Whenever I invite friends to share prayers with me, they comment on my book. I’ve recently been encouraged to share photos of it in the form of a blog post (and some of you have been waiting for a while), so…
Welcome to my prayer book.
I’m a Baha’i. Every Baha’i prays at least once a day, but all are welcome to do so as much as they feel inclined, sometimes by oneself and sometimes with others. Baha’is think of prayer as conversation with God, and God as the unknowable essence.
Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote prayers to help His followers articulate the needs and longings of their souls, though we are also free to use our own words. Baha’is also meditate in whatever way they choose.
I myself pray to align and realign myself with the circumstances of my life and the general thrust of the universe. I also pray because Bahá’u’llah, Prophet-Founder of my faith, instructed His followers to do so each day.
One year, at camp, my friend Samuel and I came up with the idea of adding some illustration to our prayer books; we figured that, since prayer is a beautiful thing, we might benefit from using beautified prayer books. It has been an ongoing project, at least for me, ever since. Every now and then, I do another page or two.
In this post, I’ll show you the end papers and the opening few spreads. In the next, I’ll share pages from particular sections throughout the book. Click on any of the images to see larger versions.
The brown leather cover with green stitching was made a number of years ago by a then-little girl. I used to babysit her a few nights a week, and she made this with her mom as a gift for my 15th birthday. 15 can be a big-deal birthday for Baha’is, because this is considered the age of maturity: one becomes responsible for one’s own spiritual life and investigation of truth. I grew up in a Baha’i family, but practicing the Baha’i Faith was every bit a personal decision.
As you can see (below), I’ve added notes for myself here and there. I add them whenever I feel I’ve hit on an insight that I’d like to be reminded of again—although, when I read them later, I don’t always find myself so insightful! Still, I think it an important practice to engage with the prayers and their words in addition to letting feelings wash over you when you read them.
This prayer book in particular is published by the Baha’i Publishing Trust and distributed by Baha’i Distribution Service (both based in the U.S.), though a number of compilations of Baha’i prayers have been published all around the world.
In this book, prayers by Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have been thematically categorized, but the categories are guidelines only; most prayers can be read at any time and on any occasion (though there are exceptions).
The page below is graced with an illustration by my very own BFF. In the opening pages of his prayer book, there is a little poem I wrote. So it’s reciprocal.
You’ll also notice a few stamps. Some Baha’i holy places have stamps and ink pads in the entrances so that you can record, in your prayer book or wherever else, that you have visited. Below are stamps from the Baha’i Shrine in Montreal and from the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in Bahji (near Akká, Israel). In an earlier photo you saw a stamp from my visit to the Baha’i house of worship in Wilmette, IL (and there’s another at the back).
There is plenty of marginalia. It’s meant to remind me of guidance from the Baha’i Writings that is relevant to certain prayers or prayer in general.
Below is a botanically inspired pen-and-ink page, introducting the “General Prayers” section (as opposed to “Prayers for Special Occasions”). The quotation I’ve added is one of my favorites for getting focused before reading other prayers (here’s the full quotation if you’re bothered by the “[…]”).
The closing pages (below) hold a few more quotations. Some come from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, and others come from inspiring talks I’ve heard over the years (including talks from the 2001 youth conference, Transform’action—my name tag from which has evidently been glued in the back cover forever…). Note the little satchel of dried rose petals; they come from the Shrine of the Báb (a gift from my pilgrimage), and they stay tucked in that back flap.
If you’re thinking of doing this project yourself, take note: I used the 1991 edition of this book. The more recent edition has more prayers in it (recent translations)—which is great—but its pages are thinner. They’re easier to rip and some types of ink bleed through to the reverse sides as well as to following pages. What I’m saying is, it’s not the ideal paper for illustrations.
See more in Part 2, the end of the journey through my prayer book. In it, I share illustrations from particular sections throughout the book.