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In this third part on repentance, we look at some stories, prayers, and promises from the Baha’i Writings, for those who practice repentance.

We need to repent every single time we turn away from God.

In my study on sin I learned that we need to apologize (or ask God’s forgiveness) for pretty much everything we do.  In a prayer of the Báb’s we see:

I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors.  (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)

I can’t think of a single person who lives a life in which their:

  • Only mention is of God
  • Only praise is of God
  • Only delight is in God’s nearness
  • Only pleasure is in communing with God

Yet this is the standard we’re to strive for; and repent for everything that doesn’t fall into one of these categories.

Only then can we be free from the effects of the sins; the veils between us and God.

Here’s a story which we can all relate to!

Haji Muhammad-Baqir was a well-known merchant, foremost among the believers in faith, certitude and enthusiasm, and was serving the Cause with devotion and self-sacrifice. This man attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad. There He wrote a letter to Him and begged for wealth and prosperity. In answer, this exalted and wonderful Tablet was revealed for him. In it Bahá’u’lláh stated that his request would be granted and that the doors of prosperity and wealth would be opened for him from every direction. He warned him, however, to be on his guard and not to allow riches to become a barrier and make him heedless.

Now you are here to attain the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and in the future you will witness that this man will be overtaken with fear to such an extent that he will renounce God and His Cause. Not long after, he will make substantial losses, following which he will write a letter to Bahá’u’lláh and repent.

God will then turn his losses into profit and he will become again highly successful in his business and will emerge as the foremost merchant in Constantinople  and Tabriz.

However, this time he will wax prouder than before, more heedless and deprived… This time he will lose all his possessions, will be unable to continue trading and will become helpless in arranging his affairs. It is then that he will repent and return, and will be content to live as a poor man. He will spend the days of his life in the service of the Cause of God. His end will be blessed and he will receive great confirmations from God.’ He then said to me: ‘Remember all these things, for they will come to pass, and you shall witness them.’  (Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, v2, p. 277-278)

Obviously repentance is not something we do once and think it’s done.

Promises For Those Who Repent

At the end of the following quote, God makes some promises.

Let him who will, acknowledge the truth of My words; and as to him that willeth not, let him turn aside. My sole duty is to remind you of your failure in duty towards the Cause of God, if perchance ye may be of them that heed My warning. Wherefore, hearken ye unto My speech, and return ye to God and repent, that He, through His grace, may have mercy upon you, may wash away your sins, and forgive your trespasses. The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life, be they of the past or of the future.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 130)

For those who don’t want to acknowledge the truth of God’s words, He says “let him turn aside.”

For those who turn towards God and repent, He promises He will:

  • have mercy upon you
  • wash away your sins
  • forgive your trespasses.

And for everyone, He promises

The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life, be they of the past or of the future.

Other Benefits

In the following prayer, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá shows us how we can ask for grace; loving-kindness; gifts; bestowals and sustenance.  At the end, he reminds us to turn to God; repent and trust that he will forgive even the most grievous of sins.

O Thou Provider, O Thou Forgiver! Grant us Thy grace and loving-kindness, Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and sustain us, that we may attain our goal. Thou art the Powerful, the Able, the Knower, the Seer; and, verily, Thou art the Generous, and, verily, Thou art the All-Merciful, and, verily, Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, He to Whom repentance is due, He Who forgiveth even the most grievous of sins.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 233)

Repenting is better for us than everything we possess.

It is not Our purpose in addressing to thee these words to lighten the burden of Our woe, or to induce thee to intercede for Us with any one. No, by Him Who is the Lord of all worlds! We have set forth the whole matter before thee, that perchance thou might realize what thou hast done, might desist from inflicting on others the hurt thou hast inflicted on Us, and might be of them that have truly repented to God, Who created thee and created all things, and might act with discernment in the future. Better is this for thee than all thou dost possess, than thy ministry whose days are numbered.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 229)

God will have mercy on us; wash away our sins and forgive our trespasses

My sole duty is to remind you of your failure in duty towards the Cause of God, if perchance ye may be of them that heed My warning. Wherefore, hearken ye unto My speech, and return ye to God and repent, that He, through His grace, may have mercy upon you, may wash away your sins, and forgive your trespasses. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 130)

He will change our sins into good deeds:

Thy generous Lord will . . . forgive thee thy sins and change them to good deeds. Verily the Lord is the Forgiving, the Merciful  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 89)

 Stories about Repentance

Here Baha’u’llah promises to hide away the sins, and take steps to bring comfort and peace of mind:

It happened that during the Baghdad period, the well-known Ilkhani, son of Musa Khan-i-Qazvini, received through Siyyid Javad-i-Tabataba’i an audience with Bahá’u’lláh. Siyyid Javad on that occasion made a plea in the Ilkhani’s behalf, saying: “This Ilkhani, Ali-Quli Khan, although a sinner and a lifelong creature of his passions, has now repented. He stands before You with regret as to his former ways, and from this day forward he will not so much as draw a breath that might be contrary to Your good pleasure. I beg of You, accept his repentance; make him the object of Your grace and favor.”

