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STAR OF THE WEST
"We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; that all nations shall become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men shall be strengthened; that diversity of religion shall cease and differences of race be annulled. So it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come."—BAHA'O'LLAH.
Vol. VIII Azamat 1, 73 (May 17, 1917) No. 4
The Divine Art of Living
A COMPILATION BY MRS. MARY M. RABB
(Chapter I appeared in issue No. 16, Vol. VII; Chapter II appeared in No. 18, Vol. VII; Chapter III appeared in No. 2, Vol. VIII)
Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.
(Words of Jesus.)
There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer.
Man must live in a state of prayer. The most blessed condition is the condition of prayer and supplication. Prayer is conversation with God. The greatest attainment or the sweetest state is none other than conversation with God. It creates spirituality, creates mindfulness and celestial feelings, begets new attractions of the Kingdom and engenders the susceptibilities of the higher intelligence. The highest attribute given to his holiness Moses is the following verse: "God carried along a conversation with Moses."
What is prayer? It is conversation with God. While man prays he sees himself in the presence of God. If he concentrates his attention he will surely at the time of prayer realize that he is conversing with God. Often at night I do not sleep, and the thoughts of this world weigh heavily on my mind. I toss uneasily in my bed. Then in the darkness of the night I get up and pray—converse with God. It is most sweet and uplifting.
Prayer and supplication are so effective that they inspire one's heart for the whole day with high ideals and supreme sanctity and calmness. One's heart must be sensitive to the music of prayer. He must feel the effect of prayer. He must not be like an organ from which softest notes stream forth without having consciousness of sensation in itself.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, March 15, 1914.)
Prayer and supplication are two wings whereby man soars toward the heavenly mansion of the True One. However, verbal repetition of prayer does not suffice. One must live in a continual attitude of prayer. When man is spiritually free his mind becomes the altar of prayer and his heart the sanctuary of prayer. Then the meaning of
the verse, "We will lift up from before his eyes the veil," will become fulfilled in him.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, June 18, 1914.)
Abdul-Baha said we should speak in the language of heaven—in the language of the spirit—for there is a language of the spirit and heart. It is as different from our language as our own language is different from that of the animals, who express themselves only by cries and sounds.
When we pray to God a feeling fills our hearts. This is the language of the spirit which speaks to God.
When in prayer we are freed from all outward things and turn to God, then it is as if in our hearts we heard the voice of God. Without words we speak, we communicate, we converse with God and hear the answer. It is said that Moses in the wilderness heard the voice of God. But that wilderness, that holy land was his own heart. All of us when we attain to a true spiritual condition can hear the voice of God speaking to us in that wilderness. We must strive to attain to that condition by being separated from all things and from the people of the world and by turning to God alone. It will take some effort on the part of man to attain to that condition but he must work for it, strive for it. We can attain to it by thinking and caring less for material things and more for the spiritual. The further we go from the one, the nearer we are to the other—the choice is ours!
Our spiritual perception, our inward sight must be opened so that we can see the signs and traces of God's spirit in everything. Everything can reflect to us the light of the spirit.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; extract from a talk given to Miss Laura Barney.)
When asked if prayer was necessary since presumably God knows the wishes of all our hearts Abdul-Baha said:
"If one friend feels love for another he will wish to say so. Though he knows that the friend is aware that he loves him, he will still wish to say so. If there is anyone that you love do you not seek an opportunity to speak with him, to speak lovingly with him, to bring him gifts, to write him letters? If you do not feel such a desire it would be that you did not love your friend. God knows the wishes of all hearts. But the impulse to pray is a natural one springing from man's love to God.
"If there be no love, if there be no pleasure or spiritual enjoyment in prayer, do not pray. Prayer should spring from love, from the desire of the person to commune with God. Just as the lover never ceases from wishing to communicate with the beloved so does the lover of God always wish for constant communication with the Deity.
"Prayer need not be in words, but in thought and attitude. But if this love and this desire are lacking it is useless to try to force them. Words without love mean nothing. If a person talks to you as an unpleasant duty with no love or pleasure in his meeting with you, do you wish to converse with him? Efforts should first be made to make attachment to God."
