Monday, January 30, 2012

My Favorite Prayer

"What is your favorite prayer?"

That was the question she asked of me the other day.

I don't remember what I told her, but I know it wasn't really true. I mean, the prayer I shared with her was one I really love, but I can't honestly say that it was more favored by me than any other.

No. The one prayer that I think is really my favorite is one that nobody else would believe. Well, except you, dear Reader, but that's only because you know me so well by now.

No. The prayer that I would say is really my favorite is the one that begins, "My Lord! My Lord! I praise Thee and I thank Thee..." It's by 'Abdu'l-Baha. In Baha'i Prayers. Page 65.

Go ahead. Look it up. I'll wait.


Got it?

No? It's in your prayer book, over there on the left.

(more whistling)

Ah. You got it. I can tell by your expression.

You are probably thinking that it's rather sweet of me to choose that one, that it probably touches my heart and reminds me of a precious time in my life.

Well, I hate to tell you, dear Reader, but you'd be wrong.

Nope. It's because of all the people that I have seen who have read that prayer aloud that I love it so much.

I am convinced that somewhere out there, amidst that wily Concourse on High, there is a spirit whose sole job is to place that prayer in the hands of unsuspecting victims. Young victims. Young male victims. Young male victims who are generally somewhere between the ages of, say, 12 and 15. (Hey, that's the same age range as junior youth. Coincidence? I think not.)

Let's look a bit further into that prayer. I mean, it starts off so well (don't they all). It seems so innocent. So nice. So... harmless.

"...for that whereby Thou hast favored Thine humble maidservant," Wait. Maidservant?

Oh, sure. Why not? 'Abdu'l-Baha often referred to Himself as a maidservant, so we're still on safe ground here.

But by this point the warning bells have begun to ring in that poor soul's mind.

You see, this prayer is often chosen at random by those young males, generally between the ages of, say, 12 and 15, who are asked at the last minute to read a prayer in front of a large gathering, usually well-stocked with those who are nearest and dearest, not to mention close in age, to said young male victim.

Then they stalwartly continue: "...Thy slave beseeching and supplicating Thee, because Thou hast verily guided her unto Thine obvious Kingdom and caused her to hear thine exalted Call in the contingent world and to behold thy Signs which prove the appearance of Thy victorious reign over all things."

Aside from the occasional references to "her", this is still okay. The reader can stand tall, claiming the moral high-ground by demonstrating that they are not homophobic, that there is nothing wrong them reading a prayer that includes the feminine pronoun. After all, nobody sniggers or giggles when a girl reads a prayer laden with masculine personal pronouns, do they? This is but an example of gender equality, right?

"O my Lord," they continue, "I dedicate..."

And they pause. They have a sneaky suspicion, but are not too sure.


Their eyes grow suddenly wider..

"...which is in..."

They want to stop, rewind the page, choose another prayer, but it's too late. Everything is happening in slow motion and all you can do is wait and watch and wince. It's like watching a train wreck as it happens.


By now they realize that they have chosen THAT prayer. The prayer which is the bane of all Baha'i boys. The prayer that they will all, sooner or later, read by accident, thanks to that one soul who was accidentally allowed to consort with the concourse. That spirit who exemplifies that most mis-understood attribute of God, referred to only once in the Baha'i Writings, "the Humorist", but fails to demonstrate that other important attribute, "the Compassionate".

They probably close their eyes at this point, and read the next word from memory.


You can hear the deep bass echoing reverb of that singular word as it crashes before them.

If they were to open their eyes at this moment, they would most likely see a room full of people valiantly pursing their lips, struggling not to giggle or snigger or show any emotion whatsoever for fear of offending said young male victim. Most in the audience will sit there with their eyes closed, with only a bit of wrinkling around the corners of their mouth, but a few will have jiggling shoulders as they try to hold back and stifle the laughter that is welling up inside of them. Rarely, very rarely, but I have seen it on occasion, someone will let out a tiny spark of a laugh, which is enough. If even one person lets out a single sound, the combustion factor of the room explodes in a burst of laughter that the poor soul will hear for the rest of their traumatized life. They will wake up in the middle of the night, well into their 30s, sweating and shaking as the sound of that laughter fades from their dream turned nightmare. Fortunately, this almost never happens.

Now that this hurdle has been successfully passed, now that the WORD hath been spoken, they know that there is nothing to do but continue on to the bitter end.

"...unto Thee. Then cause it to be a praiseworthy child in Thy Kingdom and a fortunate one..."

Yes, they will think, cause them to be fortunate. Don't let them be a boy who will ever fall victim to this most embarrassing prank of the spiritual realm.

" Thy favor and Thy generosity; to develop and to grow up under the charge of Thine education. Verily, Thou art the Gracious!"

Oh yes, they may think, really gracious.

"Verily, Thou art the Lord of Great Favor!"

Yeah, they will often say deep within their heart, thanks a lot.

Yup. I would have to say, out of all the prayers I have ever heard or seen read aloud, this one has to be my favorite.


  1. Hilarious! that prayer should come with a warning sign in front of it! "For pregnant ladies only" or something. Or that symbol they use in parking lots what means the same thing. I can see why it's your favourite prayer though. I've heard similar stories of the prayer that says "I'm a broken-winged bird" read by young very muscled men... Obviously men need to preread, eh?

  2. My favorite prayer:

    God is Great
    God is Good
    Let us thank Him for our Food


  3. Had someone remarked afterwards that this was a prayer his mother said for him......

  4. Ha! Thank you! This was so funny. Yes, indeed, I have been witness to this specific "prank of the spiritual realm" on multiple occasions and I still giggle to myself about it. Although I would point out that even reading this prayer as a young woman (perhaps especially as a young woman) can be mortifying, because you can give a very wrong impression :-) But, now that I think of it I don't know that I've ever seen a young woman read it in public - which is maybe a testament to the female attribute of pre-reading.

  5. A young man, just 19, signed his declaration card after reading a single Baha'i book (The Earth is But One Country). After eagerly signing his card he was invited to say a prayer with the small group of Baha'is present. He missed "that" prayer by opened the prayer book to p. 90 - a healing prayer for a woman. I held my breath (in a way described above) wondering how he would respond to the intent of the prayer, and after reading it he said, "I think the woman in this prayer is the Earth, which in such need of healing." "Wow!" I thought. Fast forward over a few decades -- he now serves on the Board of Counsellors in Asia.