Friday, June 8, 2012

Make My Prayer a Fire

In one of Baha'u'llah's prayers, I ask God to "make of my prayer a fire that will burn away the veils which have shut me out from Thy beauty". I have often wondered what this means, at least in terms that are practical to my daily life.

It seems to me, and this is, of course, just my own opinion, that these veils are what prevent us from seeing and appreciating those good things we have in our life. What they are, I can't quite explain, but it seems like they might be things like the way we perceive the world around us. Do we see the flaws in everything, or their beneficial qualities? Do we focus on the positive, or only on the negative? In other words, do we see the glass as half-full or half-empty? Or do we just see the glass for what it is?

It seems like this might all be tied into why it is that we pray. I don't mean the spiritual benefits, or the fact that it is a law in the Baha'i Faith. No. I mean, what is it that prompts us to pray in the first place, regardless of our faith?

We can simplistically say that there are three reasons or types of prayer. The first is when we are asking for something. This, to me, seems to be the main reason that most of us pray. We either pray for that promotion at work, or for healing for that person who is so dear to our heart. We are, in short, begging for something, pleading that we get whatever it is that we desire, whether it is good or bad for us.

The second type of prayer would be those prayers of thanks. We can be thanking God for that same promotion, the healing of that aforementioned friend, or perhaps we can just be grateful for all those good things that we have in our life.

I remember a friend of mine who was dying. I was praying for her health. She, however, was saying thanks for all those minutes that she was able to share the Faith with other people throughout the day. It always seemed to me that her prayer was of a higher nature than my own. Oh, and it's not that mine was bad, or wrong, just that hers was... I don't know, more pure.

The third type of prayer is the praise of God. We are not asking for anything. We are not expressing our gratitude for those gifts in our life. We are just expressing our awe and amazement at God and His creation. This, to me, is the highest form of prayer. It is as 'Abdu'l-Baha is reported to have said: "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." And this is good.

But what about those times when we need to express our dismay, our frustration, our pain? What about those times when we just need to vent? Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. After all, sometimes we need to clean out the wound before it can heal.

Let's look at the Fire Tablet, as a beautiful example of this.

We can, if we wish, break it down into four parts. The first part is His lament, beginning at the beginning and continuing until the line, "This Youth is lonely in a desolate land: Where is the rain of Thy heavenly grace, O Bestower of the worlds?"

The second part is the response. It is the Divine, having heard Baha'u'llah's woes and giving Him, or us, a new perspective on it. It begins with, "O Supreme Pen, We have heard Thy most sweet call in the eternal realm", and continues on through, "Dost Thou wail, or shall I wail? Rather shall I weep at the fewness of Thy champions, O Thou Who hast caused the wailing of the worlds."

The third part is Baha'u'llah's reply to this. It is, in its entirety, "Verily, I have heard Thy Call, O All-Glorious Beloved; and now is the face of Bahá flaming with the heat of tribulation and with the fire of Thy shining word, and He hath risen up in faithfulness at the place of sacrifice, looking toward Thy pleasure, O Ordainer of the worlds."

The fourth is the rest of the Tablet: "O ‘Alí-Akbar, thank thy Lord for this Tablet whence thou canst breathe the fragrance of My meekness, and know what hath beset Us in the path of God, the Adored of all the worlds. Should all the servants read and ponder this, there shall be kindled in their veins a fire that shall set aflame the worlds."

In terms of what it means to me, and how I apply this in my own life, I think the first is the venting. It is where I express my pain and my anguish. Of course, by reading of Baha'u'llah's pain and anguish, my own seems smaller. It is not that it is any less real, nor any less painful, just smaller in comparison.

It is the first step that I often have to take in my road towards healing.

But it doesn't stop there.

The second step is to listen. It is to give ear to that new perspective, to see a purpose to the suffering. Without that, the pain becomes meaningless, and the suffering that much worse.

It is at this point that I often think of those Baha'is from Egypt back in the 1920s. They were told by the government that their marriage was not valid because they were Baha'i. Can you imagine their anguish? Oh how they must have suffered. I cannot even begin to think what I would go through if that were to happen to Marielle and me. But then came the new perspective of their trials as seen through the eyes of the Guardian. He proclaimed the judgement of the court in their case throughout the world in quotes such as this: "in Egypt where the Muslim religious courts have formally testified to the independent character of the Faith". Their suffering became infused with a meaning that had deep ramifications on the rest of the Baha'is throughout the world. It was the first time that the independent station of the Baha'i Faith was formally recognized by a court of law. How those friends must have fallen to their knees in gratitude at having been made the instrument of such a pronouncement.

It may not have made their pain any less, but it infused it with a joy that defies comprehension.

And that leads me into the third step where we are to rise to that noble station of radiant acquiescence. Baha'u'llah describes His face as still being red, both with the tribulations He is facing, as well as the power of the holy Word, but He nevertheless rises up in faithfulness and looks to God's pleasure. What a noble example.

It is also worth noting where that phrase, "radiant acquiescence" occurs in the Writings. "The confirmations of the Spirit come", says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence." And again, "Thus whosoever is willing to offer Huququ'lláh", says Baha'u'llah, "spontaneously and in a spirit of radiant acquiescence it would be graciously accepted." Two very profound uses of that phrase.

But this is still not the end. There is a fourth part to that Tablet. It reminds me that if I study Baha'u'llah's life and the trials He face, my own certitude of Faith will be more firm, as promised in the Book of Certitude. "Moreover," it says in that 'book of unsurpassed pre-eminence among the writings of the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation', "the more closely you observe the denials of those who have opposed the Manifestations of the divine attributes, the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God." And through this, somehow, it will kindle in my own "veins a fire that shall set aflame the worlds".

And maybe this will help me see a bit more of God's beauty around me.

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you, Mead. This was a wonderful post to read and such a confirmation. I hope you and your beautiful family are well.