Ask yourself: Am I Praying Enough? II
2008 Oct 05, 08 Mashiyyat 165 BE
Last time I posted the question: "Ask yourself: Am I Praying Enough?" This issue has been nagging at me, especially in view of what the Bab said, "The prolongation of prayer has never been beloved of God," and the saying from the Aqdas, "Pride not yourselves on much reading of the verses or on a multitude of pious acts..." which is plastered over the back cover of one of our prayer books (Remembrance of God). These, it seems to me, are delimiting statements, saying that you are not doing yourself or anybody else any good by praying one minute longer than that elusive "state of prayer" lasts in the heart. Worship and pious deeds, unlike God Himself, are not goods in themselves, they have a purpose.
But before you consider limiting prayer you have to confront prior questions, like, "How do I know when I have reached the point of diminishing returns?" Or before that, "How do I know when I have reached the state of prayer in the first place?" It may take no time, or several hours just to wash away the myriad distractions and dullness of ordinary consciousness. Then you can start thinking about how long to continue the prayer. Just as with sex and lovemaking, it takes a long period of slow, building effort, of "seduction" or "foreplay" to get into the mood for prayer. The beauty of it is that very often getting into the mood is itself the answer to the prayer. Whatever the question or problem we hope to resolve with our prayer; we learn in this state to be conscious of what the Master said, that,
"With a glance He cures a hundred thousand ills..."
Prayer, then, is like when an actor stops rehearsal and talks his interpretation over with the director (the higher self), or if he gets really stuck or is very lucky, with the divine Playwright Himself. All your world is a stage, but to do well out on that stage it is best to take advantage of all the preparation and coaching available.
The question remains, though, how much is enough? Last time I noted that when Abdu'l-Baha was in London He got sick for a time and one of his secretaries reported on His daily routine, saying, "Every evening at midnight or after midnight (He) gets up and for at least two hours he prays and communes with the Infinite and when He gets up in the morning, he again prays for more than an hour."
This was what vexed me and set me thinking about this quandary, am I praying enough? The Master in face of that particular problem of falling ill in the London fog just before He was supposed to leave for Edinburgh (or was the secretary saying that He did it every day?) prayed alone in the night at least two hours, then woke and prayed one hour more. So, presumably if I am better, more perfect, more spiritual than Abdu'l-Baha, it might take me less time to get into the state of prayer and less time to have my consultation with my director and playwright before I go back out on stage to perform. Otherwise, if I am not yet at His level, I would think that it would take more time, not less. That means at least three hours of prayer every day and the lower my development the more time in prayer. I thought about that and decided to try increasing my time spent praying.
Later I will tell you about what happened with my little experiment.
You raise a good point, Badi. I often notice that when I pray, my mind might wander a couple hundred times in a single prayer, and a couple hundred times I turn back to the words, or turn back to giving my attention to God. So if I was able to go through the whole prayer with attention, reverence and thought, as we are asked to do, then I would have only remembered God once, whereas this way, I get to remember Him 200 times!
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