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Recently I was talking to someone who had completed the sequence of Ruhi Courses, but still didn’t know how to study a prayer.  I don’t think her experience is unique, so thought I’d share some ideas here.

In Ruhi Book 1 we learn the skill of asking and answering questions at 3 levels.  When we apply this skill to studying a prayer, it might look something like this.

For example, let’s look at one of the first prayers we learn, and teach to children:

O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 36)

In first level questions, we ask questions in which we find answers grounded in the Writings themselves.

We could ask:

  • What are we asking God for in this prayer?
  • What attributes of God are we calling on?

At the second level, we apply the concepts in the prayer to our daily life.

We could ask:

  • When would you use this prayer?
  • What does it look like when someone is a “shining lamp and brilliant star”?
  • What would the advantage be, if you were a “shining lamp and brilliant star”?

When my son was little, I wanted him to develop the habit of turning to God to help with absolutely anything, so I used to say the prayer first; and then change the words:

  • Is there any remover of lost toys . . .
  • Is there any remover of bullies . . .
  • Is there any remover of tears . . .

At the third level, we think about the implications of the prayer for situations with no apparent or immediate connection with the theme.

We could ask:

  • How could this prayer help with parenting?
  • How could this prayer help with teaching?

Let’s try it again with another prayer:

O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 150)

Level 1:

  • What are you asking for in this prayer?
  • What decisions are you making?
  • What aspect of God is being acknowledged?
  • What are you promising?

Level 2:

  • What makes this prayer so popular?
  • What is the element of choice in this prayer?
  • What would life look like if we truly believed that God was our “guide and refuge and friend”?

Level 3:

  • How does this prayer relate to the Covenant?
  • How is this prayer a “prescription” for overcoming anxiety and depression?

And with another:

O Lord! Enable all the peoples of the earth to gain admittance into the Paradise of thy Faith, so that no created being may remain beyond the bounds of Thy good-pleasure.  From time immemorial Thou hast been potent to do what pleaseth thee and transcendent above whatsoever thou desirest.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 199)

Level 1:

  • What are you asking God for?
  • If He grants an answer to this prayer, what will be the result?
  • What are we reminding ourselves of?

Level 2:

  • How will this prayer help with teaching?
  • How else will saying this prayer help in your life?

Level 3:

  • What would the world look like if God didn’t answer this prayer?

 

How do you study prayers?  Share your insights below: