What is prayer?

Jun 2009
I have decided to focus on prayer for a few entries.

I was brought up in a tollerent but not religious home. I was not aware of any of my family members praying, ever. I don't remember why, whether it was that I heard about prayer from friends or at school or on the radio, or in books but I remember praying when I was about 5 or 6. It seemed so important to me, and a natural thing to do.

This is something that I do as a matter of course, sometimes finding it hard to do as prescribed in the writings, but it has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I understand that this is a connection with God. Somehow I have an idea that we are praying through Manifestations of God. I have felt the benefits of prayer, and sometimes learned caution in what I pray for!


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 from performing the prayer unless he be mentally unsound, or an insurmountable obstacle prevent him. The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. The greatest happiness for a 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 with every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God, his greatest hope is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate before his Beloved, appeal for His mercy and grace and be immersed in the ocean of His utterance, goodness and generosity."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 367)

In a lifetime of over 4 decades I have concluded that prayer is good for my state of mental wellbeing. I have felt its effects. Maybe for me, it's best effect is to inject perspective into my life. Every so often, being human, I lose perspective. I am sure you know the feeling, that casual put down by a co-worker or the fact that you failed at something, or the fact that you cannot make a situation better for your child can result in strong emotions that push everthing else of importance out of your thoughts. Then when I pray, there I am, small and uniportant, and there is God, and there is a whole world and I can see my problem in perspective.

I have to say this effect, for me is not always instant and not always after one prayer. I used to hold grudges. I used to really resent people for what I percieved as wrongs against me or my loved ones, for years. I used to ignore these people and think of them as lesser people and wish them ill. Now, I don't. Prayer has allowed me to free myself from these thoughts and as such I see it as a wondorous liberating gift. Holding on to such a grudge, drags you down and saps energy. It didn't seem to do any harm to those who I held the grudge against. When I ignored them, they seemed quite happy to get on with their lives with other people!

Prayer is so much more than that but I intend to explore what prayer is to me in a number of posts, this being the first.