Thursday, April 15, 2010


"Prayer", says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "is conversation with God."
Of all the words in Baha'u'llah and the New Era, these are probably the ones that I remember best. It helps that they were made even more memorable in Ruhi Book 1, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.

Today, I was reminded of that quote when someone said that they always ask God for something when they pray. "What else can you do?" This was a real heartfelt plea.

The simple answer was to ask, "Why do you pray?"

"Because I need something."

"Why else can you pray?"

The group arose to the occassion and came up with a few more anwers: help, guidance, gratitude, to name just a few.

One person shared the quote, "In the highest prayer, men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear Him or Hell, or hope for bounty or heaven."

Then the question of "conversation" came up. What does it mean to have a conversation? That was when an idea came up that I felt I just had to share here. It really made me think.

"I often talk with my wife," I began. "I could call her right now and ask her to pick up some milk on her way home from work. She would gladly do it. When she gets home I could apologize to her for dropping her favorite bowl and breaking it. And she'd no doubt forgive me. But would either of those conversations help us become closer as a husband and wife? Would we grow to love each other more?"

Nobody thought so, although they did agree that we might grow to resent each other if we didn't have those simple conversations.

We all felt that what really gets us closer, what really keeps us focussed on the same path, is when we tell each other of our love, or discuss spiritual issues together as a couple. This is our joy. This is when we really feel that we grow as a couple.

Our conversations with our Creator can also be like that. Sure, there are times when we need help. My favorite prayer, as you know, is the one that goes, "Oh God, HELP!" And yes, there are times when we need to ask forgiveness (I probably need to do that a lot more than most of you out there). And of course there are those times when we are asking for guidance ("Hmm, should I go to this coffee shop or that one? Where will I meet someone who is interested in hearing about the Faith?").

I have no doubt that God is glad to assist us with each and every one of those prayers, but it is not the same as those loving, heartfelt conversations like the ones where Marielle and I just talk to express our love for each other.
There are many different types of conversations, and they are all important. They all have their place, and we can't neglect any of them, or our relationships with others suffer.
Now I am reminded of Ruhiyyih Khanum, and the time she met with Marcus Bach, just before his famous interview with Shoghi Effendi. They spoke for only a short time, but he said, "She talked as though time and conversation were intended for the deepening of knowledge and faith."
To me, that just sums it up. Time and conversation were created for the deepening of knowledge and faith.
He goes on to say, "...she spoke in the lyrical style of Baha'u'llah Himself, and it was difficult to tell which thoughts were hers and which were His. It was Baha'i philosophy to be sure, but it was presented as though it were her own."
So although this doesn't have to do with prayer, or conversations with my wife, it does have an important point contained within it that I don't want to neglect: Sure we can speak in quotes, quotifying all the time, and never sounding like we have an original thought, but we can also make the Faith our own. We can use our words, sprinkling our conversation with the Holy Writings so that it has greater effect, and the friends with whom we meet know that we are speaking from our heart.
Both are necessary.
We need to constantly deepen our understanding of the Faith so that when we do present, we are presenting the purity of the Faith and not our own mistaken ideas.

W also need to remember to listen when we speak. A conversation is two-way, not just uni-directional. Perhaps this is why the Guardian listed "prayer and meditation" as the first of his five steps of prayer. If our prayer is when we speak to God, meditation is when we listen. But I've spoken at length on this elsewhere.

For now, I need to call my wife. We're out of milk.

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