When asked how this attachment is to be made, how the love of God is to be obtained, since there are many people in the world who admit the existence of a Deity but without any emotion, Abdul-Baha, said:
"Knowledge is love. Study, listen to exhortations, think, try to understand the wisdom and greatness of God. . . . The soil must be fertilized before the seed be sown."
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from an article in The Fortnightly Review, June, 1911, by Miss E. S. Stevens.)
Man becomes like a stone unless he continually supplicates to God. The
heart of man is like a mirror which is covered with dust and to cleanse it one must continually pray to God that it may become clean. The act of supplication is the polish which erases all worldly desires. The delight of supplicating and entreating before God cuts one's heart from the world. When the taste of man is nourished by honey he never likes to taste any other sweetmeat. Therefore, prayer is a key by which the doors of the kingdom are opened. There are many subjects which are difficult for man to solve. But during prayer and supplication they are unveiled and there is nothing that man cannot find out. Mohammed said: "Prayer is a ladder by which every one can ascend to heaven." If one's heart is cut from the world his prayer is the ascension to heaven.
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. Thus the souls in whose hearts the fire of love is enkindled are attracted by supplication. True supplication to God must therefore be actuated by love to God only. . . . When a man falls in love with a human being it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the name of God when one has come to love him. One can pray for the dead and by so doing their spiritual condition will become better. The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God. When one is confirmed his heart becomes rejoiced through the commemoration of God.
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from notes of Miss Alma Albertson and other pilgrims, November and December, 1900.)
O thou daughter of the Kingdom! Know thou that supplication and prayer is the Water of Life. It is the cause of the vivification of existence and brings glad tidings and joy to the soul. Show thou attention to this matter as far as thou canst and summon others to prayer and supplication.
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from tablet to an American believer; translated by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, December 14, 1906.)
Question: "What is! prayer, attitude or word?"
Answer: "Prayer is both attitude and word, it depends upon the soul-condition. It is like a song, both words and music make the song. Sometimes the melody will move us, sometimes the words."
(Words of Abdul-Baha; Ten Days in the Light of Acca, p. 15.)
The prayerful attitude is attained by two means. Just as a man who is going to deliver a lecture prepares therefor and his preparation consists of certain meditations and notations, so the preparation for the prayerful attitude is detaching one's mind from all other thoughts save the thought of God at the time of prayer and then praying when the prayerful attitude shall be attained.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; A Heavenly Feast, p. 19.)
Supplication to God at morn and eve is conducive to the joy of hearts, and prayer causes spirituality and fragrance. Thou shouldst necessarily continue therein. (p. 186.)
Neglect not praying and communing in the gloomy midnights and morn and eve and offer glory unto thy Lord, the Supreme. (p. 413.)
Know that nothing will benefit thee in this life save supplication and invocation unto God, service in his vineyard, and, with a heart full of love, to be in constant servitude unto him. (p. 98.)
Draw nigh unto God and persevere in communion with thy Lord so that the
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TABLET FROM ABDUL-BAHA.
HE IS GOD!
O thou Star of the West!
Be thou happy! Be thou happy! Shouldst thou continue to remain firm and eternal, ere long, thou shalt become the Star of the East and shalt spread in every country and clime. Thou art the first paper of the Bahais which is organized in the country of America. Although for the present thy subscribers are limited, thy form is small and thy voice weak, yet shouldst thou stand unshakable, become the object of the attention of the friends and the center of the generosity of the leaders of the faith who are firm in the Covenant, in the future thy subscribers will become hosts after hosts like unto the waves of the sea; thy volume will increase, thy arena will become vast and spacious and thy voice and fame will be raised and become world-wide—and at last thou shalt become the first paper of the world of humanity. Yet all these depend upon firmness, firmness, firmness!
(Signed) ABDUL-BAHA ABBAS.
fire of God's love may glow more luminously in the heart, its heat grow stronger and give warmth to that region and its sound reach the Supreme Concourse. (p. 639.)
Supplicate unto him and beseech in the middle of the night and at early morn just as a needy and captive one beseeches. It is incumbent upon thee to turn unto the kingdom of God and to pray, supplicate and invoke during all times. This is the means by which thy soul shall ascend upward to the apex of the gift of God. (p. 695.)
