Monday, March 11, 2013

A Collaborative Reading of a Prayer for the Baha'i Fast

If your Baha'i community has a prayer gathering during the time of the annual Baha'i Fast, you may wish to try this idea that has been well received over the years:

First, photocopy or print out three sets of the text of the much-loved prayer, revealed by Baha'u'llah for the Fast, (or pull the prayer up simultaneously on three smart electronic devices), that begins "I beseech Thee, O my God...". It is number CLXXVII in Prayers and Meditations, and begins on page 288. A nicely formatted reproduction of this prayer, (see my amateurish photo of my highlighted photocopies below), appears beginning on page 59 in a compilation put together by Duane L. Herrman some years ago, Fasting - A Baha'i Handbook.

Go through the first copy of the prayer and highlight or underline the opening invocation of each of its thirteen paragraphs. For example, in the first three paragraphs of the first copy, here's what the first three highlighted sections would be:
  • "I beseech Thee, O my God, by Thy mighty Sign, and by the revelation of Thy grace amongst men"
  • "I beseech Thee, O my God, by Thy most sweet Voice and by Thy most exalted Word"
  • "I beseech Thee, O my God, by the splendour of Thy luminous brow and the brightness of the light of Thy countenance which shineth from the all-highest horizon"
Next, go through the second copy and highlight or underline what is being asked for -- prayed for -- in each paragraph. Continuing our example, here's what the first three highlighted sections in this second copy of the prayer would be: 
  • "to cast me not away from the from the gate of the city of Thy presence, and to disappoint not the hopes I have set on the manifestations of Thy grace amidst Thy creatures"
  • "to draw me ever nearer to the threshold of Thy door, and to suffer me not to be far removed from the shadow of Thy mercy and the canopy of Thy bounty"
  • "to attract me by the fragrance of Thy raiment, and make me drink of the choice wine of Thine utterance"
On the third copy -- you guessed it -- go through and highlight or underline the refrain that appears at the end of twelve of the prayer's thirteen paragraphs:  
  • "Thou seest me, O my God, holding to Thy Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous, the Most Mighty, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorious, and clinging to the hem of the robe to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come."
When three readers coordinate, each reading aloud in turn their highlighted portion of each paragraph, it may help those present to better penetrate the prayer's structure and absorb and appreciate the depth and meaning of its mystic allusions.