Friday, February 7, 2014

The Long Obligatory Prayer, Part 4

O Thou the Desire of the world and the Beloved of the nations! Thou seest me turning toward Thee, and rid of all attachment to anyone save Thyself, and clinging to Thy cord, through whose movement the whole creation hath been stirred up. I am Thy servant, O my Lord, and the son of Thy servant. Behold me standing ready to do Thy will and Thy desire, and wishing naught else except Thy good pleasure. I implore Thee by the Ocean of Thy mercy and the Daystar of Thy grace to do with Thy servant as Thou willest and pleasest. By Thy might which is far above all mention and praise! Whatsoever is revealed by Thee is the desire of my heart and the beloved of my soul. O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and my doings, nay rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. By Thy Most Great Name, O Thou Lord of all nations! I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love.

Before I look at this paragraph, I feel like I should explain something: There are so many ways to study the Writings. What I am doing here is only one method.

We could, if we wished, look at some of the phrases in the prayer and see how they resonate throughout history. For example, looking at that phrase "the Desire of the world", how is it used in the Qur'an? Or in the Babi writings? Is there some historical feeling associated with it, besides the negative version of not feeling attached to any desire of the world?

But to be honest, I am not interested in doing this kind of study, nor am I particularly good at researching the history involved. So I don't write about it. I do, however, love to read about it in books such as "Learn Well This Tablet", that marvelous book about the Tablet of Ahmad.

Instead, I will play to my strength. What I like to do is look at each paragraph one at a time, and see if we can make any sense of the flow of the entire piece, from one concept to another.

Oh, and it also bears mentioning that there are multiple meanings and layers for each paragraph, each phrase, each word. As Baha'u'llah says in the Kitab-i-Iqan, "Thus it is recorded: 'Every knowledge hath seventy meanings, of which one only is known amongst the people. And when the Qá'im shall arise, He shall reveal unto men all that which remaineth.' He also saith: 'We speak one word, and by it we intend one and seventy meanings; each one of these meanings we can explain.'" I'll feel pretty good if I can just come up with one of those meanings.

We began this prayer by turning to God, awaiting His mercy. Then we called upon Him through the Bab and Baha'u'llah,. His Messengers for this day, asking Him to burn away the veils that have prevented us from beholding His beauty. Following this, we raised our hands in supplication. Supplication, by the way, means to humbly ask for something. But what is it that we are asking for from God?

Here, in this paragraph, we are asking to be a better servant, but let's start at the beginning.

I find it interesting that we call on "the Desire of the world". This is not a phrase I am familiar with, although I can presume it is a reference to Baha'u'llah. In the Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi says, "This is the King of Days, the Day that hath seen the coming of the Best Beloved, He Who through all eternity hath been acclaimed the Desire of the World." So it sure sounds like Baha'u'llah to me. Same thing with "Beloved of the nations". Baha'u'llah uses this phrase a couple of times, and it always seems to be in the context of telling others what they should say, such as in The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Or even here, where He says, "and say" just before this phrase.

And then, after this, it seems like we are describing the beginning of our prayer, having just turned towards God, and focusing only on the prayer to the exclusion of all else (well, at least trying to). We introduce ourselves, which is only courteous. ("Hi God. I'm one of your servants, and the son of one of your servants. Nice to meet you.") We let Him know that we are ready for our daily task, while reminding ourselves that we should only look to God's will, not our own.

Let him then kneel, and bowing his forehead to the ground, let him say:
Exalted art Thou above the description of anyone save Thyself, and the comprehension of aught else except Thee.

So what about this kneeling thing, then? That's a sign of submission, isn't it? And the bowing our forehead to the ground? Even greater submission. It reminds me that submitting to God's will is so difficult that I need this constant reminder. It also reminds me that I am virtually nothing in comparison to God. I am lower than the dust beneath my feet. And yet I am still a noble creation. Hmm. The wonderful complexities of religion.

I am also reminded of Hand of the Cause of God, Enoch Olinga, and how threw himself to the ground like this, full body on the ground, when he was informed of his elevation to the rank of Hand. His submission to the will of God was so incredible, so inspiring.

And all of this physical positioning just further emphasizes what we say. God really is exalted above any possible description we can give. This really is an example of where the physical movement obviously enhances what we say. I just love it.

Maybe I'll leave it here for now, for that's what I'm feeling: insignificant. And you know what? That's a good feeling to have.

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