Bahá’u’lláh replied: “Because he has chosen you as intercessor, I will hide away his sins, and I will take steps to bring him comfort and peace of mind.”  (Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 89)

Here’s a story of Ugo Giachery (a Hand of the Cause) who went through the process while on pilgrimage:

The first time I beheld the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, I was overcome by deep emotion and, as I walked close to it, trepidation and excitement made it almost impossible for me to advance further. Years of expectation surged in my mind, and the desire to prostrate myself upon the Holy Tomb, for a long time the goal of my life which was now becoming reality, was at the same time urging and restraining me. Perplexity held me fastened to the ground, and if it had not been for the gentle calling of my escort, I should have remained in that state for quite a long time.  It is not possible to describe the feeling of exaltation and awe which overtook me upon entering the door of that Sacred Sepulchre! The world with all its immensity whirled away into nothingness with the rapidity of lightning.

I was alone, relieved of cares and thoughts, free from all attachments, as if suspended between heaven and earth. I could only feel the fast beats of my heart and the humming of infinity. There was nothing but light all around me and a powerful fragrance never known before. As in a dream, transported by the attraction exercised by the mystery emanating from the most Blessed Spot in creation, I reached the portal leading to the inner chamber of the Tomb and fell on my knees and placed my forehead on that hallowed Threshold.

I felt the need to conceal my face in the ground, as my whole being was gripped by a strong sensation of guilt – guilt for having arrived so late in my life. I could hear myself saying: Forgive, forgive, forgive … for a long time, and then a great peace filled me.

My whole past life came before me as an irrelevant episode of eternity, while the present and the vision of the future filled me with unprecedented joy and the lightness of freedom. Glory, immense glory, through a path which precluded any return; a complete sublimation in the transcendency of creation; the certainty of nearness to the ‘Mighty Root’ from which the greatness and the perfection of the whole universe had been brought to earth. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise came to my lips; streams of unending tears flowed from my eyes, while in my thought all those whom I loved, like a legion of luminous entities, headed by none other than Shoghi Effendi himself, passed rapidly, moving forward and rejoicing with me.

When I came back to the reality of this contingent world, I felt that something had happened to me; my heart was filled with contentment, stability, expectation and unfading certainty. All those I loved became closer to me than ever before. Shoghi Effendi was eternally linked to my soul, while the problems of everyday life disappeared as small clouds swept by a fresh wind. That same night, at the dinner-table, upon inquiry by the Guardian as to my impression of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, I tried to express the tumult of my feelings. Shoghi Effendi looked at me with tenderness and understanding, and explained the influence upon the human soul of the earthly remains of the Messengers of God. ‘They are, no doubt, endowed with a tremendous spiritual influence and far-reaching power… in the sense that Their dust was the physical mirror of the greatness of God.’  (Ugo Giachery, Shoghi Effendi – Recollections, p. 119)

 Prayers for Repentance 

O God, my God! I have turned in repentance unto Thee, and verily Thou art the Pardoner, the Compassionate.  (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 161)

 

O Thou Provider, O Thou Forgiver! Grant us Thy grace and loving-kindness, Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and sustain us, that we may attain our goal. Thou art the Powerful, the Able, the Knower, the Seer; and, verily, Thou art the Generous, and, verily, Thou art the All-Merciful, and, verily, Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, He to Whom repentance is due, He Who forgiveth even the most grievous of sins.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 233)

 

O God, my God! I beseech Thee by the sun of Thy grace, and the sea of Thy knowledge, and the heaven of Thy justice, to aid them that have denied Thee to confess, and such as have turned aside from Thee to return, and those who have calumniated Thee to be just and fair-minded. Assist them, O my Lord, to return unto Thee, and to repent before the door of Thy grace. Powerful art Thou to do what Thou willest, and in Thy grasp are the reins of all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Praise be unto God, the Lord of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 106)

We entreat God—exalted and glorified be He—to aid all men to be just and fair-minded, and to graciously assist them to repent and return unto Him. He, verily, heareth, and is ready to answer.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 33)

 

Clinging to the hem of the garment of grandeur, we will shed tears of repentance, and confess our helplessness and submission, saying:

O unseen, but ever-present One!. Assist and favor us in whatever manner is agreeable and acceptable to You. Make all the souls the dawning places of light; cultivate and make verdant the saplings of Your garden. Make of Your afflicted and fallen lovers guiding stars. Bestow upon Your servants of old a new light, so that we can act according to Your holy will, and by this the soul of the Blessed One can be contented and pleased with everyone. Indeed, there can be no greater joy or delight than the fulfillment of these wishes for these servants, who expect no rest or comfort on this earth. O Lord, aid us to do that which you desire and please. You are powerful over all, and benevolent and Merciful unto all Your servants.

On this auspicious night, O Lord of past and present, O kind God, King of Grace and Bounty; Scatter drops from the Sea of Bounty on these sorrowing hearts, Give me life anew in this existence.  Save You, O King of Justice, who do your servants have?  But for you, Companion in our sorrows, who do we have?  I beg all for their kind prayers and supplications for assistance.  (Munirih – Memoirs and Letters, p. 65-66)

 

How has this helped you?  Post your comments below!