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Religion Library: Baha'i

Worship and Devotion in Daily Life

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Compared to some other religions, there are only a few daily prayers and devotions in Baha'i religious life. The Baha'i scriptures indicate that God does not need humanity's prayers and devotions; the only reason that Baha'u'llah  made these acts obligatory is because they are part of the spiritual discipline that leads to the development of the human soul (which is the purpose of human life on earth). Baha'u'llah said that his followers should obey his commandments out of love for him.

In his writings, Baha'u'llah made it a sacred obligation for his followers to spend some time each day in prayer and meditation. He wrote three special prayers and Baha'is are obliged to choose one of these to say each day. The long prayer is said once every twenty-four hours and is said with certain ritual movements. The medium prayer is said three times a day. The short prayer is said once a day between midday and sunset.

Baha'u'llah stated that each Baha'i should also read the scriptures every morning and evening and that they should then meditate on these. Also, at the end of the day they should call themselves to account: to reflect on what they have done that day and what they could have done better.

O SON OF BEING!
Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.

There are also many prayers given by the Bab, Baha'u'llah, and 'Abdu'l-Baha that Baha'is can say at any time as part of their personal devotions. Some of these are for specific purposes, such as for assistance in times of difficulty or for the sick, but many are praising God and recalling His attributes. Prayer should be offered out of love for God and not out of fear of punishment or hope of reward. Since humans cannot truly conceptualize God, prayers can be addressed to Baha'u'llah, to one of the other Manifestations of God, or even to 'Abdul-Baha or through these figures to God.

A time of particular concentration on devotions and the individual's spiritual development is the period of the fast, which occurs during the last month of the Baha'i year (March 2-20). Baha'is do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. There are exemptions from this requirement for the sick, the elderly, the traveler, and for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers. This fasting is a symbol and reminder of how human beings should be detached from all physical things. It is used as a period of spiritual renewal each year. It should be mentioned, however, that although prayer and fasting are obligatory, these are personal obligations and there are no communal mechanisms for checking up on or sanctioning a failure to observe them.

 

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