action and example, as these are the tangible results of the former. Both are essential”.
Service to humanity gives meaning and purpose to life. The Bahá’í Writings elevate work done in the spirit of service to humanity to the rank of worship: “…work is worship when performed in a spirit of service, and can secure the means of existence with dignity and honour”.
Serving others – through promoting the well-being of our fellowmen – can also help us develop our own selves. Serving humanity, together with prayer, meditation and obedience to spiritual and moral laws, enable us to develop spiritually and grow closer to God.
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