Friday, August 15, 2014

Dawn Prayers, Day 4

"I give praise to Thee,", Baha'u'llah says in one of the morning prayers, "O my God, that Thou hast awakened me out of my sleep, and brought me forth after my disappearance, and raised me up from my slumber. I have wakened this morning with my face set toward the splendors of the Daystar of thy Revelation, through Which the heavens of Thy power and Thy majesty have been illumined, acknowledging Thy signs, believing in Thy Book, and holding fast unto Thy Cord."

This is one of the prayers I have been saying most mornings during this experiment with dawn prayers. (I know. It just seemed like a good one to use. I tried using the one that begins with "I am Thy servant and the son of Thy servant", but I've always felt awkward with that one. My Dad was an atheist, and try as I might, I just don't feel worthy enough to consider myself a servant of God.) (I'm sure the interview for the position is actually quite easy, but I just don't feel I have the necessary qualifications or experience.) (And now back to our regularly scheduled blog.)

"I give praise". Isn't that what started this whole thing? A place where souls gather at daybreak for humble invocation and communion? I give praise, truly I do.

"That Thou hast awakened me out of my sleep." (Wait. What? My alarm clock is God?) It's always good to be grateful for awakening to another beautiful day. I mean, one of these days I'm going to wake up dead, so I try to be grateful for every day I wake up alive.

"And brought me forth after my disappearance." When I read this phrase, a seal popped his head out of the water, and I sort of felt that this is what it must be like. I'm asleep, swimming, in a sense, beneath the ocean of existence, and then suddenly wake up, popping up again to take part in the world above. And much as I might like to stay there, in the ocean of His reality, I still need to breathe, and so must come up every now and again, rising "up from my slumber".

As I continued to read, I envisioned myself waking up (which I probably was doing, despite having already driven down to the beach) and appreciating the beauty of God's creation. I breathed deep of the fresh salt air, enjoyed the light spray of moisture on the breeze, welcomed the myriad sounds of nature. I noticed a patch of orange illuminating a small rift in the clouds, a breech of heaven insinuating itself into this realm. And I became even more aware of the book in my lap. (Try as I might, I could find no cord, except the one connecting my spirit to the realms above.)

"I beseech Thee, by the potency of Thy will and the compelling power of Thy purpose, to make of what Thou didst reveal unto me in my sleep the surest foundation for the mansions of Thy love that are within the hearts of Thy loved ones, and the best instrument for the revelation of the tokens of Thy grace and Thy loving-kindness." I read this and thought about the shallowness of my dreams. With gratitude I continued to read, truly thankful that it is Baha'u'llah's vision towards which we are aiming, His vision, His dream, and not my own. If it were my own vision that became the foundation of these lofty mansions, then we would all be in trouble, for that foundation would not be solid and stable.

Then I recalled Jesus' statement about how there are many mansions in God's house (John 14:2). It is so beautiful., this idea, this truth that there is a mansion of God's love within the hearts of each every one us. And as this thought passed through my own little one-bedroom mansion I realized that one of my joys is to have other people over to visit. And then I thought, "Well, I better clean the place up." And isn't that one of the purposes of prayer and meditation? To clean up the mansion of our heart?

At the moment I recalled a dream I had of Ruhiyyih Khanum. I asked her why she didn't come to people's dreams more often, and she said, "Why would I want to visit so dirty a place?" I realized that if we don't keep our very thoughts pure, then that itself is staining the purity of our heart. It is like when Jesus said that if someone even thinks about committing adultery, it is as if they have already done it (Matthew 5:28). (Isn't it nice of me to give you these references?)

"The best instrument." What God reveals to us, and in particular to Baha'u'llah, is that very best tool for revealing and recognizing the various signs and tokens of God's grace and love. To me, and please remember that all this is just my own opinion and nothing official (it's been a long time since I've mentioned that), this is a reminder to not only trust in what I know of Baha'u'llah's vision, but also to trust my own instincts. They're there for a reason.

"Do Thou ordain for me through Thy most exalted Pen, O my Lord, the good of this world and of the next. I testify that within Thy grasp are held the reins of all things. Thou changest them as Thou pleasest. No God is there save Thee, the Strong, the Faithful." I really do hope for the good in both this world and the next. Not only for myself, but for those around me. And while it is up to God, I also need to work on it. (More on that in the last paragraph.) But that which is good actually changes from time to time. What is good for me today may not be good for me tomorrow. Something that I enjoy today may prove harmful to me later on. That which I believe right now may prove to be wrong later on. God reveals His laws to us over and over again, but sometimes those very laws change because the needs of the society change. I could go on and on about this, about keeping an open mind and examining all things, but this all fits into a massive study of the Kitab-i-Iqan, and this blog is too short for that.

"Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent." Here I envision someone who has been abused, or through a serious trauma. They have been abased. We have been lowered. Society has taught us that we are far lower than we really are. But Baha'u'llah raises us. He reminds us that we are created noble. He only asks that we arise to that station for which we have been created. He reminds us of our many strengths, and helps us put those strengths to use. Any fears that we may have had find no place left in our heart. And we achieve that wonderful station of certitude when we see the results of what we achieve when we arise to serve.

"Thou disappointest no one who hath sought Thee, nor dost Thou keep back from Thee anyone who hath desired Thee. Ordain Thou for me what becometh the heaven of Thy generosity, and the ocean of Thy bounty. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful." Remember when I said "more on that..."? Now is that time. While God provides the means, it is we who have to take the steps. It is never God that keeps us back, but ourselves. Whether it is through our laziness or our ego, it is always we who put our own obstacles in our own way. Actually, that's not quite true. There are always obstacles in our way. They are a part of nature. But with perseverance and an openness to new ways, we can overcome anything. And with a readiness to be open to other goals, we will see that sometimes the answer to our prayers is not quite what we may have envisioned. God may never keep us back, but sometimes we try to take a long way around, or just give up entirely.

And all of this passed through my mind and my heart as my wife and I sat there this morning, at the very edge of that ocean.

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