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Who do you worship?
Each day I pray I strive to open my heart, by God’s infinite grace, to the One, intimate beloved, Lord and Creator of all that has been and will be, who is closer to me than my own self, who loves each of us deeply and throughout eternity, who is always there, although I may not always keep myself conscious of God’s ever-abiding presence.
When glancing at some of the beautiful Bahá’í prayers, here are some repeated praises that help us open our hearts to the Ultimate’s Presence, commune and communicate with the One:
- “O Thou the Desire of the world and the Beloved of the nations!”
- “There is no God but Thee, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful.”
- “My God, my Adored One, my King, my desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee?… All existence is begotten by Thy bounty…”
- “From the sweet-scented streams of Thine eternity give me to drink, O my God, and of the fruits of the tree of Thy being enable me to taste, O my Hope! From the crystal springs of Thy love suffer me to quaff, O my Glory, and beneath the shadow of Thine everlasting providence let me abide, O my Light!…”
- “I entreat Thee, by Thy signs that have encompassed the entire creation, and by the light of Thy countenance that hath illuminated all that are in heaven and on earth, and by Thy mercy that hath surpassed all created things, and by Thy grace that hath suffused the whole universe…”
Bahá’ís believe that there is just one God who is the one Being who has always been and will always be, who created all of existence, who is supremely powerful, who is always gracious and merciful, and who created each human being out of love to truly love and be loved. People of different languages and religions may call this God by different names, but when we reach out our hearts to this Ultimate Being in sincere prayer, it is this universal God who is always there in a dynamic mystical encounter in the depths of our human souls.
This same Being may be called Adonai (Lord), Shaddai (Almighty), Elohim (God), or Ha-Shem (The Name) in Jewish Scriptures or Theos (God), Agape (love), Logos (Word) and Pneuma (Spirit) in the New Testament. This is the One announced in the Qur’an as ar-Raḥmān (The Gracious), al-‘Alīm (The All-Knowing), ar-Rabb—cherishing, nurturing, and educating Lord of each creature and all creation. In The Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism this Ultimate One says, “”My true being is unborn and changeless. I am the Lord who dwells in every creature” and “The brightness of the sun, which lights up the world, the brightness of the moon and of fire—these are my glory.”
Likewise, in a meditation by Bahá’u’lláh (the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith), he says, “From each and every revelation emanating from the Source of His glory, holy and never-ending evidences of unimaginable splendor have appeared, and out of every Manifestation of His invincible power oceans of eternal light have outpoured.”
The Bahá’í Writings mostly adopt preceding grammatical conventions of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek of using the male pronoun “He” yet emphatically state that God transcends “corporeal” or body-existence and hence no gender, neither “he” nor “she.” Thus, we attribute to this God qualities we stereotypically associate with mothers as much as fathers—tenderness, affection, and care. This God, in infinite love, has sent Manifestations who communicate His will, teachings, truth, and perfections to humanity that we may know God, love God, and be quickened to develop virtues—e.g. truthfulness, loving-kindness, joy, justice—the image of God in which humans are created. These Manifestations have appeared in each age to the various regions of the planet and are often called Prophets or Messengers, yet God’s “incarnation” as Jesus (in a Christian context) or God’s descent “avatar” to restore righteousness and defeat evil (in a Hindu context) are also encapsulated by this term. Thus, for Bahá’ís the Manifestations are the Founders of the various world religions as well as indigenous and native religious pathways.
Bahá’u’lláh said, “The manifold bounties of the Lord of all beings have, at all times, through the Manifestations of His divine essence, encompassed the earth and all that dwell therein. Not for a moment hath His grace been withheld, nor have the showers of His loving-kindness ceased to rain upon mankind.”
Each Manifestation builds off the teachings of the one who came before, like teachers in school. As different names for days of the week for the “rising” of the same Sun, these Manifestations have different names—Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Jesus, Muhammad—yet all shine the same Light of God. As skilled Physicians, they give the spiritual antidote needed for each people and age to heal them from their particular spiritual sicknesses and specific social conditions; hence, the teachings of various religions differ in some respects while sharing the same basic message to love the Ultimate Being and love each other.
Bahá’ís believe Bahá’ulláh ([1817-1892] Persia, Iraq, Holy Land) is the latest Manifestation of God—the one promised in each religion of the past to unify humankind and bring God’s kingdom on earth. Bahá’ís believe the Spirit of God is revealed in greater vividness through this Manifestation of God: “We liken God to the Sun, which gives us all our life. So the Spirit of God reaches us through the Souls of the Manifestations. We must learn to commune with Their Souls…”
God is Always There
At the same time, God is always there for the person who sincerely reaches out to Him, whether this relationship with God comes via a deep relationship with Krishna, Jesus, or Baha’u’llah or just turning one’s hearts directly to the Spirit, Creator, Allah, Lord, God, or Infinite Love. “…turn your faces unto the Kingdom of your Lord the All-Merciful, that His grace and bounty may cast their dawning splendours over you, and a heavenly table may be sent down for you, and your Lord may bless you, and shower His riches upon you to gladden your bosoms and fill your hearts with bliss, to attract your minds, and cleanse your souls, and console your eyes… He will cheer your souls with the gentle winds of His holiness and make bright your faces with the splendours of His lights…”
We do not believe this is a kingdom God snaps His fingers and instantly imposes upon an unrepentant world. Rather, Bahá’u’lláh has revealed the teachings, prayers, individual and collective laws, dynamics and structures of community life, and system of economics and governance indispensable to transform the individual and unify the planet. We have the inestimably precious privilege to collaboratively learn about and choose to actualize these teachings and patterns of social life each day, collectively commit by our own agency rather than divine intimidation, that we all may truly be God’s people and transmute our weapons of war into instruments of peace, and that the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.