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Religion Library: Baha'i

Worship and Devotion in Daily Life

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Baha'is are encouraged, moreover, to have a wider attitude to prayer than the specific words addressed to God; the spiritual state induced by this action is more important than the saying of the words. Prayer should induce in the individual a turning toward God, a state of spiritual exaltation. Therefore Baha'u'llah taught that a brief period of joyful prayer is preferable to lengthy prayers that are wearisome and depress the spirit. Although prayer is often said asking God for specific things, the true higher form of prayer is one in which humans move toward aligning their will with the will of God. The aim is that the whole of one's life should become a prayer addressed to God. Thus for example, the Baha'i scriptures assert that work performed in the spirit of service is worship.

Although personal devotions and spirituality are an important aspect of Baha'i life, Baha'is assert that, by itself, it is not enough to achieve the spiritual development that is the aim of human life. A person can only become truly spiritual if he or she actively seeks to acquire those spiritual qualities that are described in the Baha'i scriptures, such qualities as love, patience, justice, forgiveness, and wisdom. These qualities are best gained in a life that balances personal spiritual practices with service to the community. It is only through service to the community that individuals can judge whether they have truly acquired these spiritual qualities, since it is in service that these qualities are put to the test.

It is for this reason that certain spiritual practices such as asceticism and monasticism are prohibited since they prevent the social interactions that are necessary for spiritual growth. Short periods of retreat are, however, permitted and encouraged, and most national Baha'i communities hold summer or winter schools and other such activities, which, together with the pilgrimage, are designed to form a break from one's normal life, a period of prayer and reflection and activities designed to bring spiritual refreshment and a renewal of the individual's commitment.

Study Questions:
     1.    What devotional activities are Baha’is obliged to perform each day?
     2.    Describe the Baha'i fast and its purpose.
     3.    What do the Baha'i teachings say is the purpose of prayer?
     4.    Can one, according to the Baha'i teachings, achieve spiritual development through prayer and devotions alone? What else is needed?


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