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from tablets.)
O thou spiritual friend! Thou hast asked the wisdom of prayer. Know thou that prayer is indispensable and obligatory and man under no pretext whatsoever is excused therefrom unless he be mentally unsound or an insurmountable obstacle prevent him.
The wisdom of prayer is this, that it causes a connection between the servant and the True One because in that state of prayer man with all his heart and soul turns his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking his association and desiring his love and compassion. The greatest happiness for lover is to converse with his beloved, and the greatest gift for a seeker is to become familiar with the object of his longing. That is why the greatest hope of every soul who is attracted to the kingdom of God is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate at the ocean of his utterance, goodness and generosity.
Besides all this, prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and is conducive to protection and preservation from tests.
(Words of Abdul-Baha, Tablets of Abdul-Baha, p. 683.)
As to thy question, "Why pray? What is the wisdom thereof, for God has established everything and executes all affairs after the best order and he ordains everything according to a becoming measure and puts things in their places with the greatest propriety and perfection—therefore what is the wisdom in beseeching and supplicating and in stating one's wants and seeking help?" Know thou, verily, it is becoming of a weak one to supplicate to the strong One and it behooveth a seeker of bounty to beseech the glorious, bountiful One. When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to him and seeks bounty from his ocean this supplication is by itself a light to his heart, an illumination to his sight, a life to his soul and an exaltation to his being.
Therefore, during thy supplications to God and thy reciting "Thy name is my healing" consider how thine heart is cheered, thy soul delighted by the spirit of the love of God and thy mind attracted to the kingdom of God! By these attractions one's ability and capacity increase. When the vessel is widened the water increaseth and when the thirst grows the bounty of the cloud becomes agreeable to the taste of man. This is the mystery of supplication and the wisdom of stating one's wants.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; from tablet to an American believer; translated by Mirza Ali Kuli Khan, October, 1908.)
Man is eternally in a state of communion and prayer with the source of all good. The highest and most elevating state is the state of prayer. Prayer is communion with God. . . . Its efficacy is conditional upon the freedom of the heart from extraneous suggestions and mundane thoughts. The worshipper must pray with a detached spirit, unconditional surrender of the will, concentrated attention and a magnetic spiritual passion. His innermost being must be stirred with the ethereal breeze of holiness. If the mirror of his life is polished from the dross of all desires the heavenly pictures and star-like images of the kingdom of God will become fully reflected therein. Then he will be given power to translate these celestial forms into his own daily life and the lives of many thousands.
Automatic, formalistic prayers which do not touch the core of the heart are of no avail. How sweet, how delicious, how satisfying, how spiritual is prayer in the middle of the night! While all the eyes are closed the eyes of the worshipper are wide open. While all the ears are stopped the ears of the suppliant are attuned to the subtle music of God. While the majority of the people are fast asleep the adorer of the Ideal Beloved is wakeful. All around him there is a rare and delicate silence, deep, airy, ethereal silence, calm, magical and subtle—and there is the worshipper, communing with nature and the author of nature.
(Words of Abdul-Baha: From the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, September 8, 1914.)
Question: "How do saints become saints?"
Answer: "Through prayer, supplication, purification of the heart and good wishes."
(Words of Abdul-Baha; answers to some questions asked by some American pilgrims to Acca, spring of 1907. Mirza Moneer, translator.)
You have asked concerning approval of Christian Science treatment and healing.
Spirit has influence; prayer has spiritual effect. Therefore we pray, "O God! heal this sick one!" Perchance God will answer. Does it matter who prays? God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable. He answers the prayers of all his servants. He answers the prayer of this plant. The plant prays potentially, "O God! Send me rain!" God answers this prayer and the plant grows. God will answer any one. He answers prayers potentially. Before we were born into this world did we not pray, "O God! Give me a mother; give me two fountains of bright milk; purify the air for my breathing; grant me rest and comfort; prepare food for my sustenance and living!" Did we not pray potentially for these needed blessings before we were created? When we came into this world did we not find our prayers answered? Did we not find mother, father, food, light, home and every other necessity and blessing although we did not actually ask for them? Therefore it is natural that God will
give to us when we ask him. His mercy is all-encircling.
