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How Do Bahá'ís Worship?


The Bahá'í Faith, for all its emphasis on individual and group behaviors, issues of community development and prerequisites for building world peace, is a deeply mystical religion. It may be too young yet to have developed stylized rituals, and indeed, its Founder did not prescribe much along that line. Prayer, study of the sacred texts and meditation upon ways to apply the Word to one's life are daily requirements at morn and evening.

The Founder, Bahá'u'lláh, wrote numerous prayers and meditations to assist His followers in understanding and achieving a prayerful attitude. "The important thing that should always be borne in mind is that with the exception of certain specific obligatory prayers, Bahá'u'lláh has given us no strict or special rulings in matters of worship whether in the [House of Worship] or elsewhere. Prayer is essentially communion between man and God, and as such transcends all ritualistic forms and formulas." - Lights of Guidance, p. 460

The physical format for worship is left to the individual, and can vary greatly from person to person and culture to culture. A Navajo in the mountains of Arizona might rise at dawn and greet the day facing each of the four directions at sunrise, even as his ancestors have for generations. An Arab may prostrate himself upon a handmade rug. A mindfulness and yoga teacher of my acquaintance uses her morning postures to shift into an attitude of prayer. Another friend has made a small personal worship space in her basement family room, with a comfortable chair, a small table with scarf over it and a candle. It is her retreat from the material world for a few minutes a day. "Surely the right to worship God in the way one believes to be right is the greatest fundamental freedom in the world? On the other hand no one should force one's own convictions on another…" - Lights of Guidance, p. 223

Worship is an intensely private moment in a believer's life, although devotional programs do form a part of Bahá'í community life. Developing one's connection to God is personal, carried out in the privacy of one's chambers, while connection with one's community can be enhanced by sharing prayerful moments in social gatherings. There is no congregational prayer beyond one for funerals, no call and response, no ritualized leadership. Individuals may offer or read revealed prayers, sing or chant the Sacred Words, as they choose.

Perhaps unique to the Bahá'í Faith is the teaching that work done in the spirit of service is a form of devotion to God: "This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, [for example] gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise." - Lights of Guidance, p. 286

For Bahá'ís, worship and prayer are fundamental daily activities. "For the core of religious faith is that mystical feeling which unites man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Bahá'u'lláh has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer merely to accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality which he can acquire chiefly by means of prayer." - Lights of Guidance, p. 506
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Content copyright © 2014 by Cheryll Schuette. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cheryll Schuette. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryll Schuette for details.

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