When we pray, we must first remember that we are in the presence of God, the Almighty, and to be humble and reverent before Him. Before we begin praying, we must take time to clear our minds of the things of this world, and to focus and centre ourselves on God. We take a prayerful posture with our bodies, to help us concentrate. Often, this means doing things like sitting with our hands together or our arms crossed, and our eyes closed. We speak clearly when we read a prayer or recite one from memory, and when others around us are praying, we listen quietly and carefully, as if we are praying along with them.
People who saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in prayer would always feel so impressed with how totally centred on God he was. It was as if he was transported to another world while praying, forgetting everything except God and conversing with Him.
prayers/readings for study
O SON OF LIGHT! Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it. (Bahá’u’lláh)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá teaches an American Baha’i how to pray (see reference, below).
After having the children stretch in their squares, ask them to pantomime actions related to gentleness and reverence, for example, helping an injured bird, or standing in the presence of a great king. Then, show the children a prayer book, and explain to them that it is a very special object because it contains the words of God, and that they must be very careful with it and treat it with reverence. Give one child the book, telling him or her “Now it is your turn to hold this special book.” Then ask that child to do the same with another child, and so on, until the last child has the chance to hold the book, at which point that child will return the book to the teacher in the same way.
Drawings #9 (“O Son of Man! Humble thyself…”), #10 (“Be thou happy and well pleased…”), or #20 (“Verily, I supplicate God…”) from Book 3, Grade 1. Although the quotes are different, the drawings are still related.
Print out a large version of drawing #9 (zoomed to 200%) across four sheets of paper, and have groups of children colour each sheet individually. Bring the different sheets together at the end to create a pop art-style poster for the lesson, which you can use as a future reference on how the children are expected to behave during prayers.
“When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in New York, He called to him an ardent Bahá’í and said “If you will come to Me at dawn tomorrow, I will teach you to pray.” Delighted, Mr. M arose at four and crossed the city, arriving for his lesson at six. With what exultant expectation he must have greeted this opportunity! He found ‘Abdu’l-Bahá already at prayer, kneeling by the side of the bed. Mr. M followed suit, taking care to place himself directly across. Seeing that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was quite lost in His Own reverie Mr. M began to pray silently for his friends, his family and finally for the crowned heads of Europe. No word was uttered by the quiet Man before him. He went over all the prayers he knew then, and repeated them twice, three times – still no sound broke the expectant hush.
Mr M surreptitiously rubbed one knee and wondered vaguely about his back. He began again, hearing as he did so, the birds heralding the dawn outside the window. An hour passed, and finally two. Mr. M was quite numb now. His eyes, roving along the wall, caught sight of a large crack. He dallied with a touch of indignation but let his gaze pass again to the still figure across the bed.
The ecstasy that he saw arrested him and he drank deeply of the sight. Suddenly he wanted to pray like that. Selfish desires were forgotten. Sorrow, conflict, and even his immediate surroundings were as if they had never been. He was conscious of only one thing, a passionate desire to draw near to God.
Closing his eyes again he set the world firmly aside, and amazingly his heart teemed with prayer, eager, joyous, tumultuous prayer. He felt cleansed by humility and lighted by a new peace. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had taught him to pray!
The “Master of Akka” immediately arose and came to him. His eyes rested smilingly upon the newly humbled Mr. M. “When you pray”, He said, “You must not think of your aching body, nor of the birds outside the window, nor of the cracks in the wall!”
He became very serious then, and added, “When you wish to pray you must first know that you are standing in the presence of the Almighty!” (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, no. 27, p 131-2)