But we ask for things which the divine wisdom does not desire for us and there is no answer to our prayer. His wisdom does not sanction what we wish. We pray, "O God! Make me wealthy." If this prayer were universally answered human affairs would be at a standstill. There would be no one left to work in the streets, no one to till the soil, no one to build, no one to run the trains. Therefore it is evident that it would not be well for us if all prayers were answered. The affairs of the world would be interfered with, energies crippled and progress hindered. But whatever we ask for which is in accord with divine wisdom, God will answer. Assuredly!
For instance, a very feeble patient may ask the doctor to give him food which would be positively dangerous to his life and condition. He may beg for roast meat. The doctor is kind and wise. He knows it would be dangerous to his patient so he refuses to allow it. The doctor is merciful, the patient ignorant. Through the doctor's kindness the patient recovers; his life is saved. Yet the patient may cry out that the doctor was unkind, not good, because he refused to answer his pleading.
God is merciful. In his mercy he answers the prayers of all his servants when they are according to his supreme wisdom.
(Words of Abdul-Baha: Star of the West; Vol. 3, No. 18, p. 6)
Christ said, "Go into thy chamber and shut the door, and pray to thy Father which is in heaven." Why did he say this? It is with the tongue that man expresses his feelings to another man. But with the language of the heart man prays to God. Though God is within the heart of man, is ever present in every place, yet man lifts up his eyes to heaven and prays as if God were there, seated upon a throne. Surely this is pure superstition! Why should he utter the words, "O heavenly Father?" Why should it be necessary for him to repeat prayers aloud and with the tongue? One reason for this is that if the heart alone is speaking the mind can be more easily disturbed. But repeating the words so that the tongue and heart act together enables the mind to become concentrated. Then the whole man is surrounded by the spirit of prayer and the act is more perfect.
Another reason is that by the outward signs of entering into his room and praying the attention of others is attracted and they begin to ask, "Why does he do this?" and are aroused to enquire about the truth.
Man may say, "I can pray to God whenever I wish, when the feelings of my heart are drawn to God; when I am in the wilderness, when I am in the city, or wherever may be. Why should I go where others are gathered upon a special day, at a certain hour, to unite my prayers with theirs when I may not be in a frame of mind for praying?" To think in this way is useless imagination for where many are gathered together their force is greater. Separate soldiers fighting alone and individually have not the force of a united army. If all the soldiers in this spiritual war gather together then their united spiritual feelings help each other and their prayers become more acceptable.
A wise schoolmaster may send his scholars out to play or to practice gymnastics for an hour so that their minds and bodies may be refreshed and during the hour of the lesson they may learn it better. If the teacher proves that his pupils are advancing no onlooker has a right to object to his system or to question his wisdom and say, "Why does he waste the boys' time?" If a wise father plays with his children who has a right to say it is not good for them? He calls them to come to him as the hen calls her chicks, he knows that they are little and must be coaxed along, coaxed along, because they are young and tiny.
For the time of Moses the law of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was ordained. It is very hard to see the wisdom of this, but the people then were in the wilderness and needed teaching. Different teachings were needed for different people. If you give the same teachings to all some might be retarded by them instead of helped. Christ taught some things to his disciples which he commanded them not to tell the Pharisees. It is not for the soldier to question the general's orders. If he knows him to be the real general he must carry out and obey his orders exactly. If the general orders that a certain place must be taken and held the soldiers might say, "Why risk so much by leaving this secure and safe position for a point which is the aim and target of the enemy?" But the general knows that this is the important point which must be held at all costs. The true doctor, the true teacher, the real captain must be obeyed.
If every man knew what was best for his health, if every man could teach himself, if every soldier knew how to fight by himself, if every passenger could sail the ship, what need would there be for the doctor, for the teacher, for the general or for the captain? As he has not this wisdom he must first ascertain their truth and then follow their directions. Until he does this he cannot advance.
(Words of Abdul-Baha: from notes of Mrs. L. A. C. Dreyfus-Barney.
One of our friends was sitting silent. Abdul-Baha asked her to speak. "I would rather pray quietly in thy presence," she said.
