Why Teach Even the Youngest Children to Pray
O God! Rear this little babe in the bosom of Thy love, and give it milk from the breast of Thy Providence. Cultivate this fresh plant in the rose garden of Thy love and aid it to grow through the showers of Thy bounty. Make it a child of the Kingdom and lead it to Thy heavenly realm. Thou art powerful and kind, and Thou art the Bestower, the Generous, the Lord of surpassing bounty." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í Prayers and Tablets for the Young, p. 6Education in general, and spiritual education in particular, is very important in Bahá'í families and communities. Children are encouraged early to develop the habits of prayer and meditation, and to acquire knowledge, both intellectual and spiritual. "...the spiritualization of their lives from their earliest years is of prime importance in the life of the Bahá'í communities..." - The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 320
"...gather the children together and teach them the communes and prayers...that they should, at every morn, turn their faces toward the Kingdom and make mention of the Lord and praise His Name, and in the sweetest of voices, chant and recite. These children are even as young plants, and teaching them the prayers is as letting the rain pour down upon them, that they may wax tender and fresh, and the soft breezes of the love of God may blow over them, making them to tremble with joy." - Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 139
A couple examples of prayers revealed for children to memorize:
"O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and Powerful."Children learn to memorize more easily than adults do, and hearing excellent words as well as the emotion behind them engender healthier feelings than being able to recite 34 jingles from TV commercials! Further, such practice is good for the larger community as well: "How often have the children, through their songs and recitation of prayers during Feasts and at other gatherings of the friends, added lustre and inspiration to the programme and created a true sense of belonging to the community in the hearts of those present!" - The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 310
"O my Lord! O my Lord! I am a child of tender years. Nourish me from the breast of Thy mercy, train me in the bosom of Thy love, educate me in the school of Thy guidance and develop me under the shadow of Thy bounty. Deliver me from darkness, make me a brilliant light; free me from unhappiness; make me a flower of the rose garden; suffer me to become a servant of Thy threshold and confer upon me the disposition and nature of the righteous; make me a cause of bounty to the human world and crown my head with the diadem of eternal life. Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Seer, the Hearer." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í Prayers and Tablets for the Young, pp. 9-10
It is not just the responsibility of the parents to train the children, but of the greater community, as well. "The instruction of these children is even as the work of a loving gardener who tendeth his young plants in the flowering fields of the All-Glorious. There is no doubt that it will yield the desired results; especially is this true of instruction as to Bahá'í obligations and Bahá'í conduct, for the little children must needs be made aware in their very heart and soul that Bahá'í is not just a name but a truth. Every child must be trained in the things of the spirit, so that he may embody all the virtues and become a source of glory to the Cause of God. Otherwise, the mere word Bahá'í, if it yield no fruit, will come to nothing." - Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 143
In my personal experience, it takes a lot of prayer to get any of that done, especially by the time they are teenagers! As Bahá'ís, we are blessed to have many prayers revealed by the central figures of our Faith. The words can be used verbatim, or as examples of both what to ask for and how to do so--and, of course, the reassurance that prayers are heard and answered.
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