Friday, March 28, 2008

Prayers and Prayer Beads

Kimberly Winston has a website , and has written a book about prayer beads in the various religions. Her blog has a great deal about Catholic beads, but presumably she's planning on talking about the use of beads in other world religions -- and it seems like virtually all of them have some sort of prayer/meditation practice that uses beads. But she's starting with Baha'i prayer beads.

Besides the requirement in the Aqdas to recite "Allah'u'abha" 95 times, prayer beads can be used for a variety of repetitive meditations, to suit the devotee. There's the "Remover of difficulties", which Baha'u'llah has been reported to have told the friends to recite 500 times, or even more. There's the Quran verse 65:2-3, which Alison talked about on her blog. For a while the verse from the Kitab-i-Ahd: "Say: All things are of God" was popular among the cyberspace community. I have also, at time, borrowed from Muslim or Christian practice.

I got my prayer beads from Special Ideas. They are blue sodalite, which is one of the minerals composing lapis lazuli. According to folks who believe in the mystical properties of semiprecious stones, sodalite is supposed to represent "truth" -- an idea which I rather like to be reminded of as I pick my beads up.

All that being said, I actually prefer meditation without using prayer beads -- a kind of centering prayer focusing on Baha'u'llah. But He has left us with a great deal of latitude in our devotional lives; there's lots of room for experimentation.


Kimberly Winston said...

Hay, Karen! Thanks for posting on my blog about the Baha'i prayer beads. Tell us more about the "Remover of Difficulties." What is the verse - and why 500 times? Also, tell us more about "All things are of God." That is a wonderful thing to say and could be quite powerful on prayer beads and suit a lot of faiths. Tell us where it came frm and how it is used.

Karen said...

Dear Kimberly,

"Remover of Difficulties" is one of the most well-known prayers to Baha'is. It was written by the prophet-forerunner of the Baha'i Faith, who was titled the Bab. The thing about reciting it 500 times is not a scriptural requirement (like saying the 95 "Allah'u'abha's"). It comes from a story that Baha'u'llah, at a time when he was very disillusioned with the Babi community (this was before he declared his own mission) told the believers to recite this prayer -- "500 times, nay 1000 times, waking and sleeping". It goes like this:

Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants and all abide by His bidding.

It comes to the lips of Baha'is almost automatically during any time when life starts getting tough. It is also very common, in a group, to do a "round" of "Remover of difficulties", where each person in the group says it once.

Another part of the history of this prayer is that the Bab is said to have written it for his wife, to calm her heart during the many difficulties of his mission.

The other verse you asked about comes from the *Kitab-i-Ahd*, which was Baha'u'llah's Will and Testament, also called the Book of the Covenant. This is the passage it comes from:

We fain would hope that the people of Baha may be guided by these blessed words: "Say: All things are of God". This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smoldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity.

There are no formal directions for its use. We were just all talking about this verse, and what Baha'u'llah said about it, and all agreed to say it for a time. One guy even put up a blog with that title, but it looks like it's gone now.

There are very few formal rules for Baha'i devotions.

I enjoy your curiosity about other religious customs. I, too, am very interested in the spiritual practices of other faiths. So, I subscribed to your blog!