Abdul-Baha: "Mayst thou ever be in a prayerful attitude. In all the worlds of existence there is nothing more important than prayer. Prayer confers spirituality upon the heart."
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, October 26, 1913.)
Thou hast asked what shouldst thou do and what prayer shouldst thou offer in order to become informed of the mysteries of God. Pray thou with an attracted heart and supplicate thou with a spirit stirred by the glad tidings of God. Then the doors of the kingdom of mysteries shall be opened before thy face and thou shalt comprehend the realities of all things.
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, July 26, 1913.)
Asked if we are not able through love and faith to make those who have departed from this life hear of the Cause who had not heard of it while here, Abdul-Baha replied:
"Yes, surely sincere prayer always has its effect and it has a great influence in the other world. We are never cut off from those who are there. The real and genuine influence is not in this world but in that other."
(Words from Abdul-Baha, from Notes of Mrs. Mary Hanford Ford, Paris, France, October, 1911.)
Supplication and prayer on behalf of others will surely be effective. When hearts are united, when faces are turned towards the kingdom of Abha, surely enlightenment will be the result.
(Words of Abdul-Baha, from tablet to Seattle Assembly of Bahais; translated in Haifa, Syria, August 14, 1914.)
In answer to the question, "Why should one pray through Christ as the Christians do, or through another manifestation of God and why should we not pray to God direct?" Abdul-Baha said:
"If we wish to pray we must have some object upon which to concentrate. If we turn to God we must direct our hearts to a certain center. If man worships God otherwise than through his Manifestation he must first form a conception of God and that conception is
created by his own mind. As the finite cannot comprehend the Infinite so God is not to be comprehended in this fashion. That which man conceives with his own mind he comprehends. That which he can comprehend is not God. That conception of God which a man has is but a phantasm, an image, an imagination, an illusion. There is no connection between such a conception and the Supreme Being.
"If a man wishes to know God he must find him in the perfect mirror, Christ or Baha'o'llah. In either of these mirrors he will see reflected the Sun of Divinity.
"As we know the physical sun by its splendor, by its light and heat so we know God, by the spiritual sun, when he shines forth from the temple of Manifestation by his attributes of perfection, by the beauty of his qualities and by the splendor of his light. The Manifestations of God are the focal centers of the world. . . . . .
"The epitome of all worship is the worship of the attributes of Christ, not his personality."
(Words of Abdul-Baha; a talk given to Mr. Percy Woodcock, Acca, Syria, 1909.)
Read Some Answered Questions, p. 268.
Turn thy face sincerely toward God; be severed from all save God; be ablaze with the fire of the love of God; be purified and sanctified, and beseech and supplicate unto God. Verily, he responds unto those who invoke him, is near unto those who pray unto him. And he is thy companion in every loneliness, and befriends every exile.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; from tablet to American believer; translated by Mirza Ali Kuli Khan, Boston, February, 1908.)
Regarding thy question about the morning prayer. Both meanings are included in the word dawn—the natural dawn, and the dawn of the kingdom. When a soul rises in the morning from sleep before everything else he must commemorate the name of God in order that he may obtain spirituality and illumination.
(Words of Abdul-Baha; from tablet to an American believer; translated by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, March 5, 1914, Mt. Carmel, Haifa.)
Someone present asked how it was that in prayer and meditation the heart often turns with instinctive appeal to some friend who has passed into the next life.
Abdul-Baha answered: "It is a law of God's creation that the weak should lean upon the strong. Those to whom you turn may be mediators of God's power to you, even as when on earth. But it is the one Holy Spirit which strengthens all men."
(Words of Abdul-Baha: Abdul-Baha in London, p. 98.)
Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation. In prayer there is a mingling of station, a mingling of condition. Pray for them as they pray for you.
(Words of Abdul-Baha: Abdul-Baha in London, p. 97.)
Read Words of Baha'o'llah: Book of Ighan, pp. 28-29.
O God and assister of all! . . . . . Verily, thou art the hearer of prayers, and verily, thou art powerful in all things! (Abdul-Baha.)
The heavens of thy mercy and the oceans of thy bounty are so vast that thou hast never disappointed those who begged of thee nor refused those who willed to come to thee! (Baha'o'llah.)